Silent protest, or, ‘Clap on!… Clap off!”

According to kathnews, a German news outlet, the huge St. Peter bell in the tower of the Cathedral of Cologne fell silent today when its clapper broke.

Cologne Cathedral is where what tradition holds to be the remains of the Three Kings are venerated.

Surely this was a protest against the transferal of Epiphany in so many places around the world!


Big bell…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Supertradmum says:

    We have a special, low Mass for the Epiphany tonight-EF. I am so grateful.
    Three Kings, bless the Church.

  2. AnAmericanMother says:

    Looks like fortunately there was no injury to the bell itself (it has cracked several times in the past) and none to anyone below when the clapper broke loose, since the bell room is closed when the bell is ringing.

    They say it is the largest free-swinging bell in the world. Like most big tower bells, it has a nickname – “Decke Pitter” in the local dialect: “Fat Pete”. And like most big tower bells, it has inscriptions:

    St. Peter bin ich genannt
    Schütze das deutsche Land
    Geboren aus deutschem Leid
    Ruf ich zur Einigkeit.
    St. Peter I am named
    Protect the German land
    Born out of German sorrow
    I call for unity.

    König der Herrlichkeit
    Komm Christus mit Frieden
    King of Glory,
    Come Christ with peace

    St. Gereon bitt für uns
    St. Gereon (of Cologne) pray for us

    St. Ursula bitt für uns
    St. Ursula pray for us

    It was cast at the request of Konrad Adenauer (then mayor) in 1922.

    You can read all about it here:

    Video here:

  3. Meanwhile, while they’re waiting for the St. Peter bell to be fixed, it’s a good thing Cologne Cathedral has 10 other bells!

  4. jbpolhamus says:

    That is a BIIIIIG bell. Mind you, that’s a BIIIIIG Cathedral. Nevertheless, I hope the clapper didn’t go straight through the floor! I actually have an LP of recordings of the Koln Cathedral bells, loaded with pictures of their installation. Mightily impressive they are!

  5. By the way, here’s an interesting video on Youtube about the bells of Cologne Cathedral: each bell individually, with vital statistics, and then all the bells at once.

  6. Reginald Pole says:

    That’s one big bell.
    KÖLN, Dom: St. Petersglocke (Glocke 1)

  7. jucundushomo says:

    I was lucky enough to be in Cologne for Epiphany back in 2005, and the city takes this feast very seriously. And that’s with good cause – the cathedral was built as a giant sepulchre for the relics of the Three Kings! (The Holy Roman Emperor, Frederic Barbarossa, had given them to the city in AD 1164.)

    There’s little else that can match standing in the square before the cathedral and feeling the biggest bell (Dicke Pitter in Kölsch) ring out by itself before being joined by the full peal. The Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne also leads a procession after the Mass to venerate the relics, with a forest of candles lit around them in devotion. The cathedral also breaks out some of its finest vestments, plate, and other pieces from the treasury for this Mass.

    The place is packed to standing room.

  8. JMody says:

    You GOTTA put this right up there with the Lutheran church building that got hit by a tornado and lost part of its steeple when they voted to allow gay unions or ministers or whatever it was a couple years ago — the more I live, the more I am convinced there are no coincidences.

    And yes, that’s a big bell. Everything about that Church is amazing. I got to take wife and kids there a few years ago. I think our church would fit free and clear inside one of the transept wings. The basement has vestments on display that weigh close to a hundred pounds (when priests HAD to be manly, or they’d be crushed!), and what are supposed to have been St. Peter’s shackles. There is something about the familiarity of them to modern eyes that makes them a little more poignant than you might imagine.

  9. JMody, maybe they could put your church in the south transept, as a way of blocking the view of that awful new pixel window.

  10. spesalvi23 says:

    In my opinion, it’s the most breathtaking Cathedral in Europe.
    It oozes pain, joy, devastation, triumph and holiness from every pore.
    It’s enormous, solid and so incredibly masterfully detailed – thre is nothing like a gothic Cathedral, anyway.
    Once it comes into view when you get to Cologne by whatever means (boat/car/train), it captivates you like ‘magic’.

  11. It’s probably also a sign that maintenance of the bells hasn’t been done as often as it should be, or that the recent cold snaps have been too much for whatever they use to hold the clapper.

  12. irishgirl says:

    Now that is one huge bell! Couldn’t watch the videos, though.
    I have a little curio box at home with an old photo of Cologne Cathedral on it. My late mother brought it from Germany when she and her family left there in 1923.
    I hope that the clapper can be fixed.
    ‘Clap on! Clap off!’-now that’s funny, Father Z! : D

  13. Miriam says:

    Father Z, help. Curiosity is killing me. (Okay, not killing me but, driving me nutz)

    [Nope… that’s my signature icon.]

    I can make everything except the nose. Where do I find that character?

  14. AnAmericanMother says:

    Here’s a closer look at an exact copy of the bell:

    The small inscriptions around the shoulder of the bell explain who cast it, who the bishop and dean of the cathedral were at the time, etc. Note the beautiful lions on the crown.

    The Petersglocke was cast in Apolda in 1923, in the Heinrich Ulrich foundry (which no longer exists). There is a pretty neat-looking bell museum there now.

    The Anglican churches (and their counterparts in the U.S.) have a thing about bells. A downtown Episcopal church has the only ring of ten bells in Georgia (there are several other churches in GA with a ring of 8, all Episcopalian.)

    If I hit the lottery, I’m donating a ring of 10 to our parish (the lottery’s 34 million this week, and 10 bells should just about take care of that, after taxes). At least there’s already a tower!

  15. AnAmericanMother says:


    The news reports say that the clapper failed due to metal fatigue, and a new one will have to be cast.

    That will take some time, because the old clapper weighed almost 1800 pounds, and it was smaller than the original. It was substituted after the repairs in the 1950s to take some of the strain off the soundbow – the bell was also tilted slightly so that the clapper did not strike the repaired crack.

    Any bell this big is approaching operational limits, although it does seem that the old English bells are more durable.

  16. Miriam says:

    Father Z, I realize this is your sig. How could I possibly use it since I am not a priest? And no, I really don’t want to become one. ;-D

    I spent many years in graphic arts and typesetting. I am just curious about the character you use for the nose. No offense meant, I hope you know.

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