|Dom St. Jakob, Innsbruck July 2013|
Moved by the unending desire to create a ‘Stradivarius among bells’ ….
(© Peter and Johannes GRASSMAYR)
The largest bell in Austria is the New Pummerin at 44,380 lbs. It is the “third largest swinging bell in Europe after the 23,500 kg (51,810 lb) Peter in Cologne Cathedral and the 22,700 kg Maria Dolens in Rovereto, Italy” (Wiki). This Rovereto Campana della Pace is located on the top of a small mountain and tolls every evening 100 times for the fallen in all wars. I hiked up to his bell in 2010. In Austria, you hear bells at several times during each day, chiming the hour or announcing a mass or another event. Every Friday, bells ring at 3:00 p.m. to remember Christ's suffering and death on the cross.
|Campana della Pace, the great Maria dolens bell of peace in Rovereto, Italy (2010)|
The largest bell from the Grassmayr foundry weighs 10 tons. Every evening at 5:00 p.m. in Telfs/Mösern in North Tyrol, this Peace Bell Friedensglocke sounds for peace in the Alps.
The oldest bell in Austria was cast in 1200 and is from St. Martin am Ybbsfeld. Three hundred years later, Bartime Grassmayr , a bronze worker, set about on his travels tin Tirol to practice his skills and ended up in the art of bell-making. As Bach's musical inscriptions began with Solo Dei Gloria, so did Bartime's journals of his travels. The Grassmayr family has since worked together for over 400 years to stabilize their family company throughout historical events.
|Molten metal is poured. Grassmayr Bell Foundry, Innsbruck July 2013|
Today, it is Peter and Johannes Grassmayr who continue the family's tradition locally. Their craftsmanship team consists of sculptors, casters, musicians, metalworkers, carpenters and electricians. In at least 100 countries, their bells can be heard and they still have a lively and international business going on today. In addition to taking commissions and casting new bells, they have developed materials that go along with manufacturing bells, ringing systems, and bell upkeep. The company is also widely known for historic bell restoration.
|Grassmayr Bell Foundry, Innsbruck|
A craftsman works to carve the outside of a new bell, July 2013
The foundry takes special care to tune their bells and if they are more than 1/16 of a half step “off”, the bell must be cracked and they must start all over. How frustrating! Bells sit at least a month in a cast before being removed to test. The last steps include the decoration of the outside of the bell. Grassmayr bells have a unique ribbed design and are capable of producing many notes. The tones last a VERY long time as well. They continue to make all kinds of bells, including church bells (inside and out), bowl bells, cowbells, and long-sounding orchestral bells. The foundry keeps its exact process secret, although it includes mixing horse manure and clay and molasses! The specifications of a new bell’s shape, desired tone, and size are cut into an outline, then modeled in this clay mixture over a brick foundation.
Bells are each christened and blessed. I had
heard of that for a ship’s bells, but not in general. They are “exorcised, washed with holy water, anointed with the holy
oil of the sick (outside) and chrism (inside) and given a name.” - http://romanmiscellany.blogspot.co.at/2007/05/baptism-of-bells.html
|Metal is poured into this device which holds the shape of the new bell as it is formed, keeping its curve|
perfectly aligned. Grassmayr Bell Foundry, Innsbruck July 2013
|Small bell yard at Grassmayr Bell Foundry, Innsbruck July 2013|
The Grassmayr foundry also has an adjoining Bell Museum, managed by Christof Grassmayr. He is a war veteran who endured a ten-year prohibition of bell-ringing of any kind. There is a fascinating article by John Werfring about this silent time and bell cemeteries.