Bolognese bell ringing is a tradition of ringing bells that developed in Bologna, present day Italy. A form of full circle ringing, it entails swinging bells to develop rhythmic patterns.
During the 16th century there was a competitive spirit between Rome and Bologna. At that time the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna was still under construction, and was intended to be greater than St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Both cities were part of the Papal States, and both were considered capital cities of art and music.
There was also competition between two teams of bell ringers; from Bologna's Basilica of San Petronio and from Rome's Santa Cecilia's Church. Eager to prove their skills, the Bolognese bell ringers devised a regular and accurate method of ringing: each bell would have to ring once per rotation. This method soon spread through the city and its many bell towers, and reached nearby cities such as Ferrara, Modena and Faenza.
This bellringing system was originally designed for an ensemble of four or five bells. Nowadays it is also sometimes used for a set of six bells.
The bells are never counterbalanced. They are mounted on a wooden structure called the castle, and flanked by a wooden support called the goat. The bells are not very heavy, as the rotation has to be fast. Generally, every bell that weighs less than 800 kg (16 cwt) is rung by one person. The heaviest bell used with this system is in Bologna Cathedral, and is called la Nonna ("the Granny") and weighs 3.3 tonnes. Thirteen people are needed to ring a scappata or a calata with it.
In this method, the bell ringers have to be at the top of the bell tower, in contact with the bells. Mechanical devices are not allowed.
Bell ringers can ring in two different positions:
In Bolognese bell ringing, sets of bells are rung in four different techniques: scampanio ('chime'), doppio a cappio ('double loop'), tirate basse ('low pulls'), and doppio a trave ('double beam').