Ding, Dong, Bell!

In Europe, France, Places, Travel on April 3, 2012 at 9:17 pm

The clock on the Notre Dame Church at Dijon, France.

Question of the day: How long did it take for the bell-ringer of the Notre Dame Church in Dijon to have a family?

Answer: 500 years!

The church of Notre Dame is located in Dijon, the capital of the region of Burgundy or Bourgogne in France. The automaton clock, a marvel of the time, was brought to Dijon by Philippe le Hardi or Philip the Bold, who was the Duke of Burgundy between 1342 and 1404 as part of his bounty during the invasion of Flanders and put on the church top.It was given to Dijon for their help during the war.

In 1500, the name Jaquemart or Jacquemart was given to the automaton. Today the word Jacquemart  has come to mean a robotic figure who strikes the hours of a clock. Whether Dijon and its very own bell-ringer are responsible for this, who knows. As far as I know the etymology of the word Jacquemart is not yet certain.

Anyway going back to our story, the people of Dijon decided that poor Jacquemart must be feeling lonely at the top and so in 1610, he was given a wife who was called Jacqueline. As evidence of equality between the sexes, they alternate the task of ringing the bell every hour. The less romantic story is that a second bell-ringer was added to ensure that the bell is not always being struck on the same side and to thus reduce wear and tear on the bell. That might well be so, but the addition of a woman automaton sure caught the imagination of some.

A hundred years later, the poet Aimé Piron felt that leaving the couple alone without children gives the impression that they had taken vows of chastity and so at the time when the figures were being restored, he asked the municipal council to give them a child. The couple was thus blessed with a son and everyone called him Jacquelinet. The little one being too small to help his parents ring the bell every hour is assigned the task of ringing a smaller bell every quarter of an hour.

Another 100 years go by, during which the family members take turns ringing the bell of Notre Dame. And finally in 1884, the couple is blessed with a daughter, Jacquelinette who now helps her elder brother in ringing the bell every quarter of an hour and alternates the task with him. 🙂

I wonder why they are called the “Famille de Ding” ! 😉

Famille de Ding


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