Passing from the Salon des Fêtes to the Pont Monumental, during the visit to the Pavillon de la Ville de Paris or descending from the Cours Raphaël entrance to the Tobacco, Russia and Turkey exhibition, visitors will often have stopped, surprised by a ringing of bells.
Where are they?
Where did this ringing of blessed bronzes come from in the Industrial and Labour Exhibition?
The sound of the bells has reached us, sometimes loud as on feast days, sometimes faint, distant, an echo carried by the wind, late at night, in the deserted countryside, on the shore of a solitary lake or in the silence of the high mountains.
The bells that have awakened in the visitors the nostalgia of the bells of the village where they were born and where their dear dead perhaps give their last sleep, these bells are really in the Exhibition. They have been placed in the open air, along the so-called "Aisle of Sighs", behind the gallery of working machines. It is there that they do their work, grateful to those who draw from their metallic souls the chords for which they were born.
The bells are about twenty in number, arranged in three rows; they come from four foundries, one of which is in Seregno, another in Valduggia, a third in Varese, a fourth in Milan, and all bear inscriptions inspired by their mystical office.
The hours passed and they rested, mute, among the continuous comings and goings of the park. Then, all of a sudden, a sharp, vibrating ringing makes us jump. It is a passer-by who has amused himself by making them speak, by touching a key on the keyboard.
But even more often, the first jingle is followed by a second, a third, a fourth. Then they are no longer to be counted: they are the brief and hurried beats of the Ave Maria, which call the faithful to church for mass in the morning or for the recitation of the rosary in the evening. It calls them, the pious bell, to the bed of a sick person, to put out a fire, eager, imperious, guardian of their time and their duties.
Amateurs, those who understand the language of bells, are quite numerous; they like to try out their talent in front of the crowd of visitors. Thus one has the pleasure of witnessing a real bell concert. Funera plango, I weep for the one who died," one of them whispers gravely in the chorus of her neighbours. And the other retorts: Fac nos innocuam decurrere vitam, may our life be without sin! Another is inspired by the Good Shepherd of the Gospel and repeats softly: Oves meae audiunt vocem meam, my flock obeys my voice.
The crowd, however, has grown and is circling; the impromptu musician throws the beats of all the bells across the park. Cheerful notes meet in the festive air, merge, alternate, sing a hymn to nature, to the pure sky, to beauty: Tota pulchra es, Maria! repeats, in effect, one of them in the joyful chorus of bells. The musical jubilation climbs the whole scale, crosses the park, climbs the hillside, rises over the countryside, proclaiming the empire of the divinity over earthly things: Christus vincit, Christus imperat.
The concert is over. The visitors move away to regain the time lost in the corridors of the various exhibitions, while the bells still confide their sweet and passionate secrets to some solitary amateur. Their bronze souls are shaken by a sonorous and prolonged vibration that makes them shiver all over.
©Guide Officiel de l'Exposition Internationale de Turin 1911