Los Tres Amigos: The Bells of St. Ignatius

(Pictured above, left to right, St. Francis Xavier, St. Ignatius Loyola, and St. Peter Faber. Art by Dora N. Bittau)

In 1525, los tres amigos, the three friends, Ignatius and Francis, from Spain, and Peter, from the Duchy of Savoy (now part of France), were roommates at the University of Paris. In 1534, the three friends, plus four other men, took vows of poverty and chastity, an event that was the beginnings of what later became the Society of Jesus (aka, the Jesuits). The three friends are now canonized saints in the Catholic Church.

Today we honor the three friends, better known as St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Peter Faber. Three bronze bells, especially cast for our new church, each carries one of their names. Each saint has their name etched into their namesake bell.

This honor is appropriate as the Jesuits established both St. Ignatius Parish and the old St. Joseph Parish in downtown Mobile. The stained glass windows and marble altar from St. Joseph Parish will be installed in the new St. Ignatius Church.

The bells were cast by the Verdin Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Verdin Company, founded in 1842, has been owned and operated by five generations of the Verdin family.

The largest bell, named for St. Ignatius of Loyola, is 37 inches and weighs in at 990 pounds. The St. Francis Xavier bell is 29 inches and weighs 490 pounds, while the St. Peter Faber bell is 24 inches and weighs 225 pounds.

The bells are stationary and are rung by electric powered clappers activated by a digital controller. The St. Ignatius Bell can be optionally rung by pulling a rope. The rope hangs down the center of the belltower and can be rung from within the church.

The bell controller also controls a digital carillon. The carillon simulates and amplifies bell sounds, including short hymns, which are then played from loudspeakers housed in the bell tower.

The bells will be on display at the church on Sunday August 9, 2020, prior to their installation in the belltower.