Why does the Church Bell Ring All the Time?

Anne Bonfert

A leftover from a time before smartphones existed

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The sound of the church is something that will always remind me of growing up in Germany. If Christian or not. If believing in something or not. In any German village, you will get in contact with the church. Through its constant ringing of the bell.

The time

The church bell is an asset from times before everyone had a smartphone in his hand and wouldn’t leave the house without a watch with him. The church bell would wake up the people, tell them when to have lunch, and also tell them when it is time to finish up work.

You would also know if someone is celebrating a wedding or if a sad event like a funeral is being held at the church. When cellphones weren’t even developed yet and phone calls were expensive this was the quickest way to deliver messages.

And this tradition is still alive. Until today. You can hear the church bell ringing every fifteen minutes. Once at quarter past, twice at half-past, three times at quarter to and four times when it is the full hour. In a different sound, it will ring then the number of times what time it is. And then it starts again.

The modern times

“When I’m in Germany I will buy a lot of watches and give them to the German people.” — my boyfriend

So here am I. Living in a tiny village with less than a thousand inhabitants surrounded by forest and lots of nature. Sitting on my terrace enjoying the view across the valley.

My phone rings. It’s a Skype call. My boyfriend is calling. Skype is a new part of our relationship. Since we got separated due to the pandemic and live thousands of miles apart from each other on different continents.

We talk about how our day was. What we ate. And what we are still going to do. The church bell rings three times. I don’t even hear it. I’m used to it. It is part of the background noise. Mixed up with the sound of bees, insects, and birds.

We laugh and make plans for the future. Because we are not giving up hope. Eventually, we will get back together. Then the church bell rings again. And it doesn’t seem to stop. My boyfriend asks me what that sound is he is hearing through the phone. It’s the church I explain to him. Like I did before. He is asking why it is ringing so many times.

It is six o’clock in the evening and that is the time when the people would go home from the fields back in the days. That is why it is ringing.

My boyfriend is skeptical.

You do know that we are living in the 21st century. Does nobody in Germany have watches or cellphones?

Now to explain to you. This is my African boyfriend telling me, living in a first-world country, that even in Africa everyone has a cellphone to check the time. Right. What do I say to that?

I guess rather nothing. I love the fact that they kept up this tradition. I love waking up in the morning with the church bell telling everyone it is time to go to work. At 6 am in the morning. Not that anyone is still using it as a wake-up call, but I do know I can continue to sleep a bit more because I don’t need to wake up that early.

I love driving through the forest knowing every 15 minutes what time it is. How far I made it already. Or just listening to the beautiful sound of the bell itself. Despite the fact that I am not religious at all I still enjoy the sound of the church bell.

It reminds me back of my childhood days. When I would walk down to the bus station and would know that I would have to run as soon as I hear the bell ring three times. Because it meant I was running late.

I also remember closing the balcony door in the evening when I was watching TV and the church bell would ring just after 6 pm. Because I couldn’t understand anything anymore. And back then you couldn’t just pause the show you were watching.

I do remember skiing in the mountains in the south of Germany in a tiny mountain village hearing the church bell while racing down the slope. Not needing to take out my phone in order to know what time it is and when I would have to go home for lunch.

But these are my memories.

My boyfriend obviously doesn’t have them. And last night when we skyped and he asked again what that sound have I explained to him again that it’s the church.

He responded:

“When I’m in Germany I will buy a lot of watches and give them to the German people. I feel sorry for them.”

I had to smile.

And laugh a bit.

But that is what life is about. It’s about the little things in life. About those things that make you smile.

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I am a traveler. Photographer. Writer. Teacher. Skydiving instructor. Adventure enthusiast. Nature lover. And fell in love with the African continent. My stories go around travel, nature and all kinds of adventurous activities.

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