Exhibition of new bells in the nave of Notre-Dame in February 2013
Notre-Dame's north tower (left) holds eight bells while the slightly smaller south tower (right) holds the two largest bells.

There are 10 church bells in the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, all of which are mounted in the two main bell towers. Notre-Dame used to have other smaller bells in the spire and within the roof, but these were destroyed in a fire in 2019.

For most of the cathedral's history, the bells have been primarily used as a striking clock, to call to prayer for the Angelus, and to announce and participate in Divine Offices and special services. They have also sometimes been used as a tocsin or to commemorate historic events. As such they have become a familiar part of life in Paris, where they are known as "the cathedral's voice."

The largest, oldest, and most well-known of Notre-Dame's bells is the bourdon Emmanuel, which was cast in 1686. Emmanuel is considered by campanologists as one of Europe's finest bells and was designated a national historic landmark in 1944 when it rang during the liberation of Paris.

Early bells

The earliest named bells of Notre-Dame, mentioned in 13th and 14th century records, include Marie (the bourdon), Gilbert, Guillaume, Pasquier, Chambellan, Louis, Nicholas, and Luc, all initially housed in the north tower. Historian Dany Sandron speculated that Gilbert may have been given by bishop Gilbert, the bishop of Paris from 1116 to 1123. If so, the earliest bells may have predated the cathedral itself. Bishop Eudes de Sully made the first record of bell ringing at Notre-Dame in 1198 during the construction of the cathedral. The earliest verified bell is Guillaume, donated by bishop Guillaume d'Auvergne in 1230, five years before the completion of the north tower.[1][2] A total of eight bells were mounted there by 1311.[3]

The spire, completed in about 1250, originally held a seven-bell carillon, which included la Pugnaise, a bell used to signal the bell ringer in the main towers, and the chapter bell la Clopette, used to announce gatherings of the cathedral chapter.[4] During the Middle Ages, the carillon accompanied Notre-Dame's main bells, as did the bells of several surrounding buildings, such as the cloister [fr] and Saint-Denis-du-Pas [fr] to the east, the episcopal palace to the south, and the Hôtel-Dieu and Saint-Christophe [fr] to the west.[5]

In 1400, Jean de Montaigu, an advisor to the king, donated a new larger bourdon which he named Jacqueline after his wife Jacqueline de la Grange. It was not initially hung in the church, possibly because of its great weight and the poor condition of the north belfry at the time. Between 1403 and 1407, a new belfry was built in the south tower, which had remained empty since its construction in 1250. Jacqueline was hung in the new belfry, and in 1414, some of the north tower bells were temporarily hung there as well while repairs were made to the north belfry.[6] Between 1378 and 1480, the two bourdons Marie and Jacqueline were recast a combined 10 times. By 1430, Marie was the larger bell and was permanently moved to the south tower, mounted beside Jacqueline.[citation needed]

In 1453, Thibault de Vitry, counselor of the Parlement of Paris, donated Thibault and in 1472, Canon Jean Hue donated Gabriel, named after the archangel.[7] The later replaced Gilbert as the largest bell in the north tower. Gilbert was melted down and the metal added to Marie when it was again recast later that year. Jean also first appeared in the 15th century.[citation needed]

In 1551, the carillon was either recast or replaced.[8] From this point, the names of four of the carillon bells were recorded as Catherine, Magdelaine, Barbe (named after Saint Barbara),[5] and Anne. With the addition of an unnamed fifth bell, La Pugnaise, and La Clopette, the spire held seven bells in 1612, but by 1763 this was reduced to six.[9]

When Jacqueline broke in 1680, the chapter decided to recast the bell with about twice its original mass. It was also decided to rename the bell Emmanuel (first spelled "Emanuel")[10] in honour of a chaplain by that name who financed the project. It was also felt that the new name held more religious significance. Cordelier friar Jean Thibault recast the bell that year, but this bell was deemed unsuccessful and was never mounted in the church.[11]

In 1681, four master-founders collaborated to recast the bell—Nicolas Chapelle, Jean Gillot, François Moreau, and Florentin le Guay. The work was carried out on the Terrain, an open space of land on the eastern end of the Île de la Cité, near where Square Jean-XXIII [fr] and the Deportation Memorial are located today. The bell was cast on 31 October and removed from its mould and rung for the first time on 20 November. It was brought into the cathedral through the north portal where the trumeau had to be removed so the bell could fit through.[12] The bell's baptism was held on 29 April 1682,[13] officiated by archbishop François de Harlay de Champvallon. The chapter invited the king and queen, Louis XIV and Maria Theresa, to serve as the bell's godparents. It was mounted in the south tower next to Marie on 14 July.[citation needed]

