Loyola University Chicago

Campus Ministry

Division of Mission Integration

Chapel Bells

‌November 2014 marked the 75th anniversary of Madonna della Strada Chapel’s dedication, a special moment in its history. Fr. Mertz had originally wanted the sound of bells to ring out from the chapel’s tower. However, due to lack of funds, the tower remained empty. On the eve of this important anniversary, many felt the desire to give to the chapel once more. Madonna della Strada was the focus of another fundraising drive—this time to complete Fr. Mertz’s vision.

Money was raised to have four massive bronze bells—the largest weighing 2,000 pounds—installed in the bell tower. The bells were jointly made by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, OH, and the Royal Bellfoundry of Petit & Fritsen in the Netherlands. The bells are four in number, each with a different dedication. The first is the Ignatius Bell, dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is the gift of Charles Whittingham, a 1951 graduate of Loyola. The second is the Cecilia Bell, dedicated to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. It is the gift of all those who have and will have wed inside Madonna della Strada. The third is the Joseph Bell, dedicated to St. Joseph Mary Pignatelli, S.J. He paved the way for the restoration of the Jesuits in 1814, after nearly 40 years of being suppressed as an illegal organization throughout the world. It is the gift of Loyola’s own Jesuit community on the 200th anniversary of the Society’s Restoration. The fourth and final bell is the James Bell. It is named in honor of James Mertz, S.J. It is the gift of Loyola’s own students, supporters, friends, and community.

When these four bells ring, they sing not only in memory of Fr. Mertz and the saints. They sing in celebration of your memories here at Loyola—of your achievements, struggles, and hopes. They sing for the ideals and virtues of the Society of Jesus, instilled into all of Loyola’s students. They sing in praise of Mary, who is Our Lady of the Way.

-Charles Heinrich, BA ‘13

Some facts about our bells

The bells that hang in Madonna della Strada Chapel are rung in two distinct ways:

  1. Swinging. A motor moves the bell back and forth until the clapper strikes the inside surface of the bells. This produces a random sound and also is the loudest way to play the bells
  2. Hammer Strike. This is a hammer that strikes the outside of the bell. This system is used for chiming the quarters (every fifteen minutes) and hour. This melody is called "Madonna Quarters" and was composed by Steven Betancourt.

Some facts about our bells:

  • They are made of bronze, which is roughly 80% copper and 20% tin.
  • Bell one, the largest bell, weighs 1,990 pounds and is named Ignatius, in honor of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. It is 44.5" in diameter, or a little over three feet wide at the base! It sounds the lowest pitch of the four bells, which is F. This is the bell which counts the hours.
  • Bell two weighs 836 pounds and is named Cecilia. She rings and is given in honor of all the couples that have married in Madonna della Strada Chapel. The bell is 33.5" in diameter, and sounds the pitch B flat.
  • Bell three weighs 583 pounds and is named James, in honor of Fr. James Mertz, SJ, whose legendary vision and courageous hard work made our beautiful chapel a reality. Worshippers gave the bell in Fr. Mertz's memory. The bell is 29.75" in diameter and sounds a very pure pitch of C. This is also the single bell that swings to call people to weekday Mass.
  • Bell four weighs 407 pounds and is named Joseph, in honor of Saint Joseph Pignatelli, SJ, the Jesuit responsible for the Restoration of the Jesuit order in 1814. The Jesuit Community at Loyola University have given this bell in Father Pignatelli's honor. The bell is a little over two feet in diameter at 27" and sounds the pitch D.
  • Some other facts:
    • Bells are cast in families, so all four of our bells were cast together at the same time to ensure that their sound is in harmony with each other.
    • Groups of bells are known by the number in the group:
      • PEAL: 3-5 bells (this is ours!)
      • RING: 5-12 bells
      • CHIME: 8-22 bells
      • CARILLON: 22-56 bells

Madonna Quarters is a pieve written on August 28, 2014 in 25 minutes for the chime melody used to ring the quarters and hour for the new bells of Madonna della Strada Chapel. It was written by Steven Betancourt, Director of Music for the chapel.

The melody consists of four different permutations of four pitches in the key of B flat.

