The Italian town of Sormano, about an hour from Milan, will soon wake again to the now controversial sound of church bells thanks to the generous donation of a 90-year-old grandmother. Whether the 650 or so inhabitants of Sormano will be grateful for the gift is perhaps another matter.
Maria Mazza, born and raised in the town, will fork over 20,000 euro to fix the bells in the parish church of St. Ambrogio which she feels have too long been silent.
In recent years, irritated citizens from all over Italy have waged wars against noisy church bells.
Although ringing from bell towers once regulated Italian daily life, since locals now rely on alarm clocks, cell phones and the Internet for important information there is much debate about for whom the bell tolls. The question of whether churches have the right to ring bells throughout the day — and sometimes at night — has split even practicing Catholics. While Italians may ‘listen to both bells’ (sentire tutte le campane) to mean giving equal consideration to both sides of an argument, many simply don’t want to hear bells, period.
After years of complaints, parish priest Don Bruno Ginoli was actually put on trial and fined about 150 euro in 2002 for disturbing the peace after ringing church bells ‘too vigorously.’ Part of the problem is that technology has also come to bell towers — they can now be set to ring automatically and with volume controls — so it’s a matter of trial and error before some overzealous priests strike a balance.
Sleepless Italians in numerous cities have called in the national health service to gauge the decibels of church bells — often finding that they are loud enough to be considered ‘noise pollution.’ Concern over the matter lead the Bishop of Bergamo to pen a decree about when and how often the bells can ring out, though he did reinforce the idea that bells would not be silenced because they are part of the traditional way that the church communicates with the parishioners.
Mazza, however is optimistic about her gift, “It’s a special way of thanking God for having reached this age,” said the former nurse. “I wanted to give something back to the town which has given so much to me.”
Whether the people of Sormano will remember her fondly or curse every time they hear the bells is perhaps a different story. 1999-2007 zoomata.com
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