Pagina Siete reports:
Eight of the 12 centennial bells work only on Sundays and special dates. The rest, however, have not resonated for at least half a century.
A view of the tower of the Minor Basilica of San Francisco where the bells are. Photos: SMC-GAMLP
50 years ago, the 12 bells of the Minor Basilica of San Francisco were ringing in unison to announce marriages, births or deaths to the population of La Paz. Today, only eight of them can be heard and only on Sundays.
To recover and rehabilitate that important architectural heritage and have the 12 bells ring again in unison, the Franciscan religious joined the architect and restorer Fidel Cossío.
The Conservation of the Minor Basilica of San Francisco and restoration of the bell tower project was one of the winners of the Municipal Concursible Fund for Cultures and Arts (Focuart), which will improve two levels of the bell tower and two rooms of the heritage set for the Museum.
One of the 12 bells that are almost 300 years old.
“The main thing is the restoration of the bells. These carry inscriptions that by time and the accumulation of dirt are no longer visible. We want to rescue their sound and have them all sound again. It used to be a tradition, a trade. There was a special sound to call people, to inform about dead people, marriages or births,” said Cossío.
Currently, eight of the 12 bells work only on Sundays and special dates. However, the rest does not sound at least half a century ago, according to a press release from the Municipal Secretariat of Cultures.
The bells, which are between 100 and 300 years old, will be cleaned to restore aesthetics. “Some have cracks and although this affects the sound, it is part of its history,” said the project’s promoter.
The improvements will be made with the support of the cultural fund of the City Hall of La Paz in the line of “Strengthening of cultural spaces and cultural heritage”, for which they will be beneficiaries of 80,000 Bolivians.
The convent of San Francisco has a major cloister, a minor cloister, an old cloister and the tower in which the bells are. The project will be executed in this last space. To reach the tower, the visitor must pass through the main cloister, climb to the first floor, where the choir is installed, and exit to the ceiling through a corridor that is about 40 centimeters wide.
On the roof there are narrow roads that converge on the bell tower. In that place, the Franciscan project will restore, clean and conserve the floor. Tempered glass or acrylic will also be installed to avoid the wind. It is also planned to install panels that explain the parts and history of the bells.
The steps leading to the bell tower.
“What we want to do is expand the museum rooms to the bell tower. We want to have two more rooms, one at the level of the bells and another at the level of the dome,” said the heritage expert, who was also director of that institution.
It is also planned to restore and preserve the beams and ropes (made of llama and cow hide) that support the bells.
Eight restoration experts will participate in the work: three in cleaning and restoration, two in carpentry and three in masonry. The construction management will be in charge of Cossío and will be supported by Peruvian engineer Carlos Cano.