Bell-making craft in the Republic of North Macedonia
Domain: Traditional crafts
Inscribed on the National ICH Registry
Endangered, since there is only one master
According to its functional and practical value the bells are one of the few items that through the long cultural development of humankind almost completely preserved its primary function. The world’s oldest bells date from the 8-9 century BC and their presence in different cultures around the world, can be traced with interminable continuity. On the territory of Bitola the oldest discovered bells, at the archaeological site of Heraclea, date as far back to the roman period (II – IV century).
There are two distinctive categories of bell-founders. Bell casters dealing with production of bells with different sizes and purposes, produced with brass casting technique. This group of craftsmen also produced mortars, pestles, scales, church candleholders, etc. Bell makers dealing with production of different sized bells, made from metal and tin and with different technical – technological process. These bells were intended for livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, mules) so they also differed by shape.
At the beginning of the 20th century there were six bell workshops in Bitola. Enhanced industrialization of society, after the Second World War lead to decline of interest of the young people for this craftsmanship, leading to almost complete disappearance of the knowledge and skills for bell-making processes.
There are various tools used during the bell-making process, and also many ritual practices connected to it. The symbolism of the bell in the folk tradition of the Macedonian people, as well as in the tradition of many other nations, is numerous and widespread. The bell, as a unique non-verbal symbol, can announce death or birth, warn of danger and also call for gatherings. During the ritual practices their strong penetrating sound was desired and through magical noise of great number of large bells hung on the waist, legs, neck, created a situation of primordial chaos.