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Madonna Della Fraud-a?: Rumors Ringing in the (Real) Bell Tower

Courtesy of Loyola University ChicagoPrior to the four campus church bells being installed in 2014, Loyola’s Campus Ministry played a recording of bells.

People strolling through Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus are inundated by many things — students entering the Mundelein Center ready for war at the elevators, someone breaking into a jog to hop on the already departing shuttle — perhaps none as consistent as the bells ringing from Madonna Della Strada.

Like clockwork, the chapel bells ring every 15 minutes. The ringing begins at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. on the weekend, finishing at 9 p.m.

“It’s too often,” Zunaira Hussaini, a 19-year-old undecided sophomore, said. “I think it’s unnecessary to have it every 15 minutes because we have phones for that.”

But the existence of those bells is a question ringing on campus. Is it just a recording? Are the bells real, but just for looks?

Finally, the debate leaving some students in shambles can come to an end — the bells are real.

Four bells were installed in Madonna Della Strada’s bell tower in November 2014, according to Senior Associate Vice President for Facilities Kana Henning.

“These bells really do ring and are not a recording,” Henning wrote in a statement to The Phoenix. “Prior to the installation of the bells, the chimes heard on campus were just a recording.”

2014 marked the 75th anniversary of the church’s dedication. What had once been a hollow bell tower due to a lack of funds was restored to its intended glory after a fundraiser, according to the Campus Ministry website.

Panels of the tower were dismantled and put back together to put the bells in. A structural study was done to ensure the addition of the swinging bells wouldn’t compromise the building, Henning wrote.

“It was quite the project,” Director of Campus Ministry Lisa Reiter wrote in a statement to The Phoenix.

The four bells ring quarterly, each with its own name and dedication. There’s Ignatius Bell, dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola, followed by Cecilia Bell, dedicated to the patron saint of music Cecilia, Joseph Bell, dedicated to St. Joseph Mary Pignatelli, S.J. and James Bell, named after James Mertz, S.J.

Despite the campus’ rallying effort just seven years ago, the bells’ very existence has already diminished to an urban legend for some.

“It was probably a waste of money, knowing that people still don’t know that it’s real now,” Hussaini said. “Like, I didn’t know. … If it actually had an actual purpose, then it would’ve been money spent wisely, maybe.”

Sophomore biology major Para Sharma said she has rarely given thought to the bells’ origins.

“It really doesn’t matter to me if it’s real or fake,” Sharma, 19, said. “But I guess I appreciate the effort that they put into rebuilding it, making it more real.”

The concern for Sharma is more about how often the bells disturb the peace during an IC study session. She said she finds it “kind of annoying.”

Fatima Rushnaiwala, a sophomore biology major, agreed the bells can be an irritant. She said people would better appreciate them if they were used more sparingly.

“If it’s like a religious thing, then sure, do your thing,” Rushnaiwala, 19, said. “If it’s just to say that it’s been 15 minutes, I would say to keep it like an hour or like half an hour.”

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