New bells ring out in Limerick’s Glenstal Abbey

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan


Fr Simon Sleeman, headmaster of Glenstal Abbey School, at the blessing ceremony of their custom made bronze bells Picture: Dave Gaynor

Fr Simon Sleeman, headmaster of Glenstal Abbey School, at the blessing ceremony of their custom made bronze bells Picture: Dave Gaynor

THE BENEDICTINE monks of Glenstal Abbey installed four new bells that will be tolling long after all of us are gone to our God.

The custom made set were blessed by Abbot Brendan Coffey on the perfect day – the feast of St Benedict last Wednesday. Br Martin Browne, bursar, said bells are important instruments in a monastery!

“There was quite a lot of excitement in the community about the new bells. Bells do, after all, play a big part in ordering the day in a monastery. They call us to prayer several times a day; they are peeled at times of joy on big feasts and at professions of monks; and of course they are tolled solemnly to mark the deaths of monks.

“We've had a number of bells in the church for many years that were acquired at different times and weren't ever intended to ring together. When they are all rung together they can sound a bit like a lot of pots and pans being clattered! So it is wonderful to now have a set of four bells that were made for us and that sound well together,” said Br Martin.

After the blessing ceremony they were lifted by crane and placed on top of the library, beside the church.

“​The bells look very beautiful, and because they are outside, we can see them easily. It is traditional for bells to be named. The four are called Benedict after the author of the Rule followed by us and all Benedictines, Scholastica, his sister, Joseph and Columba, the two patron saints of the monastery,” explained Br Martin.  Each bell is adorned with an image of the saint whose name it bears. A short phrase connected with the saint or with the bell’s function of calling the people of God to worship is placed beneath the image. 

A lot of work has been completed on their church in recent years and it was Abbot Brendan's idea to further enrich their common prayer by getting a set of new bells. A frequent guest and very generous donor to Glenstal from America readily agreed to cover the cost.

“One of the very few bell manufacturers in Europe, the Jan Felczynski Bell Foundry in Poland, have an agent in Ireland, and after some discussions a plan was put together for a set of four bells, to be cast in bronze. The moulds were created just before Christmas last year and the bells were cast in the spring, but we decided to wait until St Benedict's Day to install them,” said Br Martin.

The bells are fully automated. All four can be swung, and two of them can also be struck to create single chimes. On ordinary week days, only one bell at a time will be rung - to call the monks to the church for each of the offices that they sing each day, to ring the Angelus three times a day, and also, for the first time, to chime the hours and half-hours throughout the day. On Sundays, two, and sometimes three bells will be rung at a time, and on important feasts all four will be rung together. 

“We are hopeful that they will be ringing out over Glenstal and Murroe for many years to come,” said Br Martin.