Identity and territory

Identity and territory
In Segovia (Spain) the bell-towers highlight and mark out neighbourhoods with the Cathedral in the pre-eminent spot © Paz Cabello

Identity and territory

Mounting bells in towers meant projecting their sound at a greater distance, and allowed for more and larger bells which amplified their sound capacity and communication and identity. Their greater sonorous reach marks a territory and defines the population, city or neighbourhood, creating a collective identity which recognises their ring, as bells are designed to be heard by a group and never alone or by a small group as is the case with other musical instruments.

In a city the bells sound in order, one bell-tower after another, always dominated by the cathedral. Bells and belfries make a single, versatile instrument, capable of arranging musical sounds and transmitting coded messages to a population who recognise their peals and know which group of people are affected. These messages can be understood intuitively without knowing the key, given that they arouse primary emotions: joy from festive ringing, sadness from death knells, surprise and alertness from short rings, danger and fear from the “tentenublos” or storm warnings or fire alerts, anger and worry from the alarm signal.