Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 August 2020
If the organ was the ‘inwardly facing’ voice of the church, the bells directed its message out to the larger world. Bells gave powerful voice to the church’s self-image, and also offered opportunities for lavish private provision for the posthumous support of the souls of their endowers. Personified by means of names and ‘baptised’ before use, their quasi-human status, coupled with their range, gave them a particular potency in the medieval soundscape. It is therefore unsurprising that bells were instruments of power not only for the churches in which they were housed, but also for the town over whose airspace they resounded, exercising control, discipline and security. As a result, they were often sites of contested power between church and town and hence reveal significant detail concerning power structures at the time.
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