church bells, noon, history

Legend has it that the noon bell ritual commemorates the victory of the Siege of Belgrade (Nándorfehérvár) that took place in 22 July 1456, writes Of course there’s some truth in it, but to recover the full truth one should read Jenő Szűcs’s writing that was published in the História magazine’s 1981/04 issue, or read the following article that’s based on Szűcs’s findings. Szűcs pointed out that the bulla that founded the noon bell ritual was announced in St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope Calixtus III before the battle. The victory later reshaped the meaning and understanding of the ritual.

Pope Calixtus III realized the Turkish threat, and after his inauguration he solemnly swore to take back Constantinople. However, his recruiting campaign was unsuccessful and by late spring of 1456 it became obvious that there would be no Christian army to retake Eastern Europe. People started to panic and were threatened by the Turks, and it was then, that Pope Callixtus III ordered that between the morning and evening tolls the bell should be rung at noon as well. The bulla became known as the Bulla orationum.

The Siege of Belgrade started on 2 July, three days after the bulla was enacted. The reinterpretation of the ritual was made easier as the news of the victory (that was usually celebrated by bell tolls) reached Buda earlier (28 July) than the news of the newly enacted bulla (not earlier than the first week of August). This was true for the rest of Europe, except for Vienna.

As soon as Pope Calixtus III was informed of the victory he reinterpreted the meaning of the bulla that had been enacted earlier. “As God helped the Christians’ weapons to be victorious the prayers told when the bells are ringing at noon should be the prayers of thanksgiving, too” – Szűcs quoted the pope and added that Calixtus III created a link between the bell tolls and the victory with his statement.

The link became even stronger when the Pope made another enactment specifically to commemorate the victory, and on the first anniversary after he was informed of the news – according to the Christian calendar, it’s the day of the transfiguration of Jesus – he made it a holy day in the Christian world. This order may have contributed to the legend that the noon bell ritual was founded because of the Pope’s bulla, Jenő Szűcs pointed out.

based on an article of
translated by Adrienn Sain


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