Turmoil in small Italian town after church bells being silenced


Southern Europe

Marc Derœux, CNE.news

The Sant’Ulderico church in Dolina. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Eight MPs from Slovenia have gone to the European Commission after the church bells in the Italian border village of Dolina were banned from ringing. The bells rang so often that some residents had asked for them to be moderated.

Nobody in Dolina, a town with a minority Slovene community close to Italy’s border with Slovenia, could ignore the daily ringing of the bells of Sant’Ulderico church, reports the Italian newspaper la Repubblica. The clock struck every quarter of an hour, continuously, from 7 am to 9 pm. With two chimes at the first quarter-hour, four at the half-hour and six at the third quarter-hour.

“It was bam-bam, bam-bam all day long,” says Mauro Zerial in the British newspaper the Guardian. He counted 550 strokes a day between Monday and Saturday, and 1,350 on a Sunday. “It would start at 6 am, with 70 strokes for the Ave Maria, then seven at 7 am, and then every 15 minutes until another long ring for the start of the evening mass. It was crazy.”


Zerial and other villagers decided to petition the bells “to be operated within the norms”, not silenced entirely. The petition was eventually signed some 150 times and taken to the public prosecutor’s office in Trieste. In January, the Public Prosecutor decided that the bells should never be rung again.

After protests from the Catholic community, the same prosecutor reversed his decision in early February. The bells were allowed to ring again, but with several restrictions.

But peace was not made. The discontent in the village continues because the bell is still standing. Now because of a technical problem: it seems impossible to adapt the clock to the demands of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Though some in the village doubt if this is the valid reason, the fact is that there is only one technician, a Slovenian from Ljubljana, capable of putting his hand to that type of clock.

Religious freedom

While signatures are being collected in the village for a counter-petition to have the clapper struck as it used to be “to reactivate it according to age-old tradition”, eight Slovenian MP’s have submitted a written question to the European Commission in Brussels. The document says the measure by the Italian authorities “is disproportionate and endangers the complex coexistence of people and nations living together in this area”.

In the Guardian, MP Ljudmila Novak says the issue was raised in Brussels after members of the Slovenian community in Dolina turned to her and her colleagues “in distress”. “The Slovene minority is protected by special laws so that it can preserve its national identity and customs. These laws also include church rites,” she said. “We ask the commission in what way it will act to eliminate the disproportionate interference with religious freedom and cultural tradition in an area where the autochthonous Slovenian national community lives.”



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