Believing the bell to be improperly tuned, the chapter requested that the founders remake the bell. The issue went to court in 1684. While the initial trial, held at the Grand Châtelet, found them not liable, this was later overturned by the Parlement of Paris. This third version of the bell was named Emmanuel-Louise-Thérèse to include the names of its godparents. This was in particular meant to memorialize Maria Theresa who had died in 1683. The queen's name was also added to the inscription. Emmanuel was completed in 1686 (evidently behind schedule, as the inscription reads "made in 1685"). This is the bell which has survived to the present day, and is renowned for both its history and musical quality.[14][15] Emmanuel was the largest bell in France until 1891 when La Savoyarde was cast for the Sacré-Cœur.[citation needed]

External audio
Projet Cloche
audio icon Digital recreation of the sound of Notre-Dame's bells from 1769 to 1791, 31 January 2012, retrieved 18 January 2021

Most of the north tower bells were recast in the 18th century. Claude is first mentioned in 1711, although it likely originated earlier. In 1766, three dedicated clock bells were installed in one of the north transept's turrets.[16] François was added to the north tower in 1769.[citation needed]

1792 French double sou minted from bell metal.[17] "These eight bells [...] circulate today by indefinite fractions in the hands of the public."
—Antoine-Pierre-Marie Gilbert[16]

During the French Revolution, about 80% of church bells throughout the country were melted down,[18] or almost 100,000 bells. Despite the widespread iconoclasm of the era which effected many of Notre-Dame's statues, the melting of bells was more a pragmatic decision based on the need for cheap raw materials at the time. The National Constituent Assembly had transferred all church property to the state in 1789 and began to melt down Parisian church bells in 1790. Between May 1791 and August 1792, Marie, Gabriel, Guillaume, Pasquier, Thibault, Jean, Claude, Nicholas, and Françoise were removed, broken apart, and melted down. The metal would be used for coins and cannons. The only bells to survive were the three clock bells and Emmanuel. The latter was rung for the Festival of Reason in 1793[19] before being taken down and put into storage in 1794.[citation needed]

It was also during the Revolution that the original spire was taken down along with its carillon, although this was not related to the events of the Revolution.[citation needed]

List of bells (1769)

Location No.[20] Name Year cast Mass[21] Diameter Tone Year removed
South tower 1 Emmanuel 1686 about 13,000 kg[22] 2.61 m F2 1794
2 Marie 1472 11,258 kg 2.4 m G2 1792
North tower 3 Gabriel 1641 4,332 kg 1.89 m A2 1791–92
4 Guillaume 1769 3,524 kg 1.71 m B2
5 Pasquier 1765 2,643 kg 1.55 m C3
6 Thibault 1764 2,048 kg 1.41 m D3
7 Jean 1769 1,530 kg 1.26 m E3
8 Claude 1714 979 kg 1.13 m F3
9 Nicolas 744 kg 95 cm G3
10 François 1769 587 kg 99.7 cm A3[23]
Spire 11 Catherine 1551 254 kg B3 1792
12 Magdelaine 195 kg C4
13 Barbe 146 kg D4
14 Anne 91 kg E4
15 Pugnèse by 1283 25 kg C5
16 La Clopette
North transept 17 clock bells 1766 1,905 kg ~C3 1856
18 566 kg G3
19 412 kg A3

Inscriptions of Emmanuel

The upper inscriptions were written in Latin; the lower inscriptions were written in French with some Middle French spellings.

1681 inscription:




[I am] what was first Jacqueline, Jean de Montaigu the count's gift of 15,000 pounds,[24] now Emanuel I am named by the Parisian chapter, enlarged by double, during the reign of Louis the Great and the tenure of François de Harlay, first of the archbishops of Paris [to hold the title] duke and peer (French: duc et pair) of France, AD 1681.

Nicolas Chapelle, Jean Gillot, François Moreau, and Florentin le Guay, all master-founders, have made me in the year 1681.

1686 inscription (extant):




[I am] what was first Jacqueline, Jean the count of Montaigu's gift of 15,000 pounds, now enlarged by double, Emmanuel-Louise-Thérèse I am named by Louis the Great and Maria Theresa his wife; and by François de Harlay, first of the archbishops of Paris [to hold the title] duke and peer of France, blessed on 29 April 1682.[26]

Florentin le Guay, native and master [founder] of Paris, has made me.—N. Chapelle, J. Gillot, F. Moreau have made me in 1685.

19th century bells

Contemporary lithograph from an English language publication of the bell benediction ceremony held in the parvis on 4 June 1856. The godparents kneel to the left while to the right Archbishop Sibour baptizes the bells with holy water.
Emmanuel, Angelique-Francoise, Antoinette-Charlotte, Hyacinthe-Jeanne, and Denise David ringing on 25 December 2011

After Napoleon Bonaparte returned the use of the cathedral to the Catholic church with the Concordat of 1801, Emmanuel was remounted in the south tower. In 1812, the three clock bells were moved from the north transept to the north tower.

