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The romantic and tragic legend behind the Cathedral of Metz’s bell toll every night at 9:50 pm

Cathedral of Saint-Etienne Metz Lorraine Moselle France

Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB | Shutterstock

Caroline Becker - published on 07/04/21

A French cathedral has bells that ring at an unusual time. Here's the memorable story behind it.

Every evening. beginning at 9:50 pm, it can be heard. At the top of the tower of the cathedral of Metz, France, one of the three smaller bells, named “Anne de Turmel,” rings regularly for five minutes for the residents. They’re used to it and probably don’t even pay attention anymore. But why does this bell ring at such a late and odd hour?

To understand it, we have to go back in time. A legend tells that in the 19th century, Anne, the daughter of Joseph de Turmel, mayor of Metz from 1816 to 1830, was engaged to a man named Jean Régnault.

One evening, as Anne waited impatiently for him, twirling her engagement ring on her finger, she heard a shrill cry from the city streets. She waited all night for her fiancé, in vain. The next day, she was told that he’d been attacked by robbers and found dead in the Moselle River.

In memory of his daughter’s fiancé, and to avoid other night attacks, the mayor of the town decided to institute a 10:00 p.m. curfew and a bell was cast for the occasion. Every night, the bell is tolled, sounding through all the streets of the city to warn the residents that it’s time to go home. Legend also has it that Anne threw her engagement ring into the liquid bronze in memory of her deceased lover.

While we all love legends for their romantic flavor, the historical archives of the cathedral reveal more accurate facts. While this bell was indeed given to the cathedral by the mayor, Joseph de Turmel, it was not commissioned by him. Originally named “Marie Jeanne,” the bell was cast for the Sainte-Catherine de Verdun hospital. It was only in 1816 that the mayor acquired it with the aim of ringing it every morning to invite the inhabitants to clean the streets, and every evening to urge the residents to go home, as the streets were poorly lit at that time.

Although today the inhabitants of Metz no longer have a curfew, the bell continues to remind them of this part of local history every evening.

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