Village church bells

I just came back from an amazing weekend in a little village on the outskirts of Roanne, between Lyon and Clermont Ferrand. Six nationalities were involved (a Brit, Turk and Dutchman in a van on their way to Shanghai, an American, a French girl, me the Australian and another British friend), and apart from the two who live there, the rest of us were somewhat hacked off with the church bells. The church, as expected, sits at the highest, most central spot of the quaint, walled village. The houses immediately around it are shrouded in flowers bursting with colour and life. But no amount of flowers or buildings can soften the bell at the top of the church from the wake-up call that it is at 7am on a Sunday morning.

Church bells are a great way of marking the time, and very handy for telling people in years gone by when to wake up, when to clock on, and when to clock off, along with when to come to church. But Sunday, of all days, is a day of rest even in the Christian faith, so does the church really need to wake everyone up on their only day off? I’m sure it’s the same in many other places, with church bells resounding on completely still and silent mornings, with just the sound of swearing through open windows immediately after the bells go off. No chance of it in this village: the bell resounds to match the hour not once, but twice, about thirty seconds apart, just in case it didn’t wake you up the first time. So at 10am, for example, you hear ‘donnnnggg donnnnggg donnnnggg’ ten times, then just as you’ve finished cursing the bell (is it good to curse a Christian entity?) and you think you might be able to nod off to sleep once more, off they go again. DONNNGGG! DONNNGGG! DONNNGGG! No chance of getting back to sleep now.

So, I have something to say to the powers-that-be at the churches around the world, and specifically, at this small village in France: technology. That’s right. Technology. It’s advanced to the point of wrist watches, alarm clocks, computers, mobile phones with alarms and the time, blackberries, iPhones — and the list goes on. And with all these extra things beeping and buzzing at us, can you please do us all a favour and stick a cork in it on the weekends. Thanks.


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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7 comments on “Village church bells
  1. I used to like hearing the church bells from the church behind my house. If you listened carefully every Sunday morning you could hear them faintly… calling out the time. But that’s the key. They were faint so as not to be obnoxious. Not DONGGG DONGGG DONNNG… good post.

  2. Anne ("stormie") says:

    In my small town, the church bells ring every morning at 8, and on Sundays every two hours ’til noon. The people who live closest do complain. I like to hear it but I’m farther away. 🙂

  3. Many moons ago, when I was young and wild and beautiful, I went to live in Florence for 6 months to study Italian (I was studying translation at Geneva University and had to do a course in Italy). I lived in an old apartment with an exploding toilet (seriously!) with a few other students on Piazza Santo Spirito, right opposite the church. Talk about DONG DONNGG DONNNNGGGGG! But after a couple of nights, I got used to it and didn’t really notice anymore. I guess at that age (I was in my early twenties) you can sleep through anything…especially after a few rum and cokes. Or maybe the DONG immunity came from the pong!!!

  4. Geoff says:

    It’s a very interesting point. Church bells ringing obviously falls into the “traditional” category. But so do lots of things: exploiting women, shooting tigers etc and we’re gradually weaning ourselves off those. Clearly what we need is a rich atheist to take churches to the European Civil Liberty court and establish a principle. Or buy ear plugs…

    Alternatively, I get annoyed by people that move close to a motor racing circuit and then complain it’s too loud. My answer is always that they should move. Maybe it’s the same…

    And yes, the bells in my town/village are far enough away to be pleasant, not intrusive.

  5. Marianne says:

    Spoke to my parish priest just this morning, asking him to refrain from the insane sadism of clanging the church-bells at 6 a.m. To which he replied that ‘it is within the law’ and that ‘the mosques blare out prayers at all hours’. So now the mosques are the benchmark for Christian behaviour, is it? We live in a densely populated area with a large non-Christian population, but in which faith is 120 decibels sacred? Any suggestions?

  6. Wendy says:

    6am? That’s insane! Maybe consider superglueing a giant piece of foam inside the bell! Earplugs just aren’t a good enough solution sometimes!

  7. Lily says:

    I’m in Caux and the bells ring on the hour and half past the hour and some more that I’m not sure why. I will be so glad to leave. It is ok during waking hours just, but not in the night too.

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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