Church bells are another reason to live in the older city

I am trying to finish reading Saturday’s paper while it is still Saturday.

The evening air is warm, the house is warmer. Neighbours already have their central air conditioning on. I hear the unfamiliar sound as it cycles on. My ear twitches as it hears bells.

The Peace Tower bells can be heard from kilometres away on quiet nights. It is common to hear them through bedroom windows between midnight and five AM.  (My sleep can also be less pleasantly disturbed by the raucous gulls on the river, above the Chaudiere Falls).

But the bells that attract my attention tonight sound different. They aren’t counting the hour. I step outside, the sky is starry, and the bells I now realize aren’t all that familiar. Not St Anthony; nor St Francois. Not St Jean Baptiste. Not the pseudo bells of City Hall (yes, we can hear them here on cloudy days), which probably don’t ring at night anyway.

It’s Easter. Orthodox Easter. Their Christ has Risen. Some group is eager to let the whole world know the minute it is Easter Sunday. The bells ring on. It could be Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral on Eccles (formerly known as Our Lady of Perpetual Help when it was RC, I would think I would recognize its bell…). So it has to be a church that I seldom hear. Maybe the Latvian Orthodox church on Somerset at Arthur. Or the Russian Orthodox Church by the transitway in Mechanicsville. Does the Polish church down near the Queensway celebrate roman or orthodox easter? I dunno.

But the bells have stopped now, leaving just the quiet  starry night.

Real church bells are rare in the newer parts of the City. They are a major factor in the choice of my first house, under the cliff below St Jean Baptiste church on Empress, which has a big bell set, although they play it less now, and it sounds distinctly muted. Carillons are popular in some areas, but when I lived out on Greenbank beyond Pinecrest Cemetery their daily carillon sounded more irritating than stirring, sort of like school chimes that go and on, rather like the teachers at the students incarcerated therein.

I leave the paper for another day. I go to bed, listening for the Peace Tower bells, but never hear them.

I vaguely dream of my Greek-o-philia stage in life. Twice I have spent Easter in Greece. Street parades. Madly chiming bells. Sooty candles marking door posts. To refresh memories, the wife and I went to the Greek church out on Prince of Wales one Easter. It was Good Friday. About 3pm. Their bell tolled on and on, a mournful dirge. The Church was crowded, hot. I squeeze out to the entry way when a very self-important irritated neighbour from the Lord Mountbatten Apts arrives to insist they “turn off those damn bells”. The ushers, all shaped like refrigerators, push his hands to his side, pick him up, and carry him outside down the stairs. He doesn’t come back. Eventually the bells stop.

One thought on “Church bells are another reason to live in the older city

  1. I heard the carillon at the St. Jean Baptiste church yesterday. I live at the house right at the bottom of the cliff on Empress.

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