The Bells of St. Lucia's Cathedral
"A cathedral is an eloquent testimony to what can be achieved when artistic inspiration and far-sighted vision collaborate harmoniously with deep Christian faith. That is why the pilgrim to Rome is overwhelmed not so much at the immense scale of the basilicas or by their artistic splendour, but by the sheer faith that inspired artists like Michaelangelo, Raffaello, Bernini and Maderna to visualise and execute such breath-taking wonders for the glory of God. Similar feelings awe and administration flood the soul of the visitor to St. Lucia's Cathedral, Kotahena, Sri Lanka. He is overpowered by the majesty of the dome, the gracefulness of the vault and the grandeur of Corinthian pillars. But above all, he is wafted high on wings of faith as he kneels to pray and contemplate this beautiful cathedral, such a magnificient Alleluia of praise to God, the creator of the universe."
- A light Set On a Hill
Had the rare opportunity of seeing the renovation work that is being carried out at one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka - the St. Lucia's Cathedral. Construction of the Cathedral began in 1873 and was completed in 1902, with additions going on till about 1905. Over a century old, the cathedral today needs major maintenance work done, to restore the building to its former glory.
Among the many wonders at the Cathedral, are the chimes of bells. Donated by Mr A. N. De Silva of Mayfield House, Mudliar Henry Perera of Wasala Walauwa, Mrs F. J. Alles of Ternon House and Mr J. C. Peiris of Grandpass, the four bells were shipped from a foundry in Marseilles (France) in the SS Himalaya and were transported to the cathedral on the 5th of November 1903. Installation of the bells was a mammoth effort: the largest bell weighes 4,300 pounds. Messrs Walker Sons of Mutwal - one of the well-known engineering companies of that era, completed the task.
The bells were christened at 4.30pm on the 13th of December (the Feast of St. Lucia) by His Grace Rev. Dr. Th. Andrew Melizan - the Archbishop of Colombo. They were first ceremoniously washed with salt and water, then anointed four times with the Oil of Chrism, and named. When this was done, His Grace the Archbishop of Colombo sounded each bell once and this act was repeated by sponsors, the clergy and the Religious present. The wooden frames and the main teak beams were covered with white cloth, tied with green ribbons, Broad-lace, and gold paper. The bells were dressed in white satin robes edged with lace and embriodery. A thurible with burning incense and other aromatics was placed under each bell.
The whole ceremony lasted nearly two hours. That evening, the Angelus was rung on the newly christened bells.
The four bells are engraved with the Crucifixion, and the likeness of Fr. Chounavel. The name of the Foundry is inscribed on each bell: Georges & Francisque Paccard, Founders - A - Annecy - le - Veux Hte Savoie - France - 1903.
1. The biggest bell weighs 4,300 pounds and is christened
It has engraved on it beautiful floral wreaths, the Crucifixion, the Sacred Heart, Our Lady, St. Joseph, and the twelve apostles. It has the crest of Oblates of Mary Immaculate with the caption Evangelitur Pauperibus Misset Me
This is the main bell of the cathedral - rung only in occasions whence the statue of St. Lucia is taken out in procession.
2. The bell next in size weighs 2,000 pounds and is christened
CONSTANT HENRY LUCIA EMILIA.
This, along with the bells three and four, are connected to the clock - to chime hourly, every half an hour and every fifteen minutes consecutively. The clock is still in perfect working condition, while the mechanism to chime the bells have ceased to function.
3. The third bell weighs 1,400 pounds and is christened
4. The fourth bell weighs 950 pounds and is christened
JEAN BAPTIST EDWARD ANNA.
The clock that is at the facia of the cathedral has the mechanism located elsewhere. They are connected with a long set of "differentials" that run through the thick walls. That is, another marvel, another story.