In 1850 during the restoration of the cathedral, Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc temporarily removed the bells to replace the wooden belfries.[18]

In 1856, Napoleon III donated four new bells to celebrate his son Prince Napoleon's baptism. The Guillaume and Besson foundry in Angers cast the bells, partially using metal from Russian bells (or cannons[15]) captured during the Crimean War. The archbishop of Paris Marie-Dominique-Auguste Sibour officiated the benediction ceremony, held in the Place du Parvis Notre-Dame on 4 June. The bells' godparents included Sibour's cousin and auxiliary Léon-François Sibour [fr], three members of the fabric counsel (French: Conseil de fabrique [fr]), and four women related to past archbishops of Paris. The names Angelique-Francoise, Antoinette-Charlotte, Hyacinthe-Jeanne, and Denise David were derived from the names of the godfathers and archbishops. The bells were hung in the north tower, replacing the 18th century clock bells, and were rung for the first time on 14 June, the day of the prince's baptism.[27]

During the Crimean War, the French captured a Russian fog bell in Sevastopol and returned it to Paris as a war trophy. The French called it the Bell of Sevastopol and hung in the south tower next to Emmanuel in 1857. France returned the bell to the Russian Empire in 1913 when the two countries enjoyed closer diplomatic relations. The Russians mounted the bell by the sea in the ancient ruins of Chersonesos outside of Sevastopol where it has since been known as the Bell of Chersonesos.

In 1864, three new clock bells were mounted in the upper level of the new spire. The smallest of these served as the chapter bell. In 1867, three more bells were installed directly over the crossing within the ceiling. These were only audible inside the cathedral.

The mediocre quality of the four 1856 bells in the north tower was noted as early as 1866[28] and after more than a century and a half of constant use, they only became worse. According to campanologist Régis Singer [fr], the bells were not made of high-quality metal, were not properly tuned with each other or to the bourdon, and showed premature signs of wear.[15][29] In 2011, campanologist Hervé Gouriou described them as "one of the most dreadful sets of bells in France."[18] In 2012 they were removed and replaced with audio recordings in preparation for replacements the following year. The bells were originally to be melted down, but due to public interest they were preserved and put on display behind the cathedral.

List of bells (1867)

Location No.[20] Image Name Year cast Mass Diameter Tone Year removed
South tower 1 Emmanuel 1686 about 13,000 kg[22] 2.61 m F2
2 Bell of Chersonesos 1778 5,749 kg[30] A2[31] 1913
North tower 3 Angelique-Francoise 1856 1,915 kg 1.46 m C3 2012[32]
4 Antoinette-Charlotte 1,335 kg 1.25 m D3
5 Hyacinthe-Jeanne 925 kg 1.11 m F3
6 Denise David 767 kg 1.05 m F3
Spire 7 HF1 1864 450 kg 91.5 cm[33] G3 2019
8 HF2 250 kg 74.5 cm B3[33]
9 HF3 (chapter bell) 130 kg 63.5 cm D4[33]
Crossing 10 HC1 1867 60 kg A4
11 HC2 25 kg C5
12 HC3 20 kg D5

Inscriptions of 1856 bells


illustrissime et révérendissime seigneur LEON FRANCOIS SIBOUR, evêque de tripolis, auxiliaire de monseigneur l'archevêque de paris, et PAULINE MARIE NICOLETTE de TALLEYRAND, duchesse de PERIGORD.[34] m'ont donné les noms de ANGELIQUE-FRANCOISE. illustrissime et révérendissime père en dieu, monseigneur MARIE DOMINIQUE AUGUSTE SIBOUR, archevêque de paris, m'a bénite, et je pèse 1915 kilogrammes


CHARLES, comte de MONTALEMBERT membre du conseil de fabrique de cette eglise metropolitaine et CHARLOTTE BERNARDINE AUGUSTE, marquist de JUIGNE née PERCIN de MONGAILLARD de la VALETTE.[35] m'ont donné les noms de ANTOINETTE-CHARLOTTE. j'ai ete bénite par illustrissime et révérendissime père en dieu monseigneur M.D. AUGUSTE SIBOUR archevêque de paris, et je pèse 1335 kilogrammes


JEAN SAMUEL FERDINAND, comte de TASCHER [fr], membre du conseil de fabrique de cette eglise metropolitaine et HENRIETTE, vicomtesse de QUELEN née de GASTALD[36] m'ont nommé HYACINTHE-JEANNE. j'ai ete bénite par illustrissime et révérendissime père en dieu M.D. AUGUSTE SIBOUR, archevêque de paris, et je pèse 925 kilog

Denise David:

AMEDEE DAVID, marquis de PASTORET, membre du conseil de fabrique de cette eglise métropolitaine, et MARIE CAROLINE AFFRE, née JAVON,[37] m'ont donné les noms de DENISE DAVID. illustrissime et révérendissime père en dieu monseigneur M.D. AUGUSTE SIBOUR, archevêque de paris, ma bénite, et je pèse 767 kilog

21st century bells

Marie arrives at Notre-Dame by truck.

