Show Us Those Landmark Bells

Throughout history, bells have played a vital role in early societies. The ring of a bell could signify the time of day, announce a coronation, or warn of impending danger. Even today, many important bells still stand as memorials to major moments in history. Although they might not have the same ring to them, these landmark bells have become symbols of both art and history.


(Image: Jorge Láscar/Public Domain)

The Korean Bell of Friendship in Los Angeles is truly a grand masterpiece. The giant bronze bell was created utilizing traditional Korean bell-making techniques, and gifted to the United States by the Republic of Korea as a sign of goodwill. Across the Pacific on the grounds of the Kremlin, sits possibly the largest bell in the world, the Tsar Bell. It’s so big that when a piece of this massive 216-ton bell broke off, the inside was briefly used as a small chapel. Then in Boston’s North Square there’s the first bell cast by Paul Revere. After the war, Revere operated a bell foundry and his first job was recasting a cracked bell from the Second Church of Boston. It would become the first bell ever cast in Boston. This is just a small sampling of the amazing bells you can find all around the world. Now, we’d like to see some of the utterly unforgettable landmark bells that you’ve discovered during your travels.

In the thread below, tell us about the amazing landmark bells you’ve encountered! Where is it located and what was its original purpose? Did it undergo any damage or transformations such as the Broken Bells of St. Mary’s? Be sure to include any pictures you might have as well. Your response may be included in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura. Let the bells ring!

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While not the most amazing bell, my husband & I had the opportunity to climb the clock tower of the Congregational church in Newburyport MA. We got to toll the bell while we were up there, then look out and watch as people looked up, wondering what was going on. A few people might even have wondered who died as that was the traditional signal of a death, while ringing or chiming the bells was for all other bell purposes.
To toll means the clapper is moved to make the sound, a quieter, more dull sound. To ring or chime means to swing the bell to make it ring, a louder, brighter and perhaps more urgent sound as it can be done faster than the more deliberate toll.

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The Mingun Bell, at Mingun, about 11 km north of Mandalay, Myanmar is considered the largest uncracked bell in the world. The bell is enormous weighing in at 90 tons and was the world’s largest working bell before a 116 tone bell was found in China.

As you enter the building housing the bell you realise the sheer size of this massive bell. Near the bell is a wooden post that you use to strike the bell and the ringing tone is enhanced by the alloy of five metals used in the casting of the bell, including gold, silver, bronze, iron and lead.

In this picture and the linked panorama is a young man called Marn Htoo Myint, who was our guide for the Mandalay region. During our time there we formed a great friendship and I had planned to revisit Myanmar and Marn was going to be my guide again. A month or two before the trip I found out that I will never get the opportunity to see him again as he passed away after a motor vehicle accident two days ago.

Even though it was a brief amount of time spent together, it was full of very happy moments. Marn was so full of life and loved to share his country with others. I took this shot of Marn, ringing the Mingun Bell, on that first day we met.

See the 360˚ panorama at the link below

Marn ringing the Mingun Bell

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Sacred Bell of Great King Seongdeok, crafted in 771 CE - the largest bell in Korea, weighing 18.9 tons. This masterpiece served as a model for Buddhist bells in the Unified Silla Period, and demonstrates the advanced the metal crafting technology of the time. Two dragon-shaped ornaments on top of the bell create a ring from which the bell was hung; behind the neck of each dragon ornament is a reverberating pipe. Both the top and bottom edges of the bell feature beautiful engravings of peony vines, while similar designs adorn the borders of the four rectangular panels on the upper part of the bell, surrounding nine lotus flower designs. Below these panels, two “apsaras” (Buddhist nymphs) sit facing one another, each gripping an incense burner with handles.

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Just before I moved away from Minnesota this past summer after finishing up college, I had the opportunity to see (and ring!) the Duluth Peace Bell. This is a replica of the bell that rings in a temple in Ohara, Japan. During WWII, the bell was taken by the Japanese government and used as “scrap metal” to make munitions but ended up not getting melted down before the war ended. American military forces found the bell in a metal scrap yard and took it back to the United States as a memento on the USS Duluth. Because of the ship’s namesake, the bell ended up in Duluth MN. In 1951, Japanese visitors in Duluth recognized the bell and the mayor of Duluth had the bell sent back to Ohara. In 1990, Ohara and Duluth became sister cities, and the people of Ohara had a replica of the bell cast and sent it to Duluth as a symbol of the union between the cities and of peace between Japan and the United States. The ornamentation on the bell tells the story of the bell and bears the symbol of the city of Duluth. It sits in a beautiful and quiet Japanese-inspired garden overlooking the city and Lake Superior. It’s a beautiful sight and sound! (Picture provided by MPR)

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For Americans, one of the most beautiful and moving bells SHOULD be the Liberty Bell in Phila. As a kid, I remember visiting it several times while it still resided in Independence Hall - and being able to touch it and even put my head underneath an look up inside. There are a lot of myths and rumors - but the bell still should hold a sacred place in the hearts and history of this country!

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The Peace Bell in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, was made using coins from all over the world. It stands in a lovely pavilion on one edge of Sukhbaatar Square in the center of the city. When we visited in 2014, we were fortunate enough to see a Buddhist monk ringing the bell with a huge suspended beam.


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Thanks for this very interesting story. I grew up in Japan and later studied Japanese history, so I knew that temple bells were melted down during the war, but I didn’t know about this one. Ohara has become quite popular among Kyoto visitors in recent years. The town is famous for a group of Tendai temples whose maple trees are spectacular in fall.

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The story of the “Duluth Bell” is beautiful, a story of kindness and healing. Thank you

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A while ago, I had federal jury duty in Philadelphia and was able to see the Liberty Bell up close. Definitely a must see!

There is a beautiful Japanese temple on the island of Oahu called Byodo-In in Kaneohe. Its bell is not as big as the LA Korean Friendship bell but it is in a beautiful setting! You can also ring the bell and we enjoy the tones for as long as we can hear them. We go there to pay our respects and enjoy the grounds whenever we are on Oahu. Follow the signage to the back of the cemetery.

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So delighted you enjoyed!!! Was born and raised in the area, family there since early 1700’s.

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Hi, guys. The most mysterious bell in the world as far as I’m concerned (it’s become a bit of an obsession) is the one in Armenia that once was kept in the bell towers of Etchmiadzin Cathedral that had an inscription in Tibetan letters on it. Assuming as seems most likely that it was made in Tibet, it had to travel over 4,300 kilometers to get there. You can see the latest blog about it HERE. I’m still, after all these years, on a quest for a photograph of the bell, but have so far come up against a bronze wall. Any help will be appreciated (you can leave a comment here or at Tibeto-logic blogsite).

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My maternal ancestors, the Mann family of 3 brothers, landed in Philadelphia back in the 1700s and received a land grant from William Penn (so the family history goes) in what is now Manor Township, Lancaster County. Part of that land is still in the family and still a farm.

The family cemetery, where many of the original settlers and their descendants are buried, is on that farm. When I’m in that area, I usually stop and thank them for settling in such a beautiful place. My mother, who lives in the township, and some of her relatives have compiled an extensive genealogy of the Mann family over the past 50 or more years.

I hope you have had the pleasure of visiting Lancaster County and exploring the areas away from the “tourist traps.” It’s especially beautiful in the Spring and Summer when all kinds of fresh and canned food is sold at the stands at many farms.

Fall is the harvest season for the autumn veggies and fruits and you can see the Amish plowing their fields with horse-drawn plows then and in Spring. It’s always worth a trip! Try to stay in one of the outlying towns, where many motels, hotels and B & Bs are much less expensive than in the tourist trap area.

**Made of coins from all over the world. **
Just wow!!

Thank you for this story! I always was wondering how Duluth could be a sister city to one in Japan. Now this makes sense. I will have to stop in to see this bell on my next drive thru Duluth

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Of course! I hope you get to see it soon!

Thank you! I agree, I loved the story behind the bell.

Happy to help spread the word. That sounds beautiful, I’d love to visit one day!