More than 500 years after it was cast, the oldest bell at Mdina’s Cathedral will be lowered into retirement on Wednesday.
Cast in 1499 by bellfounder Magister Antoninus in Tortoreto, the bell carries an inscription in medieval gothic script around its shoulder. The Latin inscription reads MCCCCLXXXXIX MAGISTER ANTONINUS DU TORTORITO ME FECIT INSATAM SPOTANIA ONOREM DEI PATRIA LIBERATIONEM MENTEM.
The bell is being replaced after a site inspection of the cathedral’s bell fittings found that it was at risk of imminent collapse. Although repairing it was possible, given its considerable age experts suggested setting it aside in the cathedral museum and casting a new replacement.
Its replacement was cast by Fonderie Paccard of Annecy and designed to match the two bells present in the belfries, which were cast by bellfounder Prospero Barigozzi of Milan in 1958.
The new bell weighs 170kg and sounds the note D sharp, replicating the strike note of the 1499 bell as much as possible. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St Paul, the titular saint of Mdina Cathedral.
The bell carries a latin inscription by Monsignor John Azzopardi which reads: HÆC A. MMXVI, A SOC. PACCARD IN GALLIA, CONFLATA ILLAM A. MCDXCIX, A MAGISTRO ANTONIO DE TORTORITO SUBSTITUIT. This translates to That which was cast in 1499 by Master founder Antoninus of Tortorito in the year 1499 is being substituted by this which was cast by the Paccard foundry of France in the year 2016.
The bell will be blessed by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna on Wednesday morning.
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