Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca blessing the restored bell.
The 372-year-old Lascaris Bell pealed for the first time in 34 years yesterday, following two years of restoration in the UK, costing almost €28,000 (Lm12,000).
The historical bell has now reoccupied its rightful spot in the northwest belfry of St John's Co-Cathedral, joining the other 11 in time for the feast of St John the Baptist yesterday.
It is the oldest and, musically, the most toned of the co-cathedral's bells, which were all cast in the Order's foundry. Each has a nickname. The Lascaris Bell's restoration was yesterday inaugurated by the Foundation of St John's Co-Cathedral on its parvis in the presence of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Mercieca, who blessed it and was the first to ring it again, sending off a resounding peal.
The restoration coordinator, campanologist Kenneth Cauchi described the process as a "unique" intervention on both a local and international level in that bells normally split at the edge and not under the crown - as was the case with Lascaris.
Cast in 1636 during the term of Grand Master Antoine de Paule, it is commonly thought that the bell was damaged in the war. However, cracks in its suspending crown indicated otherwise, Mr Cauchi explained.
The bell was last rung on the occasion of the funeral of Bishop Emmanuel Galea in 1974, after which it was deemed irreparable, being broken in three parts. These were lowered from the belfry in 1989 and welded together in 1992, with the intention of displaying the complete bell in the co-cathedral's museum.
The initiative to restore Lascaris was taken by the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation in 2006, though work on it took longer than expected due to unforeseen technical difficulties.