In 2011, the rector-archpriest of Notre-Dame Patrick Jacquin [fr] initiated a project to restore the cathedral's bells as they were before the Revolution.[18] About two million Euros were raised for the project in private donations. Régis Singer, a campanologist of France's Ministry of Culture, researched the pre-Revolutionary bells to discover their strike tones and mounting locations in order to restore the sound as accurately as possible. The arrival of the new bells was timed to coincide with the celebration of the cathedral's 850th anniversary in 2013.[29]

The bells were created in 2012 over the course of several months by two bell foundries using medieval techniques. The petit bourdon for the south tower was cast at the Royal Eijsbouts bell foundry in the Netherlands, while the eight bells for the north tower were cast at the Cornille-Havard foundry in Villedieu-les-Poêles, Normandy. They were delivered to Notre-Dame on 31 January 2013 after a police escort down the Champs-Élysées.

The names Marie, Gabriel, Anne Geneviève, Denis, Marcel, Benoît-Joseph, Maurice, and Jean-Marie were chosen to honor various saints and church figures. Étienne memorialized Saint-Étienne de Paris, the 6th century basilica which preceded Notre-Dame.[38] The archbishop of Paris André Vingt-Trois officiated the benediction of the bells on 2 February in two masses. Certain prominent citizens, most of whom shared names with the bells, served as godparents. These included Maria Teresa, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Gabriel de Broglie, Denis Tillinac, Marcel Pérès, and Jean-Marie Duthilleul. While not present for the ceremony, Pope Benedict XVI was honorary godfather to Benoît-Joseph. The bell's compound name includes the pope's papal and birth names. The ceremony was the largest such event recorded in the history of the diocese. The bells remained on display in the nave of Notre-Dame for the rest of the month, during which about one million visitors were able to touch the bells and view them up close. They were rung for the first time on 23 March, drawing a crowd which filled the parvis and nearby bridges.[29] The bells are expected to last between 200 and 300 years.[14]

The bells were of special concern during the 15 April 2019 fire. As the flames spread along the roof towards the towers, a southerly wind was threatening to spread the fire into the north tower. Firefighters feared that if the wooden belfry inside caught fire, the falling bells might break through the lower floors like wrecking balls and destabilize the tower. It was expected that if the tower fell, the entire cathedral would come down with it. While the fire did spread to the north tower, it was quickly extinguished by a team of firefighters who ascended the towers. In the end, the main bells were saved, but the six smaller bells over the crossing were destroyed. A short circuit of the spire bells' electric ringing mechanism has been cited as one of several possible causes of the fire.[39]

As a result of the fire, regular activities at the cathedral were suspended and the bells have since not rung on a regular basis. Emmanuel rang on 29 September 2019 for the funeral of Jacques Chirac and on 15 April 2020 to commemorate the first anniversary of the fire.

List of bells (2019)

Location No.[20] Image Name Year cast Mass Diameter Tone Audio
South tower 1 Emmanuel 1686 about 13,000 kg[22] 2.61 m F0
2 Marie 2012 6,023 kg 2.065 m G#0
North tower 3 Gabriel 4,162 kg 1.828 m A0
4 Anne-Geneviève 3,477 kg 1.725 m H0
5 Denis 2,502 kg 1.536 m C1
6 Marcel 1,925 kg 1.393 m D1
7 Étienne 1,494 kg 1.267 m E1
8 Benoît-Joseph 1,309 kg 1.207 m F1
9 Maurice 1,011 kg 1.097 m G1
10 Jean-Marie 782 kg 99.7 cm A1

Inscriptions and decorations of 2012 bells

Marie is inscribed with the following benediction message and the Hail Mary prayer. It is also decorated with friezes of the Adoration of the Magi and the Marriage at Cana.

† l'an 2013 le 2 fevrier, sous le pontificat de sa saintete le pape benoit xvi, pai ete benit et nomme MARIE par son eminence le cardinal andre vingt-trois, archeveque de paris, assiste de monseigneur patrick jacquin, recteur-archipretre de la basilique metropolitain notre-dame de paris, a l'occasion du grand jubile du 850e anniversaire de la cathedrale (1163–2013). je porte le nom du premier bourdon de notre-dame fondu en 1378, refondu la derniere fois en 1472 par thomas de claville et detruit en 1792. eijsbouts astensis me fecit anno mmxii

Inscriptions and decorations of the north tower bells were created by French artist Virginie Bassetti. Each bell is inscribed with its name, a line of the Angelus prayer, a symbolic number of fillets, and an artistic theme.