The notes used are:

  1. D, C, D, F
  2. C, Bb, C, D
  3. C, F, C, Bb
  4. D, C, Bb, C
  5. F, D, C, Bb

Played as quarter notes and a half note. These are always played in the order 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and each set is used twice every hour. Set (1) is played at the first quarter, sets (2) and (3) at the half, sets (4), (5), and (1) at the third quarter, and sets (2), (3), (4), and (5) at the hour, as follows:





A prayer for the hour chime was created by Ms. Loraine Enlow of New York City. She visited the chapel in June 2014 when her husband was in town playing a recital on the Katherine "Kay" Stamm Memorial organ. The prayer reads:

O God of pow'r

Who stills the waves

Be our strong tow'r

At ev'ry hour.

Information based on the article on Westminster Quarters found on Wikipedia.‌



The bells of Madonna della Strada Chapel ring daily, beginning Monday through Friday at 8:00 a.m. and on Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Throughout the day, they mark time by ringing every fifteen minutes using a melody known as Madonna Quarters. They stop ringing every night at 9:00 p.m. with the ringing of the De Profundis toll of nine strikes.

Throughout history, church bells have rung in a variety of ways to signal people when and what to pray. The bells of Madonna della Strada follow this time honored tradition of calling people to prayer throughout the day.

The Angelus peal is rung at 12:00 p.m. noon and 6:00 p.m. which consists of three strikes of the lowest bell, three times (1-1-1, pause, 1-1-1-, pause, 1-1-1) followed by a short peal of the lowest three bells. The word Angelus refers to a prayer that begins, "The angel of the Lord (angelus, in Latin)." The Angelus is a set of three verses from scripture (Luke 1:28, 18 and John 1:14) about the Incarnation of Christ coupled with three Hail Mary's followed by a concluding prayer that reads: "Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, wa made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord." This popular devotion originated with the extended prayers of the monks and nuns, who prayed seven times a day, including at sunrise, noon, and sunset. Since most lay people did not have the time or training to say the extended prayers from the Church's Liturgy of the Hours, the simple and easily memorized Angelus met the needs of the average layperson who wanted to pray with the Church at sunrise, noon, and sunset. Church bells signaled the times for saying the Angelus at the natural breaks within the day. When they heard the bells, laypeople would stop their work and pray the Angelus, while the monks and nuns would begin their extended prayers. The Angelus bell is an invitation for all Christians, both lay and religious, to unite in prayer.

At 9:00 p.m. the bells of Madonna della Strada rin De profundis, which consists of nine strikes of the lowest bell. De profundis refers to the first words of Psalm 130 in Latin: "Out of the depths." This penitential psalm was often prayed as part of the Church's liturgy for the dead. Traditionally, when the De profundis bell rang at the close of day, it reminded people to pray for the dead. It is only natural to pray for the dead at the close of the day when people retire for the evening since the Church prays that the faithful departed would "rest in peace."

During the week, Monday through Friday, the James bell swings for three minutes to call worshippers to pray before the 12:00 p.m. Mass. On Sundays, the lowest three bells swing for 3 minutes prior to Masses at 10:30 a.m., 5:00 p.m., and 9:00 p.m. On major holy days, a peal of four bells ring after Mass as a sign of joy and celebration. Before Taizé Prayer on Wednesday evenings during the fall and spring term, a peal of four bells rings for 3 minutes as a call to worship.

Three times a day, Monday through Friday, digital bells that came with the control system that operates the bronze cast bells, ring unique Loyola-related melodies during the period of time between classes while students are walking about the grounds.

In regard to the Chicago noise ordinance, there are two which the university follows in respect to our students and neighbors:

  1. Prohibition of noise disturbances between 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
  2. There is another citation in the Chicago Ordinance on page 5, 11-4-2820 (a) that says the noise disturbance cannot continue for more than 5 minutes in an hourly period.

The bells were jointly made by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, OH, and the Royal Bellfoundry of Petit & Fritsen in the Netherlands.

The bells are designed at the Verdin Factory in Cincinnati, Ohio. When the inscriptions are finalized and the designs are complete, the process continues at the foundry. A "false bell" or exact replica of the bell is created in order to make the bell mold. The false bell is coated with several layers of heat resistant material, which will eventually become the mold, then placed in a steel closed case fill with sand. After the mold is allowed to dry for several days, it is lifted away and the false bell is discarded.

The bell is then cast by filling the mold with molten bronze. After cooling for several days, the mold is shattered and the bell is revealed. Tuning the bell is a very precise process. In order to lower the sound, small amounts of metal are shaved from the bell interior. If a mistake is made in the shaving, the bell cannot be used and a new bell must be made. The clapper in each bell determines the sound the bell will make. Size and weight must be considered in order to create the correct one as well as to insure the bell not be cracked by the clapper.

Find out more about this process with this video from the show "Discovery Channel."