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Notre Dame perfects its pitch

Sun., Feb. 3, 2013

PARIS – The cathedral of Notre Dame – French for “our lady” – has finally got the prima donna worthy of its name.

Weighing in at 6 1/2 tons of glistening bronze, this lady is no ordinary person: She’s a bell named Mary.

Mary is in fact the largest – and loudest – of nine new, gargantuan Notre Dame bells blessed Saturday in the cathedral’s nave by Archbishop Andre Armand Vingt-Trois.

The nine casts were ordered for the cathedral’s 850th birthday – to replace the discordant “ding dang” of the previous four 19th-century chimes.

After the original bells – including the original Mary – were destroyed in the French Revolution, the replacements were widely said to be France’s most out-of-tune church bells.

For Catholics, as well as visitors with pitch-perfect ears, it’s a historic moment for the cathedral.

“During the French Revolution, they (the original bells) were all brought down and broken except (one) and four other bells that were recast in the middle of the 19th century … This will complete in a definitive manner the entire set of 10 bells as conceived … in the Middle Ages,” Notre Dame rector Patrick Jacquin said.

Jean-Marie, Maurice, Benoit-Joseph, Steven, Marcel, Dennis, Anne-Genevieve and Gabriel will ring together with Mary to add a harmony to the French gothic landmark not heard since 1789.

Travelers have come from far and wide to catch a glimpse of the bronze giants – on public display until Feb. 25.

The first time revelers will able to hear the new pealing will be on March 23, just in time for Palm Sunday and Easter week.


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