Bell Angelus line Fillets Artistic theme
Gabriel L'Ange du Seigneur apporta l'annonce à Marie
(The Angel of the LORD declared unto Mary)
40: several meanings, see Biblical numerology § Numerological values lilies: in Christian art, Gabriel often depicted bringing lilies to Mary during the Annunciation
Anne Geneviève Et elle conçut du Saint Esprit
(And she conceived of the Holy Spirit)
3: the trinity and three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love) fire: tenacity of Saint Geneviève
Denis Voici la servante du Seigneur
(Behold the handmaid of the LORD)
7: the seven spiritual gifts described in Romans 12 and seven sacraments of the Catholic Church scratches: martyrdom of Saint Denis
Marcel Qu'il me soit fait selon ta parole
(Be it done unto me according to thy word)
5: the three persons of God and two natures of Jesus water: the Bièvre river, a reference to the legend of Saint Marcel and the dragon[40]
Étienne Et le Verbe s'est fait chair
(And the Word was made flesh)
2: two natures of Jesus, a reference to the Angelus line stones: the martyrdom of Saint Stephen by stoning
Benoît-Joseph Et il a habité parmi nous
(And dwelt among us)
12: the twelve apostles of Christ Keys of Heaven: Saint Peter and the papacy
Maurice Priez pour nous, sainte Mère de Dieu
(Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God)
8: fullness[41] floor plan of Notre-Dame: role of Maurice de Sully in the cathedral's construction
Jean-Marie Afin que nous soyons rendus dignes des promesses du Christ
(That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ)
9: the nine celestial hierarchies described in De Coelesti Hierarchia initials and tetramorph: the Four Evangelists[42]

Ringing the bells

The bells can be rung by swinging, usually called pealing or volleys (French: à la volée), or without swinging, usually called chiming (tinter) or strikes (coup). Volleys create a sound with perceived changes in volume and pitch, while chiming allows for more control and is used for the clock or for playing short melodies. Both methods are currently done by electric motors installed in the early 20th century. Prior to this, full-time bell ringers were employed.

In medieval times, an appointed churchwarden would oversee two bell ringers, a clergyman for the spire bells (the petit sonneur) and a layman for the main bells (the grand sonneur). To swing the bells, many assistants were recruited, as many as 40 at a time on feast days. Emmanuel alone required eight men just to start the peal, and 16 to maintain it for any length of time. The bells were usually swung with the use of pedals attached to the headstocks. (These pedals are still partially visible today on Emmanuel's headstock; they were removed on one side for the installation of a windlass.) However, at certain times the chapter would forbid bell ringers from entering the belfries at night for fear of them causing a fire by using open-flame lights. In these cases, the bells would be rung from the lower levels of the towers with ropes.[15][43]

Antoine Gilbert served as grand sonneur during the Revolution and reluctantly aided in the removal of the bells. He nonetheless remained in the position through the restoration in 1802. His son Antoine-Pierre-Marie Gilbert succeeded him in 1820. The younger Gilbert wrote a detailed description of the cathedral[44] and defended it from rioters during the July Revolution. He was succeeded in 1850 by Louis Herbet who helped save Notre-Dame from arsonists during the Paris Commune. Herbet also maintained a bookbinding workshop in the north tower. He was succeeded as grand sonneur by his son Auguste in 1892 and his grandson Émile in 1906, who was the last to hold the title.[45]

Since the automation of ringing in the 1930s, the bells have been overseen by cathedral staff including general director Laurent Prades since 2000 and chief sacristan Stéphane Urbain since 2005. Urbain was the first to program the bells to play short melodies such as "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" and "Regina caeli."[46]

Striking clock

See also: Notre-Dame de Paris § Clock

Notre-Dame used to ring the civil hours 24 hours a day, but starting in the 19th century this was reduced to only between 8am to 9pm to avoid disturbing nearby residents.

From medieval times, the hours were marked on the main bells, likely only by the number of hours struck at the top of the hour. This function was taken over in the 18th century by the clock bells on the north transept. The 19th-century clock bells in the spire marked the number of hours with a series of descending triplets and an ascending triplet for the final hour. The roof bells struck the first two bells for each quarter hour, then marked the number of hours on the third bell. The roof bells were largely decommissioned as a striking clock in the 1980s as they were perceived to be disruptive during services. They nevertheless were still used to announce the arrival of Christmas during the annual Midnight Mass.

Since 2005, the main bells have been programmed to play short melodies for the clock. The repertoire greatly increased in 2013 thanks to the greater number of bells. Quarter hours are marked with a musical motif adapted from two 14th-century tunes from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat – "Laudemus Virginem" and "Splendens Ceptigera" – one, two, and three bars for the first, second, and third quarter hours. These are the same throughout the year. The full hours are marked with about 50 different melodies played throughout the year. At 9pm every day the same melody is played, the compline hymn Te lucis ante terminum. After the melody, Gabriel marks the number of hours.[47]


The tradition of ringing for the recitation of the Angelus prayer three times a day began in 1472 when Louis XI ordered the practice. The Angelus rings a few seconds after the clock at 8 am (9 am on weekends and holidays), 12 noon, and 7 pm. It is announced by a short series of chimes followed by about a four-minute volley. The particular pattern of ringing depends on the time of day and time of year, changing during Lent and Eastertide.[47]


The bells announce services with different patterns of volleys, called sonneries. In the 18th century, Abbot Claude-Louis Marmotant de Savigny compiled a list of sonneries based on traditions developed by that time. The list followed a general hierarchy of solemnity, from the grand solennel (ringing order: 1, 2, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3) used for the most solemn occasions, to Les Benjamines (ringing order: 10, 9, 8) used for baptisms. A simplified version of this list was used from 1856 to 2012, and the full practice was revived from 2013 to 2019.

