The last section between Mělník, where the ringing test took place, and Prague was covered by Zvon #9801 on a boat. Ship transport was chosen by the initiators of the project for its symbolic meaning. In the summer of 1942, bells removed from Czech and Moravian belfries were taken from the “Bell Cemetery” on Rohanské Island as war requisitions. There were 9,801 of them – both the name of the memorial bell and its weight of 9,801 kilograms refer to their number. A similarly large bell was last cast in Bohemia almost five hundred years ago for the Cathedral of St. Welcome. “All the bells that disappeared from Czech and Moravian belfries during the Second World War will be difficult to return. The goal of the Zvon #9801 initiative was to replace thousands of silenced bells with a new strong voice. Today, we played it together for the first time on the Vltava in the presence of the people who were responsible for its birth. But our efforts do not end there, the public collection is turning into a long-term one. We believe that it will be possible to gradually add more missing bells,” says Ondřej Boháč, chairman of the Sanctus Castulus association of Prague bell-ringers.
The first test tone was preceded by several months of preparation. The initiative entrusted the production to the renowned Grassmayr family workshop in Innsbruck, Austria. Master bell makers cast Bell #9801 during the spring. Ten tons of molten bell metal, exceeding a temperature of 1000 °C, flowed into the mold stored in the ground. Then it was necessary to wait for gradual cooling and final cleaning and adjustments. In particular, the heart of the bell was made. None of this would be possible without the support of donors in the public collection. The target amount set at 14 million crowns has so far been met by 73%. More than 2,300 individual donors have contributed to Bell #9801 so far. Furthermore, a number of important Czech companies or their foundations, for whom the return of the voice of silenced bells is an important cultural, social and historical milestone. The Freedom Bell was also supported by the Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic. “We mustn’t forget the Nazi atrocities and the horrors of war, that’s why we were happy to support this project by donating discarded pontoons to transport the bell to the heart of Prague. I thank the organizers for symbolically returning the bells stolen by the Nazis after 80 years,” said Jana Černochová, Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic.
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After obtaining the necessary funds for the finalization of the Bell #9801 project, the collection will continue in the long term in order to finance the restoration of other bells on Czech towers and belfries. Almost three quarters of the pre-war number are still missing. The estimated costs of their restoration amount to almost 2.5 billion crowns. Bell #9801 is supposed to help with their restoration in the long term. It is equipped with an electronic bell, the initial operation of which took place on the day of the unveiling. For every symbolic 980.10 crowns that donors collect by sending DMS in the form of DMS ZVON 90 to the number 87 777, the bell on Zvon #9801 will symbolically ring with one stroke. If 9,801 crowns are accumulated on the transparent account 9801 1 9801 1 / 2010, the bell will ring for the contributors with three strokes of the hammer. The symbolic ringing, which in the coming months and years will help the long-term collection to restore the bell fund in the Czech Republic, is limited to the period from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the day, so that the ringing does not disturb the night peace in the immediate vicinity of Bell #9801.
Sculptor, painter, designer, jeweler and musician Michal Cimala created a graphic to introduce the bell under the name Bell #9801. The limited edition of 50 graphic sheets signed by the author is Cimal’s contribution to the initiative. Anyone who is interested in the graphic sheet and contributes 9,801 crowns or more to the public fundraiser in the coming days will receive the Bell graphic #9801 as a thank you.
Author: Nikola Lörinczová
František Hormandl provided us with photos of the transport of the bell along the Vraná navigation channel
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