The bells of Barga were silent today as once again essential maintenance work was taking place on the centuries old bells.
Things wear out and have to be checked and replaced if necessary.
Last year new safety rules involving bells came into place right across the country which meant that safety work had to be done. The clappers were removed from all the bells and metal rings welded on the bottom edges so that thick steel cables could be attached so that if any did fail the clappers would still remain connected to the bell (article here)
Last year in November, the largest bell weighing more than two tons, which was cast in in 1737, had been troubled with what felt to the experienced campani to be almost a sticking action near to the apex of the swing and it was becoming more difficult to pull.
It was time to check on the bearings which carry the weight of the centuries old bell and which were last changed over a decade ago.
In fact once the bearings were removed, metal shavings were found in the oil and on the second bearing deep grooves in the metal as the bearing was gradually failing (article here)
New bearings specially ordered were installed and once more the bells returned to perfect working condition.
BUT, less than a year later the problem was back and once again the bell had to be removed and the bearings checked.
The bearings were again failing and needed replacing and this time some more serious work was needed to find out and resolve a gradual settling down of the heavy bell which was pulling the axis inwards
Once the bell was lowered it was possible to see in great detail one of the striking motifs on the bell – that of the Salamandra.
According to tradition, it is the animal that lives in fire that cannot consume it. For this capacity, it represents the incandescent stone of the Philosophers that never runs out. Certainly a bell-maker could not have chosen a more appropriate animal precisely because of its ability to resist fire as the Salamander apparently also resists lightning.
According to an ancient legend, salamanders were able to cross the flames while remaining unharmed. From the Middle Ages the salamander was loaded with symbolic meanings, often linked to Christ himself, due to the reptile’s ability to rise again.
The Barga Campanari who have been ringing and caring for the bells for generations believe that they have solved the problem and the bell was once more returned to its rightful place high up in the belfry.