University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Photo of a bell
Photo by Michael Visser

Bell Époque

The chime of the St. Michael's College bell

The simple ringing of a bell can evoke waves of school-day memories. Be it a brass handbell used to summon us from a noon-hour baseball game, the metallic clang that signalled the beginning of every day in high school, or the sombre reverberations from a university church tower, bells have called to us for much of our lives. But this 36-kilogram, 41-centimetre-high bell, being restored for the 2002 sesquicentennial of the University of St. Michael’s College, hasn’t chimed for decades. It was found during major renovations to the college in 1995, hanging in the east cupola of Clover Hill Hall (built in 1856 and still the oldest continuously used academic building at U of T). Long ago, a young bell-ringer on the hall’s main floor would pull a rope to announce the start and end of each day or to round up students from outdoors. While campus bells are becoming increasingly rare (indicating, perhaps, that academic buildings should be seen and not heard), this one reminds of a time when people communicated their “Good mornings,” “Good-nights” and “We’re looking for you’s” with a gentle, sonorous gon-n-n-n-ng.

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