Four Shires Guild of Bell Ringers
NEWSLETTER No 128 - April 2011
MAJOR FIND IN THE BELL WORLD!
Huge bell discovered in Hungary.
Was hidden from invading forces a century ago, to prevent being melted down.
A massive bell has been discovered in Budapest - see photo, courtesy of the Magyar Távirati Iroda (the Budapest News Agency). This Agency reports the bell has been sitting on top of a building, disguised as a roof. It seems the reason for it being there had been a well-kept, and then long-forgotten, secret, and it would have remained so had not some of the external panelling required repair after high winds. When the damaged part was removed, the workmen found - a bell. Delving into the city's archives revealed nothing until permission to access those of St Stephen's Basilica was given. Details are still scant, but they appear to show the bell had been placed in its current position at the outbreak of hostilities early last century, to prevent it being confiscated by invading forces to make guns and associated items of war with its metal. At that time it seems the bell had been lowered from the Basilica's bell tower to allow strengthening work to be undertaken on the foundations, which were failing under the combined weight of the fabric and the bell. Being vulnerable on the ground, it was suggested it could be hidden as an ornate roof on a building then being constructed. External panelling was placed around it to complete the disguise. Those involved with the work were sworn to secrecy. So good was the work, the invading forces took no notice; and because those involved with the work maintained their silence in the subsequent hostile regime, the inhabitants of Budapest came to accept the outline as merely an ornate roof. It has been difficult to measure the bell under the panelling, but estimates suggest it is some 5.5m in diameter (about 18ft). This leads experts to suggest it weighs over 120 tonnes, placing it as one of the largest bells in the world (in comparison, the Tsar Kolokol in Moscow is about 22ft dia and weighs some 200 tonnes). Unfortunately, the work to strengthen the foundations of the Basilica's bell tower was never undertaken, so there is still doubt about the tower's ability to contain the bell. Until these problems are solved, the bell is likely to stay in its current position for the foreseeable future. The owner of the building is happy this occurs, as, he says, 'the roof in that part has never leaked'! Some well-known UK bell historians are arranging to visit Budapest as soon as they are able. As one explained, 'This is extremely exciting: a most unusual find'.