The bells are always rung in connection with a Te Deum service. During the Ancien Régime, these were held after the coronation of a new king, the birth of a new heir apparent, military victories, or other causes of thanksgiving. This tradition has continued, the most recent Te Deum being held at Notre-Dame on 9 May 1945 after Victory in Europe Day. The next such service is to be held on 15 April 2024 during the cathedral's reopening.

The roof bells are rung during elevation, the moment during Mass when the clergyman holds up the Sacred Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ Eucharist.

Historic events

The bells ring to celebrate the election of a new pope, usually with the grand solennel, and to mourn the death of a pope, usually by tolling the late pope's age on the bourdon.

The bells are usually not rung in times of war or invasion, except to be used as an alarm, or tocsin. Such was the case during World War I when the fighting came to within 30 kilometers of Paris. The bells rang again in celebration of the armistice of 11 November 1918. This tradition has since continued, with the ringing of the grand solennel every 11 November at 11:00 am.[citation needed] In recent years the petit solennel (ringing order: 2, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3) has alternately rung in order to preserve Emmanuel.

The bells also remained silent during the German occupation during World War II. On 25 August 1944, as French and American troops were entering Paris, Notre-Dame's bells rang again, soon joined by bells across the city. At the time, many Parisians did not know how close Allied forces were, as the Germans had imposed a strict curfew and controlled the radio stations. The sound of Notre-Dame's bells was the first indication to many residents that the liberation of the city was imminent.[48] In his memoirs, General Dietrich von Choltitz, the German military governor of Paris, recalled how he called his superior, General Hans Speidel, and simply held the telephone out the window.[49] The French Ministry of Culture soon afterward classified Emmanuel as a historic monument. This precludes the bell from being destroyed or recast. The liberation has subsequently been celebrated every year on 25 August with the ringing of the grand solennel at 7:00 pm.[47]

In the 21st century, the bells have rung in times of mourning after terrorist attacks. On 12 September 2001, Emmanuel was rung for almost an hour in solidarity with the United States after the September 11 attacks. Such ringing was, and still is, extremely rare, as the antique bell is only rung on rare occasions in order to preserve it.[citation needed] The bells were also rung for the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting and the November 2015 Paris attacks. Emmanuel was tolled on 19 April 2020 to mark the first anniversary of the Notre-Dame fire. According to the rector-archpriest of Notre-Dame Patrick Chauvet [fr], this was also meant to honor bereaved families and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.[50]

Cultural depictions

In the 1534 novel Gargantua by François Rabelais, the giant Gargantua steals the bells of Notre-Dame to hang around the neck of his giant mare. A theologian named Janotus de Bragmardo delivers an inept speech to convince the giant to return them.[51]

The bells are most known in popular culture from Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and its many adaptations.[18] The story, set in 1482, features Quasimodo, a fictional bell ringer of Notre-Dame, and descriptions of the cathedral's medieval bells. The bells mentioned in the novel are identical to those in a 1612 text by Jacques du Breul [fr] used as a reference by Hugo.[52][53] These are Marie, Jacqueline, Gabriel (which du Breul spells "Gabrielle," also seen in Hugo), Guillaume, Thibauld, Pasquier, two "sparrows" (French: moineaux—a generic term for smaller bells, possibly Jean with Claude or Nicholas), and the seven-bell carillon including a "wooden bell" (cloche de bois), possibly La Clopette.[54][55] Information about Hugo as well as illustrations and excerpts from the novel are displayed in the south tower which was open to the public before the fire.

The 1996 film adaptation by Disney opens and closes with a song called "The Bells of Notre Dame". Four fictional bells are named Little Sophia, Jeanne-Marie, Anne-Marie, and Louise-Marie (Quasimodo refers to the latter three as "triplets"); "Big Marie" is the nonfictional bourdon Marie which first appeared in the 13th century. In the 2002 sequel, there is another fictional bell named La Fidèle which is made of gold and decorated with jewels (however, such a bell would not work in real life).

