Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris no doubt conjures up to movie lovers images of Charles Laughton at home amongst the gargoyles in the 1939 adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.
Two medieval towers punctuate the sky at the west end of the cathedral at the summit of which that deformed bell ringer Quasimodo worked and lived.
It’s no surprise that the bells in this thirteenth-century cathedral made Quasimodo deaf. There are five of them, one in the south tower called Emmanuel and four in the north tower. Emmanuel is a bourdon bell, which is typically the lowest sounding bell to be found. In its entirety it weighs 13 tons, with its clapper alone weighing 500 kilograms. It is the cathedral’s oldest, having been recast in 1631 and in real life required 20 people to ring it. In 1944, the bell was rung to celebrate Paris’ liberation during the Second World War.
Who would not suffer a hearing impairment after having to ring bells on the hour, every hour, and for special occasions and services?
Today, any one seeking to apply for Quasimodo’s role as a bell ringer would search the job vacancies in vain. The five bells, once rung manually, are now operated by electric motor.
Visitors today have little chance of suffering earache, apart from when they climb the 400 steps to the top of the bell tower. Instead of setting up home in the belfry, they would be better off choosing one of the many hotels available in the Marais area where Notre Dame Cathedral is located.