Ancient church bells sounded to report news

  • Left: A century-old church in Mantin. Right: A Catholic demonstrates how to sound church bell. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • A Catholic church in Mantin serves as a landmark of the small town. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • Donor's names are engraved on a plague hung inside the church after it was renovated. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • A big and a small ancient bells are hung above the church. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • The main bell ringer of the church in early days. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

  • The main bell ringer started to sound the bells in 1948 until he was enlisted in 1952. He returned after completing his military services. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily

Whenever we pass by Mantin, we can see a stately classical Catholic church. In addition to a historical landmark of the small town, the century-old church also serves as a "messenger".

The ancient church was built in 1900. It is six-storey high and two ancient bells, believed to weigh 500 pounds each, are hung at its highest point.

When the bells were sounded in the past, it indicated a celebration or a funeral. The bells were also used to inform residents of some news or announcements. The times and duration the bells were sounded carried different meanings.

However, the Catholic church's traditional practice of bell sounding has gradually lost and it is also difficult to find bell ringers.

Lepida, 87, who has been the church's bell ringer, told Sin Chew Daily that the church has two bells of different sizes.

He said that in addition to reporting news, bells were sounded to report time and remind Catholics of prayer time.

He said that he had to sound the bells three times everyday in the past, namely at 6am, 12pm and 6pm. In fact, the original intention to sound the bells was to remind Catholics of prayer time.

"Both the bells would be sounded for wedding or mass; if there was a wedding, the bells would be sounded when the bride's car was spotted from a distance until it reached the church; if there was a funeral, only the big bell would be sounded and for emergency announcement, the bells would be sounded 24 times," he said.

He pointed out that he started to learn how to sound the bells in 1948 until he was enlisted in 1952. However, he returned to the church as a bell ringer again after completing his military services.

He said that however, the bells have not been sounded since 2006 as they could find no other bell ringer to succeed the task.

Bells were sounded to wake local residents up, so that they could tap rubber on time and thus, it was a very important task at that time.