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For other uses, see Bell tower (disambiguation).
"Campanile" redirects here. For other uses, see Campanile (disambiguation).

A bell tower is a tower which contains one or more bells, or which is designed to hold bells, even if it has none. In the European tradition, such a tower most commonly serves as part of a church and contains church bells. Modern bell towers often contain carillons.

The Italian term campanile (/ˌkæmpəˈnl/; Italian pronunciation: [kampaˈniːle]), deriving from the word 'campana' meaning bell, is synonymous with 'bell tower'; in American English it tends to be used to refer to free standing bell towers.

A bell tower may also be called a belfry, though this term may also refer to the substructure which houses the bells rather than the tower as a whole.

Old bell towers may be kept for their historic or iconic value, though in countries with a strong campanological tradition they often continue to serve their original purposes as well.

Bell towers are common in China and neighbouring countries, where they may appear both as part of a temple complex and as an independent civic building. The tallest free-standing bell tower in the world, approximately 110m, is the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, located at the University of Birmingham, UK.[1][2]


The bell is rung to signify the time, to call people to worship, for special events such as weddings and funerals, or historically to sound a civil defense or fire alarm.

Bell towers may also contain carillons or chimes, musical instruments traditionally composed of large bells which are sounded by cables, chains, or cords connected to a keyboard. These can be found in many churches in Europe and America and at some college and university campuses.[3] In modern constructions that do not qualify as carillons, rather than using heavy bells the sound may be produced by the striking of small metal rods whose vibrations are amplified electronically and sounded through loudspeakers. Simulated carillon systems have also used recordings or samplings of bells onto vinyl record, tape, compact disc, or memory chips.[4]

Some churches have an exconjuratory in the bell tower, a space where ceremonies were conducted to ward off weather related calamities, like storms and excessive rain. The main bell tower of the Cathedral of Murcia has four.

In Christianity, many Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran churches ring their church bells from belltowers three times a day, at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., summoning the Christian faithful to recite the Lord’s Prayer,[5][6][7] or the Angelus, a prayer recited in honour of the Incarnation of God.[8][9] In addition, most Christian denominations ring church bells to call the faithful to worship, signaling the start of a mass or service of worship.[10] In many historic Christian churches, church bells are also rung during the processions of Candlemas and Palm Sunday;[11] traditionally, church bells are silent from Maundy Thursday through the Easter Vigil.[12] The Christian tradition of the ringing of church bells from a belltower is analogous to Islamic tradition of the adhan from a minaret.[13][14]


In AD 400, Paulinus of Nola introduced church bells into the Christian Church.[15][16] By the 11th century, bells housed in belltowers became commonplace.[16]


Historic bell towers exist throughout Europe. The Poland.

In orthodox eastern Europe bell ringing also had a strong cultural significance (Russian Orthodox bell ringing), and churches were constructed with bell towers (see also List of tall Orthodox Bell towers).

Bell towers (Chinese: Zhonglou, Japanese: Shōrō) are common in China and the countries of related cultures. They may appear both as part of a temple complex and as an independent civic building, often paired with a drum tower, as well as in local church buildings. Among the best known examples are the Bell Tower (Zhonglou) of Beijing and the Bell Tower of Xi'an.

In the modern period bell towers have been built throughout the western world as follies, memorials and as decorative–iconic monuments, and are common on university campuses and other civic institutions.

See also


External links

  • Belfries of Belgium and France, UNESCO World Heritage Centre entry
  • Les Beffrois - France, Belgique, Pays-Bas, blog describing several bell towers (in French)
  • All Saints Bell Tower


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