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Letter discovery suggests inter-war bell rivalry

The letter was written by Giacomo Boni and dates from 1925

Rome

Lorenzina Gallo, a researcher, has recently discovered in the Archivo Centrale dello Stato (div.11, busto 190) a letter dated May 1925 entitled “Musical harmonies: observations by Giacomo Boni on the installation of a carillon on the monument to Vittorio Emanuele". In it he writes, “The Aeronautical Directors of the British Empire inform me from Croydon, headquarters of the great airlines that link the United Kingdom with the Dominios [sic] of Canada and South Africa and with the Empire of India and Australia, that they are constructing an ultra-powerful radio station connected to a tower housing 300 tubular bronze bells—a huge carillon covering seven octaves, played by the best Belgian players from Malines and Bruges, so that the whole British Empire where the sun never sets will be able to hear their melody, the pride of England.”

Boni notes maliciously that the English are unable to make their bells from the bronze of the cannon taken from their enemies in World War I, as Italy could have done, and therefore begs his readers to hear the plea of the late lamented architect Conte Giuseppe Sacconi who wanted a carillon of this kind to be installed in the great curved portico above the Altare della Patria, whence majestic soundwaves would reverberate along the Via Flaminia as far as Ponte Molle in the Roman Campagna, filling the souls of the inhabitants of Rome on their way with Italian melody, beginning with the hymns of St Ambrose and the canticles of St Gregory.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘The bells, the bells!'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 94 July 1999