Apr 20, 2014

The Bells! The Bells!: Clochette

Quasimodo's not here to ring them in, but we are....Notre Dame's new bells. We are lucky enough to see them before they are installed in the towers.

They exhibit them for a few weeks in the nave of the cathedral. Each bell is decorated uniquely and named for a different saint. Because of perspective, it's hard to tell in the photo above, but the bells we see first are much smaller than the ones closest to the altar.

Jean-Marie, whose note is "la #3" weighs in at 782kg or 1724lbs.
Maurice, "sol #3", at 1011kg or 2229lbs.
Benoit-Joseph, "fa #3", 1309kg or 2886lbs. 
Etienne, "fa 3", 1494kg or 3294lbs. 
Marcel, "re #3", 1925kg or 4244lbs. 
Denis, "do #3", 2502kg or 5516lbs.
Anne-Genevieve, "ti" (called "si" in French), 3477kg or 7665lbs.
Gabriel, "la #2", 4152kg or 9156lbs.
Marie, "sol #2", 6023kg or 13,278lbs -- nearly seven tons. 

I assume # actually means "sharp" and not "number", but I don't know what 2 and 3 mean. Some of my more musical friends could answer that, so here's the information in its original state to interpret.

The beautiful new bells are replacing these old clangers that have been in the tower since the Revolution, when Quasimodo's bells were melted down.

The new bells are meant to have a purer, higher-quality sound, in keeping with the prestige of the cathedral in which they are placed, and to be able to chime out actual tunes. The initial reality, however, is disappointing. On the first day they are to ring -- the weekend before Easter 2013 -- we stand outside on our balcony at the appointed hour of 17h (which is 5pm to you and me), and we hear.....nothing.

The old bells could be heard loud and clear throughout the neighborhood, so we assume either we have the time wrong, or they are having some sort of ceremony first and will ring them later. We find out from one friend that they do, indeed ring at 5pm, and she is out front with the throngs to hear them. Faintly. Another friend is in the garden of Notre Dame at 5pm and can barely make them out. But it seems they just need a bit of breaking in. As the weeks and months go by, they certainly seem to get louder, and it's also very evident that they are, indeed, more melodious and varied-sounding than the old bells. I'm happy about that, but then again, the poor people who live right next to the church have probably been waiting through French bureaucracy for centuries to quiet down the bells.

Though we can now hear them through our double-glazed windows on many days of the week, the bells go quiet for the three days before Easter to mourn Jesus' crucifixion. As the story goes, these are the three days during which the bells "fly" to Rome to be re-baptized and then, on their "flight" home, magically drop chocolate eggs, bells, chicks, and, thanks to globalization, also bunnies for the French children to find. No bunnies delivering here! Then, they start ringing the bells again on Easter to joyously announce Jesus' resurrection. And, perhaps, the delivery of tons of great French chocolates.

THE CHEESE: Clochette

Clochette, which means "bell" (for the obvious reason), comes from any of several regions: Poitou Charente near the Atlantic coast, and Bourgogne and the Loire in central France. All of these areas are goat territory. It's a recent creation, aged for 3-4 weeks.

It's a lightly goaty flavored cheese made, of course, from raw goat's milk. Though it is a soft cheese, it's got a firm, dry-creamy texture, with a soft, delicate, brainy rind. Clochette is easy to like, and goes very well with sweet toppings like fruit gels or honey, which makes it even easier to like.


Bells for Easter. Bells of Notre Dame. Bell-shaped cheese. Even bell-shaped Easter chocolates. This is a total gimme.


  1. I live beside a place where almost everyday construction work takes place. It's a developing residential area .So I need double glazing glasses to avoid the outer noise inside my home.


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