VILLEDIEU-LES-POELES, France — Nine enormous bronze bells have made their way on flatbed trucks from a Normandy foundry to what is hoped will be their home for centuries to come, Notre Dame Cathedral, helping the medieval edifice to rediscover its historical harmony.
The bells, named after saints and prominent Catholic figures, will be on display at the Paris cathedral from Saturday through Feb. 25. Then, they will be hoisted to the iconic twin towers, where they will replace older bells that became discordant.
The new bells are scheduled to ring for the first time March 23, in time for Palm Sunday and Easter week.
Eight of the nine new bells were cast in a foundry in the Normandy town of Villedieu-les-Poeles. The ninth — a “bourdon,” or Great Bell, named Marie — was cast in the Netherlands and sent to Normandy to join the others.
The president of the foundry rang the bells, to the cheers of onlookers, before the nine new bells were sent on a convoy of trucks Thursday from Villedieu-les-Poeles to Paris.
They are joining the cathedral’s oldest surviving bell, a Great Bell named Emmanuel, to restore the 10-bell harmony originally conceived for Notre Dame’s bell towers.
The old bells, which dated from different periods throughout Notre Dame’s history, were out of tune with each other and with Emmanuel, which has hung in the cathedral since the 17th century, according to cathedral officials. So the diocese decided to have new ones cast as part of celebrations marking 850 years since the beginning of the cathedral’s construction in 1163. It took nearly 90 years to build.
The arrival of the bells “is historic because since the 18th century, we haven’t experienced such an event,” the cathedral’s rector, Patrick Jacquin, told Associated Press Television News.
“During the French Revolution, they (the bells) were all brought down and broken except the great bell, Emmanuel, which is here, and four other bells that were recast in the middle of the 19th century. ... This will complete in a definitive manner the entire set of 10 bells as conceived ... in the Middle Ages.”
The $2.7 million bell-casting project was funded by donations, cathedral officials say.
“Historically, the idea of this project was to re-create the old bells of Notre Dame in terms of power, in terms of tune, which means that there will be again 10 bells ringing into the cathedral as it used to be in the Middle Ages and up until the French Revolution,” said Paul Bergamo, president of the Cornille-Havard Foundry in Villedieu-les-Poeles.
One of the new bells was named Jean-Marie after Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, a Jewish-born convert to Catholicism whose mother was killed at the Auschwitz death camp and who later worked to reconcile Catholics and Jews. Lustiger was archbishop of Paris 1981-2005; Jean-Marie was the name he adopted when he converted to Catholicism.
A tourist takes a picture of a new bell known as Gabriel in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Thursday in Paris.×
A new bell known as Gabriel is hoisted on Thursday from a flatbed truck in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.×
This Dec. 7 photo shows a new bell bound for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, “Gabriel,” after being cast in the foundry of Villedieu les Poeles in Normandy, France.×
Visitors gather around new bells in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Thursday in Paris.×
A new bell known as Gabriel bound for the Notre Dame Cathedral is transported on a flatbed truck past the Arc the Triomphe on Thursday in Paris.×
Religious dignitaries enter Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral as part of a ceremony for its 850th anniversary in December. Notre Dame Cathedral has kicked off its anniversary celebrations, which will include new bells for the medieval landmark.×
A new bell known as Gabriel bound for the Notre Dame Cathedral is transported on a flatbed truck past Concorde Plazza on Thursday in Paris.×
Onlookers gather around new bells in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Thursday in Paris.×
A new bell known as Gabriel bound is raised from a flatbed truck in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral on Thursday in Paris.×
Some of the nine new bronze bells destined for the Notre Dame Cathedral are transported on a flatbed truck, with the Eiffel Tower in the background, on Thursday in Paris.×