If you traveled through Europe you surely must have heard church bells ringing quite often. It’s something you can’t miss, whether it’s the glorious sound of the huge cast bells of the cathedrals, or the less imposing ding-dong ringing of the smaller churches.
Of course, the bells toll for a variety of liturgical purposes. Like the weddings, the baptisms, or the funerals. They also ring for the purpose of calling the people to worship. But did you ever wonder why do the church bells ring every day at noon in ALL the churches of Europe?
The Significance of Church Bell Ringing at Noon Time
The noon church bell tolling has a specific historical significance that not many people know about. For those of you less acquainted with the history of Europe, I will have to bring up the Siege of Belgrade, a military blockade that occurred in 1456. During the siege, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II mobilized his armies in an attempt to crush the Kingdom of Hungary.
The Siege of Belgrade
The Siege of Belgrade was a major issue for the entire Europe, especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The fall of the fortress city of Belgrade would have opened the gates of Europe to the Turks and that would have certainly changed the history of the world.
In 1453 Hungary was in a difficult situation, as it had no strong centralized kingship. The Kingdom had been torn by rivalries in the years preceding the battle. The most powerful of these leaders was János Hunyadi, the Voivode of Transylvania, who had fought of many battles against the Ottomans before.
Seeing the fall of Constantinople and the imminent invasion of the Turks, Hunyadi quickly tried to make peace with his enemies and united the Hungarians against the aggressor. But none of his rival was willing to assist him in the battle. Thus, Hunyadi stood alone against the Ottomans at Belgrade.
The siege turned into a major battle, during which Hunyadi led a sudden attack that overran the Ottoman camp. Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror received a severe would during that battle that forced him to retreat. The Turkish advance came to a halt that lasted for the the next 70 years.
Commemorating the Victory Against the Turks
Now you may wonder what can be the connection between the Siege of Belgrade and the church bells ringing at noon. Well, history says that during the siege Pope Callixtus III asked all Catholic kingdoms in Europe to pray for the victory of the defenders. He ordered every church to toll the bells every day at noon, as a reminder for the prayers.
After the turks have been defeated, prayers of thanksgiving were sung in churches all over Europe. This was a great victory for Christianity, so church bells sounded in celebration.
Initially the noon bell ringing ordered by Pope Callixtus III was a call to prayer for the defenders of Belgrade. But because in many European countries the news of victory arrived before the Pope’s order for prayer, the ringing of the church bells was believed to be in celebration of the victory. Therefore, the significance of the church bells ringing is now the commemoration of Hunyadi’s victory against the Turks.
Although Belgrade eventually fell to the Turks in 1521, the Battle of Belgrade deserves to be remembered. Hungarians played a key role in the defense of Europe against the invasion of the Turks in the 15th century.