Station: [3] Bell Tower

From this wooden belfry, the bells of Heiligengrabe ring in the day; summon the canonesses to the chapel for midday prayers and ring out the day in the evening.

Cistercian churches don’t usually have a tower – and that also holds true in Heiligengrabe. But after a major fire in 1719, that rule was more honoured in the breach. A tower with a baroque hood was mounted on the roof of the collegiate church, where it could be seen from afar. An inventory of the church, prepared in 1810, lists five bells. A sixth was added a decade later.

But in 1912 the hood had to be demolished—the church tower had become derelict, and the roof truss had rotted. The bells were taken down and re-hung in the wooden belfry, but they didn’t stay there for long.

Just six years later, as the First World War was coming to an end, the abbey delivered up its two largest bells to be melted down: 437 kilograms of bronze, melted down to bolster the war effort.

Twenty years went by before the bells were replaced. In 1937, to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the founding of Heiligengrabe Abbey, a large A note bell and a somewhat smaller C note bell were solemnly consecrated. But again, they weren’t in place for long. In 1943 they, too, were melted down for the war effort.

Until 1975, the foundation had to make do with a small makeshift bell. Then two new bells were cast, part-funded by donations from members of Heiligengrabe parish. They still welcome visitors to the foundation’s grounds today.

Depiction 1 © Dietmar Rabich
Depiction 2 © Klosterstift zum Heiligengrabe
Depiction 3 © Klosterstift zum Heiligengrabe