Winter Park church hoists 1,500-pound brass bell into tower

In an age of chime recordings, Winter Park church opts for traditional brass bell

A brass bell cast in an alpine village, shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and consecrated by a bishop traveled the last 56 feet of its journey Thursday to hang in a Winter Park church tower.

In an age when the chimes coming from many spires are recordings, the 1,500-pound bell at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church will deliver the genuine sound of clapper against brass, in the key of G sharp.

Leaders of the 90-year-old church hope it will be a ringing invitation to the surrounding neighborhood.

"Accept this bell into your service, oh Lord. May its voice direct our hearts towards you. Prompt us to come gladly to this church," Orlando Catholic Bishop John Noonan prayed last weekend in blessing.

The bell will peal several times a day from an alcove in the church's renovated narthex, or its entranceway. Thursday was the date picked to mount the instrument inside the North Park Avenue tower, which was reinforced to carry the mass of brass.

Early in the morning, news cameras gathered on the street, and parishioners peeked through holes in the construction fencing to catch a glimpse of the bell before workers began hoisting it into place. Parents dropping their children off at the church school lingered in hopes of catching the action before heading off to work.

At about 9:30 a.m., the bell finally made its slow ascent, as a lift carried it into the 56-foot church tower.

Church member Melissa Blaney said it makes sense for a tradition-steeped Catholic parish to have an authentic instrument.

"The bell lends itself to keeping with that tradition," Blaney, 41, said.

The bell was commissioned by two church members, Michael and Aimee Kakos, who spent many years living in England and loved the tolling sounds that they heard in European villages. St. Margaret Mary had considered installing a fiberglass bell — which would've been just for show — in the roughly $2.5 million narthex, but the Kakoses insisted on having the real thing.

"A bell is joy," Aimee Kakos, 68, said. "What's a wedding without a bell?"

Michael Kakos, 78, said he's aware of just one other large bell in the city, with the other at Rollins College.

The instrument, cast at a French foundry by seventh-generation bell-makers, arrived in Winter Park on the eve of the Oct. 16 feast of St. Margaret Mary. One side is inscribed with the name of the church and its pastor, the Rev. Richard Walsh.

The other side bears a verse from the book of Matthew: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart."

The bell likely won't start ringing for a couple weeks, a church leader said. or 407-420-5189

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