On Sunday November 11, 2018 a new carillon was inaugurated in Aarschot, a town in Vlaams-Brabant with about 30.000 inhabitants. On this day it was also commemorated that 100 years ago the First World War ended with an Armistice. The names of 192 citizens from Aarschot who lost their lives during the invasion of the Germans in 1914 are mentioned on one of the bells. With this Peace Carillon Aarschot wants to commemorate the millions of victims of this horrendous war as well.
The instrument is installed in the 84-meter-high Westertoren of the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk. More than ten years ago, former dean Huub Gerits suggested the idea for a new carillon in Aarschot. The city once owned a carillon, but it was destroyed in 1578 during the Eighty Years' War. In that year Aarschot was plundered several times by Spaniards, assisted by Irish mercenaries. However, it were Dutch rebels who, together with English soldiers of fortune, destroyed the carillon.
The carillon consists of 51 bells. Of these, 49 were newly cast by bell-foundry Royal Eijsbouts. The largest bell weighs about 1300 kilograms, the smallest only 13 kilograms. Two swinging bells already present in the tower, cast in 1950 by François Sergeys, were added to the instrument. The number of 51 symbolizes the number of nations that became involved in the First World War. For the keyboard the Northern European standard has been chosen.
All bells are decorated with a peace dove. The seven bells on an olive branch in the beak of the dove symbolize the seven martyr cities. In August 1914, many civilians died in the cities of Aarschot, Andenne, Dendermonde, Dinant, Leuven, Tamines and Visé due to atrocities and devastation. Marc Van Eyck, advisor to this project, designed all the decorations and the various images on the bells.
Several bells mention the names of the donors. More than 300 people and organizations have made a financial contribution. There is a haiku on the so-called Reconciliation Bell, written by Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council. ‘De wapens zijn stil. Maar de klokken juichen luid. Vrede voor immer.’ (The weapons are silent. But the bells are cheering loudly. Peace forever.)
A bell was also donated by a number of American carillonneurs.Tthe name of the grandfather of one of the donors is written on this bell. Samuel Sloan Walker flew during WWI as a member of the ‘First Yale Aerial Unit’ missions in a ‘Sopwith Camel’. Above the text an image of this famous airplane is shown.
On the day of the inauguration, a bell parade was organized through the city center. Some 500 volunteers walked along, including dancers, stilt walkers, fanfares, tambour corps, swing waders and figurants in traditional costumes. In the procession, the traveling carillon of Hanswijk was also present with Elien Van den Broeck as carillonneur. At the church Marc Van Bets played the travelling carillon 'Queen Fabiola' from Mons. After a fanfare of trumpets Jo Haazen played the inaugural concert. The public could follow everything very well via two large screens inside and outside the church.
It is remarkable that sufficient funds have been found for this project. For the casting of the bells, for building the instrument, and for the implementation of the necessary adjustments in the tower a total amount of 750.000 euro was needed. Both the city of Aarschot and the province of Vlaams Brabant contributed considerably. At the request of the consultant, Royal Eijsbouts developed a new profile for the bells of this instrument. The electronical equipment that allows melodies to be played automatically was provided by Clock-O-Matic.
It is expected that from now on many tourists will not only visit the church, but also want to climb the tower.
Watch here the beautiful video: Peace Carillon Aarschot casting process: