Having been sold for scrap after the fire in Chile’s capital in 1863, spending 150 years in Wales, the bells of Santiago are heading home.
“The fire that destroyed the church of La Compañía de Jesús was a terrible tragedy. Its resonance is felt by the people of Santiago to this day. The trio of bells, which rung out in the city 150 years ago, are on their way home: I cannot think of a more fitting memorial to those who lost their lives” said Jeremy Browne, Minister for Latin America.
The bells original home was in the church of La Compania de Jesus in Santiago, Chile. In the worst blaze in Santiago’s history, December 8, 1863 during the feast of the Immaculate Conception the church caught fire. More than 2500 people died, primarily women and children. The church was completely destroyed, except for her five metal bells. British merchant Graham Vivian purchased three of the bells. For 150 years the bells have been at All Saints Church in Oystermouth, Wales where the Vivian’s had a family pew.
Reverend Keith Evans, parish priest for All Saints Church in Oystermouth, said:
“Our decision to gift the historic bells to the people of Chile was a unanimous one. It was supported wholeheartedly by the wider community of Mumbles, where the tragic story of the ‘Bells of Santiago’ has been remembered and celebrated through the years”.
“Though we were custodians of the bells for almost 150 years we felt that their rightful place should be as part of a new memorial to the 2,500 victims of the 1863 fire. The gift is made in Christian love and in the hope that it will renew historic links between Swansea and Santiago. Though the bells will be thousands of miles away they will continue to be part of our story at All Saints Oystermouth” said Reverend Evans.
The bells are currently en route to Chile.