The Clock Tells the Time – the Bells tell the Century

Umbria, 2010

It seems like a timeless place. But in the old town in the hills, the bells count the hours and the quarter hours, as they have for generations -- for five or six centuries. The broad cobbled Corso winds through the town. The main drag we might say. It passes through the centuries old city gate, much older even than the bells, goes through the piazzas and past the market stalls and the sidewalk cafes. Past the worn and repurposed palazzos. The town folk enjoy their evening stroll. They meet old friends and relations and pause for a glass of wine, an espresso, or a grappa and share stories or the news of the day. There are those obligatory kisses, and near misses. Much of the business of the place passes in the evening hours on the Corso.

The old clock in the town hall sounds its bell -- a dull clanging sound. Not a sonorous or pleasant tone. It was meant for business: get up -- get out -- take alarm. The old city fathers were a most frugal lot and knew not to spend scarce city money on a large bell. A long minute later, after the clanging has died away, the great bell in the cathedral rings out its time. That is where the tithe money went, centuries ago, to call attention to the cathedral. Mostly to impress.

The clocks have been slightly off for generations. They just are, but don't have to be. They could be timed better and synchronized… or they could settle on one. But there is a purpose and an intent to the minor discrepancy. It is an ageless dialogue. A slight discord but the Church has the last word. This place was once part of the Papal States. The town hall may clang away at the precise and proper time, but the church bell responds and commands attention.  There is a certain stubbornness to this old rivalry that marks the quaint and timeless character of these hill towns. Such is Italy.



Comments 2

Stephen Evans on Saturday, 14 May 2022 20:22

Sounds, charming.

Sounds, charming.
Rosy Cole on Wednesday, 18 May 2022 16:34

Bells are so atmospheric and evoke layers of history, putting us instantly in touch with the past without a single word being uttered. Beautiful counterpoint in a beautiful place!

Bells are so atmospheric and evoke layers of history, putting us instantly in touch with the past without a single word being uttered. Beautiful counterpoint in a beautiful place!
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