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April 12, 2004

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bing Zikmund is the 16,500 kg bell, cast in the 1400s,
that hangs in st. vitus cathedral and is rung only
on special occasions--such as today, Easter.
4 knotted ropes hanging from heavy timber yoke
are yanked in a rocking rhythm by about a dozen
volunteers who takes turns at the strenuous work
as the bell bings and bongs at noon for 10 minutes.
standing right there next to it you can feel the
vibrations move through your chest--it's electric.
some years ago, the clapper broke and fell through
two flights of heavy wood floors. that much weight
and motion is inevitably dangerous. the bellringers
are a motley bunch, loosely disorganized, who come
when they can, no sign-up sheets necessary. they
are not particularly devout, bound by the sound
more than religious belief. each one displays his/her
own technique. the oldest among them and the best
dressed also seemed the most efficient, bowing his
body as if in prayer, his eyes looking up at the start
of each stroke. when the ringing is done, they rush
under the bell to hear the subtle hum taper to infinity.
after that, one more distinctive sound--the pop of a
champagne cork as plastic cups are passed around.