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Top 5 Facts: Belfries

The large and ornate Belfort Tower in Bruges, Belgium.

1. Heritage – Due to their age and craftsmanship, many belfries are now protected structures. In 1999 32 Belgian belfries were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

2. Calling –
Belfries serve two main purposes: the first to call people to prayer and the second to announce the time. The latter is done on both religious and civic buildings.

3. Origin –
The first bell towers were designed as early warning systems against invasion. This lineage can be seen in the Dutch term ‘belfort’, which combines ‘bell’ and ‘stronghold’.

4. Lucky – The heaviest functioning bell in the world is called the Bell of Good Luck, and weighs in at 116 tons. It’s located in the Foquan Temple, Henan, China.

5. Carillon – Some larger bell towers are fitted with carillons, a musical instrument consisting of an array of variously sized bronze bells. The bells are played via the striking of an attached keyboard.

  • Johan Torfs

    Belfries were not linked to religion and did not call the people to prayer. The church bells served that purpose. Belfries were watchtowers and later a symbol of the cities power and wealth. Their bells warned against invasions.The first wooden belfries date from the end of the 11th century. The oldest stone belfries date from the 12th century. Carillons were added from the 16th century as a sign of wealth.