Lighter, merrier, more celebratory

The new bells for Hildesheim Cathedral have been cast in Karlsruhe

Hildesheim Cathedral has six new bells. At exactly 11 o’ clock on Saturday morning, workers at the Bachert bell foundry in Karlsruhe started to pour the molten bronze – heated to 1,100 °C – into the bell moulds. The bell founders let the bronze flow into the entrance holes of the six underground bell moulds.

Die Glockengießer lassen die Bronze in die Eingangslöchern der sechs unterirdischen Glockenformen fließen

The bell founders let the bronze flow into the
entrance holes of the six underground bell
moulds. Foto: bph

About 100 visitors from the diocese of Hildesheim join Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Hans-Georg Koitz in singing “Praise the Lord”. They have travelled here in two coaches to experience this historic moment in Karlsruhe. The dark room is illuminated by a flame that blazes over the furnace. The air is hot and stuffy. Wearing a silver protective suit, arm-length gloves and dark glasses, one of the bell founders knocks a plug into the furnace. A glowing, lava-coloured stream of bronze gushes out of the opening, makes its way through a system of troughs and pours into the entrance holes of the six bell moulds that are buried in the ground. An exciting process now takes place underground as the six clay moulds fill up with bubbling molten metal.

“We’ll have to wait three weeks before we discover whether our efforts have been successful,” explains Albert Bachert, the man in charge of the bell foundry. It is an exciting time for him. “Casting the bells for Hildesheim Cathedral is a very special challenge for us,” says the bell founder.

Many of the visitors from the diocese of Hildesheim are visibly moved. “I’ve been Hildesheim’s Cathedral Priest for 20 years,” says Canon Wolfgang Osthaus. “My appointment will draw to an end in the coming year. Today’s events mean a great deal to me, it is a magnificent conclusion.” Godehard Höweling from Hildesheim says: “I’m very grateful to have been able to witness this historic moment. These bells will still be ringing out over Hildesheim in 500 years’ time.” Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Koitz is also very enthusiastic. “I’m already looking forward to hearing the new chimes of our cathedral bells. Being present at the casting was a solemn moment for me – and more thrilling than any football match played by our national team.”

The new bells complete Hildesheim Cathedral’s existing set of bells. These six partially war-damaged bells, the oldest of which dates from 1765, produced a deeper tone. “In contrast, the light tone of the new bells should herald a more cheerful and celebratory mood,” says the Cathedral’s Musical Director, Thomas Viezens. The new bells range from a deep bass bell to a high soprano bell and will ensure a spectrum of sound rings out from the Cathedral that is sure to delight churchgoers and everyone else alike. “In future, we will be able produce very special sound arrangements,” says Viezens enthusiastically. “The bells will sound different at Christmas than they do during Lent.”

The new cathedral bells are named after six religious martyrs who are especially venerated in the diocese of Hildesheim: Martin of Tours, Bishop Altfrid, Hedwig of Silesia, Oliver Plunkett, Niels Stensen and Edith Stein. The residents of Hildesheim will be able to enjoy the new, light chimes of the bells for the first time when the Cathedral reopens on 15th August, 2014. All twelve bells together will then always be heard only to mark special celebratory occasions, such as large services conducted by bishops, important festivals and also when a new Bishop or Pope is elected. The new bells are funded entirely by donations.