Cultural continuity: ‘Tintinabulum’, the procession bell in use since Roman times
In ancient times, bells were used in everyday life to ring at the door, where they were placed on the threshold. They were associated with ceremonies and ritual processions as was the case with state worship of the emperor in Roman Merida, with a procession carrying imperial symbols. This has continued in Catholic processions with the so-called tintinabulo, a carved rod from which an annunciation bell from the Pope hangs (or from his Holiness on Corpus Christi), and which, together with the parasol, are elements associated with the Papacy and usual in basilicas and cathedrals.
In an early urban society which attracted many people who did not know one another, the authorities needed to announce their presence and protect themselves from attacks, while the pedestrians had to show their non-aggressive attitude by prostrating themselves or escaping. A hand-bell ringing in the dark streets protected the priest who carried the Viaticum and indicated the presence of God in the consecration. In Spain, judges use a hand-bell to enforce his will during trials, and until recently schoolmasters did the same in large classes.