The bells have also been the subject of poetry, such as François Villon's 1461 Le Testament[56] and Catherine Phil MacCarthy's "The Bells of Notre-Dame."[57]


  1. ^ Singer 2012, p. 204.
  2. ^ Sandron & Tallon 2020, p. 95.
  3. ^ Société 1913, p. 176.
  4. ^ Dubu 1854, p. 25.
  5. ^ a b Temko 1955, p. 232.
  6. ^ Société 1913, p. 197.
  7. ^ Gueffier 1763, p. 39.
  8. ^ Société 1913, pp. 180–181.
  9. ^ Gueffier 1763, p. 41.
  10. ^ a b Figure de la grosse cloche 1681.
  11. ^ Billon 1866, p. 112.
  12. ^ a b Gilbert 1821, p. 146.
  13. ^ Gazette de France 1682 as cited by Gilbert (1821, pp. 145–6).
  14. ^ a b AFP 2013.
  15. ^ a b c d Benoît 2019.
  16. ^ a b Gilbert 1821, p. 150.
  17. ^ Marchand 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d e de la Baume 2011.
  19. ^ Smith 2019.
  20. ^ a b c Ringing order, used to identify which bells ring in a particular sonnerie or ringing pattern, generally numbered from lowest to highest strike tone.
  21. ^ Sources using pre-Revolutionary primary sources give mass in pounds (French: livres). These are converted here as livre actuelle, also called livre de Paris or livre de poids de marc (about 0.4895 kg). Compare pound measurements in Gilbert (1821, pp. 149–150) with kg measurements in Singer (2012, p. 204).
  22. ^ a b c Sources give various figures for the mass of Emmanuel—Singer (2012, p. 203) 26,000 lb, Billon (1866, p. 112) 30,000 lb, Gilbert (1821, p. 146) 32,000 lb, Gueffier (1763, p. 37) 36,000 lb, websites of Notre-Dame and Ministère de la Culture 13 metric tons (13,000 kg), and Dubu (1854, pp. 25) 18,000 kg. These discrepancies likely arose from various definitions of the pound (French: livre), as well as added confusion from the bell being cast several times with different masses. Gueffier is the earliest source and his 36,000 lb are commonly cited in others, including Société (1913, p. 197) which gives the most detailed account of the bell, but does not convert to kg. Dubu may have arrived at 18,000 kg by converting Gueffier's 36,000 lb as livre usuelle or metric pounds (0.5 kg). Gilbert's 32,000 lb may come from the 32,000 lb Gueffier gives for the 1681 casting. Singer likely used Gueffier as well, but cites the 32,000 and 36,000 lb as 22,000 and 26,000 lb, respectively, either mistranscribing them or believing them to be too high. Singer consistently uses livre actuelle, also called livre de Paris or livre de poids de marc (about 0.4895 kg) for conversions to kg. This was the pound used most commonly in Paris in the 17th century. Converting Singer's 26,000 lb with this unit yields 12,727 kg which is relatively close to the approximated 13,000 kg given by official sources. Converting Gueffier's 36,000 lb as livre esterlin (about 0.3671 kg) also comes relatively close—13,216 kg. Billon's 30,000 lb may come from the bell's own inscription ("15,000 pounds...now doubled") which is likely an approximation.
  23. ^ Singer 2012, p. 208.
  24. ^ According to Société (1913, p. 193), Jacqueline's original mass was 11,542 lb. The 15,000 lb given on the bell's inscription may use livre esterlin (about 0.3671 kg) as opposed to livre actuelle (about 0.4895 kg). If Société uses livre actuelle, the bell's original mass was about 5,650 kg or 15,390 livre esterlin.
  25. ^ De Guilhermy 1873, p. 48.
  26. ^ Gueffier (1763, p. 38) and Dubu (1854, p. 26) transcribe the baptism date as 29 April 1686, possibly believing the year of 1682 to be in error. According to Gilbert (1821, p. 146), the original date was kept in memory of Marie Theresia who had been present at the ceremony. According to Singer (2012, p. 203), the bell's second baptism also took place 29 April 1686.
  27. ^ Winston 2018, p. 91.
  28. ^ Billon 1866, p. 113.
  29. ^ a b c Beardsley 2013.
  30. ^ According to Venikeyev (1988), the bell weighs 351 poods, which are about 16.38 kilograms.
  31. ^ NTS Sevastopol (17 April 2019). The Bell of Chersonesos Rung in Solidarity with Parisians.
  32. ^ Lichfield 2012.
  33. ^ a b c Singer 2012, p. 207.
  34. ^ Appoline-Marie-Nicolette de Choiseul-Praslin, wife of Augustine-Marie-Hélie-Charles de Talleyrand, duke of Périgord [fr] (Anselme et al. 1879, pp.249–250) and grandnephew of archbishop Alexandre Angélique de Talleyrand-Périgord.
  35. ^ Charlotte-Bernardine-Auguste de Percin de Montgaillard de Lavalette, wife of Charles Léon Ernest Le Clerc, marquis of Juigné [fr] (Borel d'Hauterive 1868, p. 297) and great-grandnephew of archbishop Antoine-Éléonor-Léon Leclerc de Juigné.
  36. ^ Henriette Gastaldi, wife of Antoine Victoire Alphonse, viscount of Quélen and brother of archbishop Hyacinthe-Louis de Quélen
  37. ^ Marie-Caroline Affre de Saint-Rome, niece of archbishop Denis Auguste Affre (Borel d'Hauterive 1861, p. 178).
  38. ^ a b Messe et bénédiction des huit nouvelles cloches 2013. Translation of exchange—Archbishop Vignt-Trois (addressing two children): Rose and Jeroen, what name would you give to this bell? // Children: Étienne! // Vignt-Trois (addressing the bell's godfather): Canon Étienne de Mesmay, why this name? // de Mesmay: To memorialize the old cathedral church of Paris which preceded the current cathedral of Notre-Dame and was placed under the protection of Saint Stephen (Étienne), the first martyr. // Vignt-Trois: Let Étienne sing from now on for the glory of God and in service to the church.
  39. ^ Peltier et al. 2019.
  40. ^ "Les voix de Notre-Dame" le feuilleton JT 13h du 22 mars 2013.
  41. ^ In biblical numerology, fullness is often represented by the number seven. For other meanings of the number eight, see Biblical numerology § Numerological values
  42. ^ Sonnerie des nouvelles cloches de Notre-Dame de Paris Archived 28 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine (2013).
  43. ^ Sandron & Tallon 2020.
  44. ^ Gilbert 1821.
  45. ^ Singer 2012, pp. 205–206.
  46. ^ Tagliabue 2008.
  47. ^ a b c Order of ringing (NDP site).
  48. ^ Rosbottom 2014, p. 332.
  49. ^ Rosbottom 2014, p. 336.
  50. ^ Global News 2020.
  51. ^ Bowen 1998.
  52. ^ Hugo 1888, book 1 pp. 4, 29, book 3 p. 143.
  53. ^ Hugo 2002, p. 467.
  54. ^ Du Breul 1612, p. 11.
  55. ^ Hugo 1888, book 4 pp. 165166, book 7 p. 28.
  56. ^ Singer 2013.
  57. ^ MacCarthy 2019.


