The bell towers of Belgium are now officially recognised and protected by Unesco as intangible cultural heritage
Mechelen home to famous school
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has added Belgium’s carillon culture to its register of intangible cultural heritage. Carillons are musical instruments made up of bells normally located in bell towers.
Bell towers began as alarm beacons in the flat Flemish landscape and later were built on to churches and cathedrals. They have been used for playing music since at least 1510.
Mechelen is home to a renowned carillon school, which attracts musicians from across the world for master classes and the chance to play live. Mechelen is unique in having four carillons, as well as a new mobile carillon (pictured) owned by the school.
Unesco includes the carillon culture under the heading of best safeguard practices, pointing out that the programme to protect the practice of carillon playing exists in 76 municipalities in the country, as well as 30 other countries worldwide. It also aims to ensure the restoration of historic instruments.
Flemish culture minister Sven Gatz issued a joint statement with his French-speaking counterpart, Joëlle Milquet, pointing out that the admission of carillon to the list was the only example of best practices this year, “an important recognition for Belgium's carillon players and all those who work for the carillon culture in this country”.
“Carillon music has been giving our towns and cities a unique atmosphere for five centuries,” Gatz said. “I hope we may be able to enjoy our carillons for much longer still.”