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Notre-Dame: Sympathy and Solidarity - New Bells Ring Out at Vernet-les-Bains

 

The Entente Cordiale between the UK and France was renewed as English Bells rang out in sympathy and solidarity with the people of Paris after Notre-Dame Cathedral was ravaged by fire on 15th April.

Following discussions between the British Ambassador in Paris, Edward Llewellyn and the Diocese in Europe, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York asked cathedrals and churches across England to toll their bells for seven minutes at 7pm on Maundy Thursday as a mark of solidarity.  

The newly installed ring of ten bells in Vernet-les-Bains was among the churches taking part together with Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, and cathedrals and churches across the UK. 

Ten new bells from the foundry of Loughborough in England installed in early April are the first set of bells capable of English change ringing in France. 

St George’s church has a tower but no bells were ever installed until now. The new bells have been installed with the help and co-operation of the commune of Vernet-les-Bains and the Fondation du Patrimoine.

It was intended that the first official ringing of the new bells would take place on Easter Sunday and a group of twenty expert ringers were travelling to Vernet for this occasion.  However, some ringers had arrived in advance and participated as the bells of St George's rang out in solidarity and sympathy with the people of France and especially those in Paris after the 850-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral fire.

A quarter peal of 10 bells was rung at 10:00 am on Maundy Thursday, 18th April, by the visiting ringers, followed at 7pm by a single bell that tolled for 7 minutes.

Speaking at the ringing the Priest in Charge of St George's, Reverend David Phillips said:

“Our hearts went out to the people of France and the Christian community in Paris when we heard the terrible news of the devastating fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral.  This special ringing made possible by the installation of our ten new bells is our way of showing our empathy and solidarity with all the people of France.”

Revd David added:

"This time of year we average about fifteen people in church, maybe twenty on Easter Sunday though it grows in the summer months into the twenties and thirties. This Easter Sunday we had 78 attending, many of them I think were bell ringers from all over the UK and France." 
 
The news of the English bells in France has attracted media interest, too, with two local News programmes covering the story on TV in Roussillon.  You can see two clips via the links below:
 
 

 

It is particularly appropriate that these English bells should be installed in Vernet-les-Bains which has long had a strong English connection. The village has the only monument to the Franco-British Entente Cordiale. This ringing emphasises the fact that this special relationship continues. 

For further information regarding Vernet-les-Bains, St George's website is at: https://stgeorgesvernet-les-bainsfrance.weebly.com/   There you will find much more about the story of St George's new bells.