  • Anselme; Ange; Simplicien (1879). Histoire généalogique et chronologique de la Maison royale de France, des pairs, grands officiers de la couronne, chevaliers, commandeurs et officiers de l'ordre du Saint-Esprit (in French). Vol. 9. Paris. pp. 249–250 (Google Books).((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Billon, Jean-Baptiste-Benjamin (1866). Campanologie: Étude sur les Cloches et les Sonneries Françaises et Étrangères (in French). Caen: F. Le Blanc-Hardel. pp. 111–113 (Google Books).
  • Annuaire de la noblesse de France et des maisons souveraines de l'Europe (in French). Vol. 25. Paris: M. Borel d'Hauterive. 1868. p. 297 (BnF Gallica, Google Books).
  • De Guilhermy, F. (1873). Inscriptions de la France de Ve Siècle au XVIIIe (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: Imprimerie National. pp. 48–50 (BnF Gallica, Google Books).
  • Deplace, Charles (1857). "Discours pour la Bénédiction des Cloches de Notre-Dame de Paris". Panégyrique de saint Vincent-de-Paul et discours divers. Paris: Adrien le Clere. p. 236 (Gallica BnF, Wikisource).
  • Du Breul, Jacques (1612). Le Theatre des Antiquez de Paris (in Middle French). Paris: Claude de la Tour. p. 11 (BnF Gallica, Google Books).
  • Dubu (1854). Histoire, Description et Annales de la Basilique de Notre-Dame de Paris (in French). Paris: Ambroise Bray. pp. 25–29 (Google Books).
  • Gilbert, Antoine P.M. (1821). Description historique de la Basilique métropolitaine de Paris: ornée de gravures (in French). Paris: Chez Adrien Le Clere, Imprimeur de S. Em. Mgr. le Cardinal Archeveque de Paris, quai des Augustins, no. 35. pp. 144-150 (Google Books).
  • Gueffier, Claude-Pierre (1763). Description Historique des Curiosités de l'Eglise de Paris (in French). Paris: C. P. Gueffier. pp. 37–42 (BnF Gallica, Google Books).
  • Hugo, Victor (2002) [1831]. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Translated by Liu, Catherine. New York: Random House. p. 467. ISBN 0679642579.
  • Rosbottom, Ronald C. (August 2014). When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940–1944. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316217446.
  • Sandron, Dany; Tallon, Andrew (5 April 2020) [2013]. "1245: Towers and Bells, Marking Time at the Cathedral". Notre Dame Cathedral: Nine Centuries of History. Translated by Cook, Lindsay; Tallon, Andrew. University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271086224.
  • Singer, Régis (4 October 2012). "Les beffrois et les cloches". In Vingt-Trois, André (ed.). Notre-Dame de Paris. La grâce d'une cathédrale (in French). Strasbourg: La Nuée Bleue. pp. 200–208. ISBN 978-2809907988.
  • Société de l'Histoire de Paris (1913). Mémoires de la Société de l'Histoire de Paris et de l'Ile-de-France (in French). Vol. 40. Paris: H. Champion. pp. 175–212 (BnF Gallica, Google Books).
  • Temko, Allan (October 1955) [1952]. Notre-Dame of Paris: the Biography of a Cathedral. New York: Viking Press. LCCN 55009643.