Bell. Bells are made of various materials - glass, silver, and recently steel - but that most usually employed is bronze or bell-metal (q.v.), a mixture of copper and tin. Some early Irish bells are made of riveted plates, but all but an infinitesimal proportion are cast. Their use is certainly very ancient. Small bells are found at Nineveh, and golden bells formed part of Aaron's vestments. (Exod. xxviii. 33, 34.) Some form of bell was used by the Greeks in fortified towns. Greek and Roman bells were very variously shaped, some forms resembling our own. Sets of bells were attached to frames and carried in the hand (apparently) in certain religious processions; bells were attached to the collars of chariot-horses; and gongs of bell-metal are preserved in the Naples Museum. In Christian worship the use of bells dates probably from about the fifth century. It is mentioned by Bede, and by Gregory of Tours. They are or have been used to summon to church; to signify the approaching death of a member of the congregation (the "passing bell"), a practice revived in some places of late years, here and there, by the Anglican Church; during a thunderstorm to keep off the lightning (a practice still customary in parts of the Tyrol, and elsewhere on the Continent); to call to prayer (Angelus); and at the elevation of the host in Catholic worship. Before a funeral, in the Anglican Church, a bell is tolled; after it a peal of bells is often rung in the country, though less commonly in towns, for obvious reasons. The bell rung at the elevation of the host is commonly a hand-bell; sometimes (in England before the Reformation) it was a small bell hung among the rest in the tower, or alone just above the chancel. Church bells commonly bear pious inscriptions, and have often been dedicated or "baptised" with religious ceremonies. The curfew bell was originally rung in pursuance of a statute ascribed to William the Conqueror, ordering all fires to be put out at 8 p.m. The practice was abolished by Henry II., but the "curfew" is still rung at dusk in many places. In some places on the Continent - especially at Antwerp cathedral and Bruges - elaborate music is performed by sets of bells. (Carillon.) For the ringing of bells see Change-ringing. The principal bell-foundries are those of Loughborough in England (where Great Paul was cast) and Louvain in Belgium.
Remarkable bells. The earliest bells were mere hand bells; and really large specimens hardly occur before the fifteenth century of our era. The famous Great Bell of Moscow, now converted into a sort of chapel, is 60 feet round and 19 feet high, and is said to weigh 198 tons. It was spoilt in casting, was in the earth 136 years, and set up in its present position by the Emperor Nicholas. The largest bell in use, also in Moscow, is said to weigh 128 tons. The Kaiserglocke of Cologne Cathedral (1874), made from cannon captured in the Franco-German war, weighs a little over 26-1/2 tons. Another in the same cathedral, cast in 1447, weighs 11 tons. Big Ben in the Clock Tower at Westminster (cast 1858) weighs 13 tons; it was cracked in the casting, but the effect was cured by the crack being filed open; Great Tom, at Christ Church, Oxford, cast 1680, 7-3/5 tons; "Great Paul," at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, cast 1881, 17-1/2 tons.