After almost two centuries of dinging and donging, the Mission bells of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa have finally been put to rest, replaced by genuine replicas of the five originals.
According to Mission historian Dan Krieger, Father Luis Antonio Martinez ordered the first Mission bells from Lima, Peru in 1818, with money he'd raised through the illegal trading of hides. The new bells have come an even farther distance, and at no small price. The city raised more than $50,000 to have the replicas cast by a company called Verdin out of the Netherlands.
For most of the 1800s the original bells rang loudly and clearly, but toward the end of the century, three of them began to crack. Those three were sent to a foundry in San Francisco where they were melt down and recast into one thicker, stronger bell.
Another 100 years later, in the 1990s, the two remaining originals also started to crack. Following some debate, church and city officials decided to preserve rather than recast the old bells, and order five shiny, new replicas.
The new bells arrived last month, received a blessing with water and incense, and were installed on Tuesday, May 3. They have a "loud, clear, wonderful ring," Krieger said, and are a great improvement over what Pastor Derek Hughes called the "pots-and-pans bells."
"Ringing the five bells is very complicated," Krieger explained, "but they're up for the task." Â³
Staff Writer Jeff Hornaday can be reached at jhornaday@