Cathedrale 1La Cathédrale de Mende -vue façade principale Ouest
©La Cathédrale de Mende -vue façade principale Ouest|OTI-Mende
La "Non pareille"The "No Equal"

The birth of the bell

At the beginning of the 16th century, François de la Rovère, of Italian origin, bishop of Mende and nephew of Pope Julius II (the commissioner of the fresco on the vault of the Sistine Chapel), wanted to endow the cathedral with a bell tower at its measure.
On May 22, 1508, he summoned the canons to a capitular assembly.

The Della Rovère bishop wanted to endow the cathedral with a large bell tower, the chapter suggested instead that he make two identical ones with a beautiful connecting wall in order to present a monumental and elegant aspect to the building.

The bishop finally accepts this idea but the relations become complicated with the chapter and the plans of the bell towers are slightly modified.

Thus the northern bell tower, on the side of the episcopal palace, rises to 84 meters and is much more elaborate than the southern bell tower, on the side of the cloister of the canons which culminates at only 65 meters.

The work was completed in the late 1520s, especially for the ornamentation of the northern bell tower.

La "Non Pareille"

The "No Equal"

In October 1516, 180 mules brought, from Lyon, 600 quintals of metal to make three bells including the famous « Non Pareille » (the weight of metal is given in old measure which is difficult to transpose today).

Melted on the spot, the bell is hoisted in 1517 in the large bell tower. The particular shape of the vault, interrupted by a circle of about 4 meters would signal its passage.

It was baptized François in honour of the bishop. The name of Marie Thérèse that we find today is much later.
Reading the figures, we can understand the nickname “Non Pareille”: 3.25 meters in diameter, 2.75 meters in height and 33 centimeters in thickness!
It has long been believed that this bell weighs 25 tons, studies tend to indicate today that it weighs between 12 and 12.5 tons.

 

At the time, the “Non Pareille” was the biggest bell in all of Christianity!

Tradition says that it could be heard nearly 15 kilometers around and that people with fragile hearts as well as mothers who had young children took refuge in the cellars when it rang.

Unfortunately, this bell was destroyed by Huguenot captain Mathieu Merle.
He had taken advantage of the deafening sound of the bell at the end of the 1579 Christmas celebration to cover his attack on the city.
The bell is melted down to make cannons, with the exception of the clapper.
The latter is made from an alloy of iron and copper, unsuitable for the production of cannons, which is why it is the only vestige preserved today.

Thus disappeared, a long time ago “La Non pareille” (the not equal),
yet it still resonates in the memory of people here…

The cathedral did not recover any bells until after the wars of religion, with the beginning of the reconstruction work.
A symbol of reconciliation, in 1598, the year of the Edict of Nantes, Henri IV offered the cathedral of Mende a timpan  of more modest dimensions.
Located at the top of the large bell tower, it ring the hours and half hours until 2017.

These days,
the campanary records…

The heaviest bell in the world is the ‘Tsar Kokol III’, melted in 1735, weighs nearly 202 tons, is 6m10 high, as much diameter and 60 cm thick. Orthodox bell designed to be fixed, it is exhibited in the Kremlin in Moscow. Its crack makes it unusable.

The largest bell in the world was created for the passage to the third millennium and shipped from France to the United States, it weighs 33 tons.

In France, the largest bell in use is the “Savoyarde” (18.8 tons, 3.06 m in diameter), offered by 4 dioceses of Savoy at the end of the 19th century, it sits in the bell tower of the Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre in Paris.

If it had not been destroyed, the “Non Pareille”
would have its place among the exceptional bells.