The Bells of Bruges is George Rodenbach’s 19th century novella revolving around a medieval carillonneur of the 47 bells in the Bruges Bell tower in the city center. Bells regulated the lives of the medieval Bruges city dwellers. (Today you may climb the 366 steps, stopping for a moment to peruse the keyboard where the bells are played.) Although today’s Bruggelings are not regulated by the bells, the bells of the carillon and multiple other church bells can be heard all over Bruges at all times of the day. It is one of the charms of the city. On a starlit night the delicate tinkling from the carillon wafts through the night air, and slip into the Béguinage courtyard—underneath and over the shuttered doors.
The Béguinage of course has its bells too. My bells (and I know their sound) ring eight minutes before each of the five services a day and before Mass. I can hear the bells on my return from Dutch class and I know just how long I have to get to the church and into my seat. I hear the San Salvator Cathedral bells at 5:45 pm, a deeper sound than mine, and then I know mine will ring soon for the 6 pm service. My church bells are rung from inside the church; the bell rope stands at the ready near the 15th century pre-reformation pulpit and is released and pulled by the Bell sister. The young girls who visit and stay with us are always offered a chance to pull the bell rope and ring the bells for a service.
There is also a bell atop the Convent chapel—smaller, of course, and deeper. It is rung for the weekly conference and spiritual readings and can be heard from all the monastery grounds. Perhaps, like the medieval Bruges city dwellers before me, my life is regulated by the bells.