This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Bourdon" bell – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Emmanuel, the 13-ton bourdon of Notre-Dame de Paris being remounted in 1850 during restoration

The bourdon is the heaviest of the bells that belong to a musical instrument, especially a chime or a carillon, and produces its lowest tone.

As an example, the largest bell of a carillon of 64 bells, the sixth largest bell hanging in the world, in the Southern Illinois town of Centralia, is identified as the 'bourdon.' It weighs 5,000 kilograms (11,000 lb) and is tuned to G. In the Netherlands where carillons are native, the heaviest carillon is in Grote Kerk in Dordrecht (South Holland).

The biggest bell serving as bourdon of any carillon is the low C bell at Riverside Church, New York City. Cast in 1929 as part of the Rockefeller Carillon, it weighs 19,000 kg (41,000 lb) and measures 3.10 m (10 ft 2 in) across.

The bourdon at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, called Great Paul, weighs 16.7 tonnes. It is the largest bell ever cast in the British Isles.[1] Great Paul is the second heaviest bell in the United Kingdom after the 25.7-tonne Olympic Bell, cast in the Netherlands for the 2012 London Games. As it is not a part of a harmonically-tuned set, the Olympic Bell is not considered a bourdon.[2]

Although carillons are by definition chromatic, the next bell up from the bourdon is traditionally a whole tone higher in pitch, leaving a semitone out of the instrument. Bells separated from the next higher note by more than two semitones (one whole tone) are called sub-bourdons.[3]

English-style ring of bells

The heaviest bell in a diatonically tuned English-style ring of bells (change ringing) is called the tenor. If a larger, heavier bell is also present it would be called a bourdon.

See also


  1. ^ "Great Paul Leads Bell Ringing Tribute at Platinum Jubilee". Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  2. ^ "A Look Back at the 2012 London Olympic Bell". Retrieved 23 August 2022.
  3. ^ "What is a bourdon bell?". Retrieved 23 August 2022.