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I can hear the bells

Photo by Photo by Natalie Battaglia // Loyola University Chicago Flickr

Madonna, meet Joseph, James, Cecilia and Ignatius: the newest additions to Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus chapel.

The four new members of the chapel family are a set of custom-made bells, which arrived at Loyola on Oct. 14. Since being delivered to the university, the bells have been separated and put on temporary display around the Lake Shore Campus.

Ignatius, named after St. Ignatius of Loyola,  is the largest of the four bells at 1,990 pounds.  Its size allows it to hit an F note, the lowest pitch of the bells. Ignatius can be seen at the southeast entrance of Damen. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.
Ignatius, named after St. Ignatius of Loyola,
is the largest of the four bells at 1,990 pounds.
Its size allows it to hit an F note, the lowest pitch of the bells. Ignatius can be seen at the southeast entrance of Damen. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.

The bells are part of an $800,000 project involving Madonna della Strada’s tower, according to Assistant Director of Campus Ministry Steven Betancourt. Despite being brought up four years ago, the project was only initiated last year.

The project was funded by five major donors: one for each of the bells and one who financed the maintenance work on the tower, said Betancourt.

“We’re very fortunate here that we have people that step up to donate for the projects. It’s really what made the project a reality this time around and what made the four-year delay not be a delay anymore,” he said.

The largest bell, Ignatius, was funded through a $100,000 donation by Loyola class of 1951 alum and former publisher of LIFE magazine Charles Whittingham; Cecilia was financed by a $70,000 gift from couples who had been married in the chapel; the $50,000 for James was raised by those who attend mass at Madonna; and the smallest bell, Joseph, was paid for with a $30,000 donation from Loyola’s Jesuit community.

The bronze bells were designed by The Verdin Company, a bell manufacturer based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Joseph is the smallest of the four bells, weighing 407 pounds. This bell is in honor of Joseph Pignatelli, who restored the Jesuit order in 1814. The bell can be seen inside Madonna della Strada. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.
Joseph is the smallest of the four bells, weighing 407 pounds. This bell is in honor of Joseph Pignatelli, who restored the Jesuit order in 1814. The bell can be seen inside Madonna della Strada. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.

However, because Ignatius weighs almost 2,000 pounds, the bells had to be cast at Petit and Frietsen Foundry in the Netherlands — one of a few locations in the world still able to make bells of that size. Even though the other three bells were smaller, they all had to be made in the Dutch foundry from the same metal to ensure that each had the same quality of sound.

Although the chiming of bells has been heard coming from Madonna in the past, there have never actually been any bells in the bell tower.

“Just like you have electric pianos and real pianos, you have electric organs and real organs, we had electric bells. So there were four speakers that were actually on the roof of the tower, and that pointed to the sky,” Betancourt said.

Given as a gift from couples who were married in Madonna della Strada, Cecilia weighs 836 pounds.This bell can be seen by the doors leading from Norville to Gentile Arena. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.
Given as a gift from couples who were married in Madonna della Strada, Cecilia weighs 836 pounds.This bell can be seen by the doors leading from Norville to Gentile Arena. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.

While having bells was a part of the Rev. James Mertz’s, S.J. original plans when the chapel was built in the 1930s, a lack of funds prevented bells from being commissioned for 75 years.

Every 15 minutes, the new bells will play “Madonna Quarters,” a chime composed by Betancourt, who is also the chapel’s director of Liturgical Music.

Steve Doerger, Loyola’s Verdin representative, said no other bells in the world will play the same chime. He added that is not the only thing that makes this project unique.

“No two bells are identical, but the … unique thing is the tower itself. Getting the bells into the space is a bit of a challenge,” Doerger said.

“Typically, we prefer to have cranes raise the equipment we install. They are safer and cheaper. However, the crane wasn’t possible,” he said.

Bringing a crane on campus would cause about $1 million in damage to the tiles on Loyola’s paths and the surrounding landscape, according to Doerger. Instead, Verdin will be using scaffolding and an electrical lift to place the bells into the tower through the now-open north facade.

Junior Ad/PR major Nicole Camacho attends mass every Sunday night at Madonna.

“I think it’s cool to make sure the original planning is still fulfilled,” said the 20-year-old. “Since the money was donated, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.”

Camacho also said attention should be given to the building itself to keep its “architectural integrity alive.”  Wanting to take advantage of the open tower and temporary scaffolding, Betancourt said Campus Facilities is doing just that.

This bell weighs 583 pounds and is a tribute to the Rev. James Mertz, S.J., the man behind the construction of the chapel in the 1930s. James can be seen on display in the south entrance of Cuneo Hall. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.
This bell weighs 583 pounds and is a tribute to the Rev. James Mertz, S.J., the man behind the construction of the chapel in the 1930s. James can be seen on display in the south entrance of Cuneo Hall. Photo by Ellen Bauch // The PHOENIX.

“We’re using the opportunity of removing that north facade to look at the structure of the tower. So there’s some roofing work that we’ve been kind of putting off until the necessity was needed to do it … So not only are we putting the bells up there but we are putting them into a totally upgraded structure,” Betancourt said.

The bells are expected to be on display around campus until Nov. 2, and are scheduled to be hoisted up to their permanent home in the tower on Nov. 3. Betancourt said students should take advantage of their chance to see the bells up close, since it won’t happen again.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Once they’re up there, they’re up there. This is such a rare moment that they’re here on the ground,” he said. “People won’t have the opportunity to see them like we do right now.”

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Grace Runkel is the former editor-in-chief of The PHOENIX. She’s from Floyds Knobs, Indiana, a small town just north of Louisville, Kentucky. There she’s interned with multiple news outlets, as well as at WGN in Chicago. One of her favorite journalism memories is getting to interview Lee Crooks — the voice of the CTA.

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