Zikmund rings again

Zikmund rings again, Photo: CTK

Just a few hours after the polling stations closed in June this year, the clapper of the famous Zikmund bell at Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral cracked and the bell fell silent. According to legend, the silencing of the Zikmund bell is an omen of national tragedy. Those who believe the legend first connected the omen to the outcome of the June elections, but looking back the silencing of the church bell could be seen as a forewarning of the disastrous floods, which hit the Czech Republic in August. Anyway, the clapper is now back in place and Zikmund is once again ringing loud and clear from Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral.

Zikmund rings again, photo: CTK
Last Friday - just one day before St Wenceslas Day, commemorating the chief patron saint of the country - the 17-tonne Zikmund, the biggest bell in the Czech Republic rang again in Prague. Its sound filled the air after three months of troubling silence that the superstitious said was a warning of national disaster.

After the new clapper was lifted up to the belfry by crane, four strong men had to struggle with it to put it into its place.

The new iron clapper is almost 3 metres long and weighs about 400 kilograms. It was cast in the workshop of bell-founder Petr Manousek, whose family has been caring for the cathedral's bells for decades.

"To achieve the same sound, the clapper has to have the same size and shape as the original. Otherwise, it would spoil the sound of the bell, and of course, the shape and weight of the clapper have a bearing on the function of the bell, too. If something didn't fit, the bell wouldn't ring at all."

When the old clapper broke and fell to the belfry floor in June, some people saw this as a bad omen for the Czech government, since the clapper cracked on the day of the Czech general election when the Communist party scored major gains. Others said the silencing of the 453-year-old bell was a forewarning of the worst floods in 500 years, which hit the Czech Republic two months later. But there was, of course, a more natural explanation. Upon examination, experts discovered faults in the clapper, defects which had been there since it was fitted more than a century ago. Zikmund, one of four bells in the cathedral at Prague Castle, was re-inaugurated on Saturday at a ceremony marking Saint Wenceslas Day, a Czech national holiday.