The Turkish Bells

Some Catholic churches still do it: at noon they ring the Angelus. This prayer in honor of Our Lady is accompanied by a specific scheme of ringing the church bells. At first the bells are sounded three times for three rings (three rings – short silence – three rings – short silence – three rings), after which the bells are rung the regular way.

The Angelus is (or was) prayed at 6 am, 6 pm and at noon. The tradition started somewhere in the late Middle Ages. It was originally only prayed in the morning and evening, the evening prayer probably being the oldest. The same prayer at noon is a relatively recent innovation.

Apparently it was pope Calixtus III who’s responsible for this innovation at noon. In 1456 he ordered all Catholics to ring the bells at noon and pray for victory against the Turks, who at that time were very busy conquering south-eastern Europe. The occasion was the siege of Belgrade by the Turks, which -incidentally- failed.

It’s not clear whether the pope instituted the Angelus at noon or simply rededicated the already existing prayer, but in some parts of the world the Angelus at noon is still referred to as ‘the Turkish bells’. Now, 553 years later we’re discussing the entry of Turkey into the EU…

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