Zurich’s last bell ringer

The inconspicuous St Anna’s chapel lies in the heart of Zurich. Every Sunday and on church holidays the bells are rung by hand - a tradition that is dying out.


For 20 years Rudolf Brauchli has been sharing this duty with a colleague, working alternate weeks. The 60-year-old is the last bellringer in canton Zurich to ring bells by hand. The other churches have been using an electronic system for years.

St Anna’s chapel is located on what was once the site of the Füssli bell foundry and belongs to the Protestant Society of Canton Zurich. It was built by the architects Bischoff and Weideli in 1910 and is now a listed building. The chapel was founded by Mathilde Escher, daughter of the co-founder of the Escher Wyss industrial company.

swissinfo.ch was able accompany Rudolf Brauchli during a Sunday church service. To find out how the bells sound, click below.


Rudolf Brauchli was asked by an acquaintance 20 years ago if he wanted to have a look inside the St. Anna chapel bell tower


A curious person by nature, he said yes straightaway. This is how he became a volunteer bellringer


This means climbing the bell tower every other Sunday.


"You don't need musical knowledge" Brauchli says. You don't use notes in bell ringing.


Instead you use motifs, or tone combinations. The picture shows some of those that are played in the St. Anna bell tower.


The bell ropes have numbers, which allows the bellringers to copy motifs from Westminster Abbey in London or the Fraumünster Church in Zurich.


Ear protection is not really necessary as the decibels don't get any higher than at a rock concert.


"I know many of the sequences of motifs by heart, but I enjoy improvising most of all", explains Brauchli.


While ringing the bells, it looks like Brauchli is dancing his own special ballet dance.


"I I'm in a good mood, I send positive thoughts out into the world with the sounds."


Pulling the ropes needs a certain amount of sensitivity.


If the bells swing too much, they hit the timbers.


The sound of the bells fades away gradually.


The daily bell peals, done electronically, are switched on.


The gardening gloves are no longer needed today.


Rudolf Brauchli has finished his work for this Sunday.


The church service has however already started.


But come Sunday or a holiday, the hand chimed bells will once again ring out

UNTERFINGER, Ester

swissinfo.ch (25-12-2016)

  • ZÜRICH: Bells, bell ringers and bell ringing
  • BRAUCHLI, RUDOLF (ZÜRICH) : Ringing and other activities
  • Bell ringers: Bibliography

     

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