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Posted: Fri, 21 Dec 2018 01:30:01 GMT
TRÉMENTINES (AFP).- Deep in the French countryside, laid out on beds of wood and metal, some of the grand dames of liturgical music are receiving treatment for injuries sustained throughout their long and storied careers.

The "patients" at Bodet, a company in the western Maine-et-Loire region that restores old church bells rescued from steeples, have quaint names such as Marie-Josephine, Marguerite and Melanie-Cornelie.

Each weighs between several hundred kilos (pounds) and a few tonnes and they all look as if they have been in the wars.

"When you see the state in which they arrive we're delighted to be able to give them a second wind," says 39-year-old Tanguy, one of two welders tasked with breathing new life into the bronze heavyweights.

Crouching down over his charges, Jean-Luc Ferrant, director of Bodet's bell restoration business, delivers his diagnosis.

"On this one, it's the clapper which has ended up denting the metal by dint of striking," he says.

Another has a gash running down the body, while a third has lost one of its "ears", one of two holes in the crown used to hang the 750-kilo instrument.

Like clocks, Ferrant explains, bells "always repeat the same movement, decade after decade. And so they wear out, lose their ringing sound and can even break".

Mercifully, the prognosis is good: within a few weeks they should back in their belfries, ringing in the new year.

Surviving wars and revolutions
Over two centuries after the French Revolution, when churches were attacked as a symbol of the hated Ancien Regime, France has around 150,000 bells which toll for weddings, funerals and other religious celebrations.

Only a few thousand of those that survived the Revolution remain, however, with many melted down during World War I and II to provide metal for weapons.

Treasured as works of art, 5,000 are listed on the national heritage register.

Bells sent to Bodet to be restored are immersed in a purple dye that shows up cracks.

The workers

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