Manual ringing of Spanish bells, UNESCO heritage

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Rabat (EFE)

The Intangible Heritage Committee of UNESCO, meeting in Rabat, added this practice to its list, an achievement that the Spanish ambassador to this body, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribe, thanked the associations throughout the Spanish territory who preserve this tradition, including some whose members have gone to the Moroccan capital.

“They represent – said the ambassador – this great historical heritage that is the manual ringing of bells, which they have been able to maintain over time, pass it on to young people. It is an example of memory, of history , tradition and communication.

Bell ringers fight for tradition

Bell ringers from Palencia, Albaira (Valencia), Utrera (Seville) and Zamora took to the stage in the room where the committee meets. Javier García Fernández spoke first, on behalf of the Hispania Nostra heritage protection association, to recall that since 2017 he has been fighting to obtain the protection of this tradition.

Acto seguido, Antonio Berenguer, coordinator of Campaners d’Albaira, confirmed that “el toque manual de campanas es un lenguaje rico y diverso con características propias de cada region, est un código sonoro that has been transmitted in the time of los campaneros jóvenes a older ones”.

“The manual ringing of bells always communicates a message, they are always immediate and objective” and let the inhabitants know “the passage of the day, the alert, the celebration, the devotion, the sorrow, the farewell”.

“The sound of bells is a universal language that unites peoples, countries and continents and at the same time marks its own identity,” he concluded.

The ringing of bells, a universal language recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

According to the Candidature File submitted by Spain, the manual ringing of bells has persisted through the centuries as part of the collective identity of their communities and is used to mark events of daily life, as well as festivals, funerals, fires or floods.

The different shapes of the bells and the types of sounds reflect, according to the writing, the richness of the Spanish culture, currently counting more than thirty different tones.

“There is no city or town in Spain that does not have a bell tower from which the bells ring,” says the Spanish bid.

Currently, it is a tradition supported by associations of voluntary bell ringers, amateurs who act alone and sacristans.

“It is a universally understood musical language, where the ringer is essential to preserve the social communication function of the bells. The relationship of agreement between the ringer and the bell is essential to safeguard this ancestral practice, ”specifies the application.

A very lively custom in Spain, Italy and Latin America

The document adds that people of all ages, genders, origins and socio-economic levels identify with the sound of the bells, which are associated with festivals in more than 8,000 Spanish municipalities.

“During the centuries, the ringing of bells has been used as a means of expression and communication, fulfilling a series of social functions: transmission of information, coordination, determination of a certain territory, protection and cohesion”, indicates the case.

The ringtones, easily understood and recognizable by the different communities, also serve to structure everyday life and mark festive and unusual events.

It is, says the candidacy, “a rich repertoire in the religious and civil sphere to mark different times of the day, alert the population in the event of fire or flood, announce funerals, decrees or other news and accompany events, celebrations, shows and other circumstances of life, especially on the professional and liturgical level.

Spain points out that the manual ringing of bells exists in many cultures around the world, for example in Latin America, where it is still alive.

But he adds that in the European context the reality is very different from one country to another and, if it is almost non-existent in Germany and France, it is widespread in Italy.

“In Spain, the diversity and current flourishing of traditional bell ringing through the efforts of bellringing communities is a benchmark for Europe, contributing to the cultural diversity that mutually enriches us all.”

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