Bells have been used throughout history mainly to call worshippers to religious services. But they were also used to announce the arrival of fresh foods at ancient markets, to signal the time of day, to alert people to an enemy attack, to announce deaths, and to celebrate important dates.
Bells originated in the 800s B.C. in China, but were not used as musical instruments until the early Middle Ages.
In the late 1700s, composers began using bells in their musical works. The size and thickness of the bell determined its pitch and tone. Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss are among those famous composers who included bells in the scores of their operas. Tchaikowsky’s “1812 Overture” is probably the most familiar piece of music using bells.
The most famous bell in America is the Liberty Bell. This 2080-pound bell was purchased by the citizens of Pennsylvania from England in 1752 for $300. It was rung on July 8, 1776 to announce the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The heaviest bell in the world, the Tsar Kolokol Bell, was cast in 1733 in Moscow, Russia. This bell, which has been standing in the Kremlin since 1836, is over 19 feet high, is 24 inches thick, and weighs 216 tons!