The Sound of Bells

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Erfurt Cathedral, Germany, Gloriosa

Recording downloaded from Internet
Analysed: WAH 6/1/01

To quote from the website describing this bell: The Gloriosa (of Erfurt Cathedral) is the outstanding specimen among the older bells to have survived. This is one of the finest achievements of European bell-casting and one of the largest bells to emerge from the Middle Ages , being about 2 meters high and 2.57 m across.

I think this is the bell Simpson refers to in his second paper. He says "According to the observations of the organist Gleitz, the bell cast for the Cathedral at Erfurt in 1477 has the following proper tones - E, e, g#, b, e', g'#, b', c'# ". His date is out by 20 years, but the proper tones listed correspond well with those frequencies observable in the bell today. Here is the recording of Gloriosa I retrieved from the above site, condensed into a smaller file size.

Bell Founder Tuning
1 Gerhardus Wou de Campis, 1497 welded in 1985 to repair a crack
other tuning history not known

Tuning of main partials

Bell nominal: 329.8Hz and 333.2Hz (the nominal is a doublet).

Bell Hum Prime Tierce Quint Nom'l S'quint O'nom.
1 -2434 -1188 -904 -547 -17
651 1203

(The figures in this table are given in cents. For all partials except the nominal, the interval is given from the nominal of the bell. Intervals for the nominals are relative to that of the tenor. Pairs of values indicate a doublet. Frequencies for the quint are often not given, especially if inaudible.)

Intensity plots

Here is the spectral analysis of this bell. Due to the nature of the recording, the spectral peaks are quite wide. However, the doublet on the nominal is clearly visible.

Erfurt, Gloriosa


I do not know if this bell has been tuned since it was cast. If not, the accuracy of the various partials is striking and good enough to make even a modern founder proud. In addition, the intensity profile is typical of that seen in the very best modern bells, with all partials above the nominal rather subdued and a quiet hum. If anything, the control of the octave nominal is much closer that which is achieved in modern work.

As this is a large bell, one would expect to hear a secondary strike, and sure enough, as well as the half nominal pitch of about 165Hz we hear a secondary strike at about 215Hz, generated by the ear from the partials at 415 cents and 1667 cents (with frequencies of 423.6Hz and 872Hz respectively). These partials are almost exactly an octave apart, giving a sonorous re-inforcement to the second strike note. In a modern bell, the secondary strike is a fourth above the primary. In this bell, it is a sharpish major third (458 cents) which sounds much more pleasant and gives the bell a bright, melodious tone despite its weight.

Truly a remarkable bell considering it was cast over 500 years ago.


Last updated January 19, 2001. Site created by Bill Hibbert, Great Bookham, Surrey