Bell concert marks half a millennium

The Maria bell in the Jindřišská Tower is 500 years old

The 500th anniversary of the bell named Maria in the Jindřišská Tower was celebrated by a carillon concert.

The Maria bell survived both world wars and previous conflicts, as bells were often melted down so the metal could be used to make weapons. Maria was made in 1518 by bell master Bartoloměj of Prague’s New Town and is the 10th oldest bell in Prague. It was restored in 2002 and now weighs 732 kilograms.

The other two original bells in the tower are newer, Jindřich, from 1680, weight 3,350 kg and Dominik from 1850 weighs 1,000 kg.

The Jindřišská Tower, next to Kostel svatého Jindřicha a svaté Kunhuty (St Henry and Kunigunda Church), was built in 1472–76 and remodeled in 1876–79.

The anniversary concert took place Oct. 10 on a portable carillon that was placed on the street in front of the tower. After an introduction including a video about the bell’s history, the bells chimed out popular tunes for an hour including “My Way,” “Yesterday” and “Auld Lang Syne.” as well as songs by Czech composers.

The bells were played live by Radek Rejšek, a well-known organ player and composer.

The carillon has 57 bells and was made by Petr Rudolf Manoušek. The largest bell in the portable carillon weighs 860 kilograms and the smallest 5 kg. The whole instrument weighs over 22 tons and is the largest of the five similar instruments in the world.

Manoušek said it was not his intention break the world record. “In the Netherlands they have musical bells in almost every tower, but in Bohemia we have none except the historic chimes in the tower of the Prague Loreta. That's why I decided to bring the bells to people,” he said.

Inside the tower, there is now a smaller carillon also made by Manoušek that can play music when someone puts a coin in the machine. It cannot be heard on the street though.

The top level of the tower offers views of the city, and lower levels have a restaurant, a bar and an exhibition about Prague’s towers.

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