Have you heard of Saint Patrick’s Handbell? The Secret of Ballyclog Revealed

A lesser known aspect to the story of Ireland’s Saint Patrick has now come to the fore with a 1,000 year old handbell believed to be linked to him now on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

The Ballyclog Bell, County Tyrone
The Ballyclog Bell, County Tyrone (National Museums NI)

The ‘secrets’ of the Ballyclog Handbell are now being uncovered bit by bit by historians. The bronze bell which dates back to the 9th or 10th century was discovered in 2016 beside a shrine used to house the relics of an unnamed Irish saint at Stewartstown, County Tyrone in the parish of Ballyclog which aptly means ‘area of the bell’.  

Handbells had a huge importance during that period in Celtic and Irish history and it was common for people to believe that bells like this had miraculous powers. They were thought to offer protection when in battle and cure the sick, ward of evil and they were also used in a symbolic manner to toll for the dead at funerals and religious ceremonies. They were a symbol of Christian faith along with religious books and other items and can even be seen on stone carvings from this period. 

These bells were also thought to have been rung as a warning in times of grave danger such as during a Viking raid. Made of bronze and cast in a clay mould, the Ballyclog handbell has a handle for carrying it. Inside the bell are the remains of an iron ‘clapper’ which struck the side to make the bell sound but as it has corroded the bell is now sadly silent.

Dr. Greer Ramsey, Curator of Archaeology at National Museums Northern Ireland explains the bell’s significance and also encourages people from Ireland and all over the world to come and enjoy this new discovery in the history of Saint Patrick. “Bells were rung from church sites at certain times of the day to remind people that it was time to worship. They also played a role in monastic life when a monk’s daily routine revolved around prayer and devotion. These set times were indicated by the ringing of a bell”.

Posted on March 13, 2020

Leave a Comment

Please note that all boxes below are required. Your email address will not be published.

Your Name:
Your Email:
Your Comment: