If you go looking for a bell in the cemetery the easiest discovery will be a gravestone engraved with the surname Bell. However, if you are looking for the symbol of a bell unrelated to the surname it will be a long search. A bell is one of the rarest symbols found on headstones and quite simply represents mourning.
The Dead Bell in the Middle Ages was believed to frighten away evil spirits.
When someone died the bell ringer passed through the streets of villages, towns or cities ringing the bell slowly and repeatedly while announcing the name of the recently deceased person and details of the funeral. The solemn ringing of the bell led mourners from the home of the deceased to the church where the funeral was held.
In 16th century Britain land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practice of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse which was attached to a bell above ground while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight.
A little grave humour:
Harold, the Oakdale gravedigger, upon hearing a bell, went to go see if it was children pretending to be spirits. Sometimes it was also the wind. This time it wasn’t either. A voice from below begged, pleaded to be unburied.
“You Sarah O’Bannon?”
Yes! the voice assured.
“You were born on September 17, 1827?”
“The gravestone here says you died on February 19?”
“No I’m alive, it was a mistake! Dig me up, set me free!”
“Sorry about this, ma’am,” Harold said, stepping on the bell to silence it and plugging up the copper tube with dirt. “But this is August. Whatever you is down there, you ain’t alive no more, and you ain’t comin’ up.”
The Bell of Hope was a gift from London’s St. Mary-le-Bow, which is the sister church to St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan. Installed in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel in September 2002, the Bell of Hope is rung at a ceremony every year on September 11th. It has also been rung after the bombings in Madrid, 2004; London, 2005; Mumbai, 2008; Moscow, 2010; and the Boston Marathon, 2013; and for the shootings at Virginia Tech, 2007 and in Norway, 2011.
The bell is inscribed:
“To the Greater Glory of God
And in Recognition of
The Enduring Links Between
The City of London
The City of New York”
“Forged in adversity—11.September.2001”
The La Cambe German Cemetery in Normandy, France where there are 21,222 burials with 207 belonging to unknown soldiers. A peace garden with 1,200 maple-trees is adjacent to the cemetery.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in