Since the beginning of time man has crafted tales of great mystery. From ‘the days when giants walked the earth’ to Greek, Roman and Norse stories about their Gods, history is full of legends and myth that deserve more than simple scrutiny. Native American tales suggest humankind may have originated from distant points across the vast universe, Far Eastern fable suggests interaction with creatures of another dimension. Use this page to offer your comment or submit your stories of how myth and lore can offer a glimpse into the truth and mystery of humankind…
By Logan Hawkes, Copyright 2011
Some of the best and most intriguing mysteries in life are not the machinations of clever and skillful writers, but tales of historical events that beg for illumination; call for explanation. Such is the case of the Mystery Bell that permanently resides in America’s oldest city, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
In the heart of the Great Southwest stands the oldest known Church in North America, San Miguel Mission Chapel, located near the heart of an adobe city known as the ‘City of Faith’, a place shrouded in centuries of cultural intrigue and clothed in the splendid colors of the high, arid desert.
The wondrous, mysterious and famous Andalusia bell now hangs in the Church of San Miguel’s souvenir room, not far from the city’s historic square. Santa Fe, it seems, is a fitting resting spot for the old bell, a place full of adobe-walled churches and grand cathedrals, lasting symbols of Spain’s early efforts of New World conquest and the subsequent subjugation and religious conversion of the ‘paganistic natives’ that called the high desert home for thousands of years before the birth of Columbus.
In Santa Fe there are more churches than there are saloons, and it has always been that way. St. Francis Cathedral stands just off the square and is one of the most photographed churches of the New World. Nearby is the thick adobe-walled Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine, while a short walk away takes the visitor to the massive old mission known as El Christo Rey. But just a few blocks from the central city stands the oldest church of them all, San Miguel, built in 1610, the oldest surviving parish church in North America. The shrine was conducting services a full decade before the Mayflower landed on the distant eastern coast, and here, within walls so steeped in history, is one of the greatest religious artifacts in America, the famed Bell of Andalusia, weighing 780 pounds and sporting a metal casing four inches thick. It is the oldest bell in America, constructed in Spain in 1356.
Before ever arriving in the New World the bell developed quite an interesting history. In the mid 1300′s the Spanish faithful were at war with the Moors. It was a long, hard, and losing campaign for the Spanish, battle after battle won by the invading Muslims. In a desperate effort to stave off conquest, the Spanish Catholic faithful vowed to construct a “miracle” bell in tribute to St. Joseph, and prayed that in response he would turn the tide of war in their favor.
Villagers from miles around brought their gold and silver to add to less pure metals so the miracle bell could be forged. An inscription, still visible on the old bell today, reads “San Jose, ruega por nosotros“, or ‘St. Joseph pray for us!‘ Once the forging of the bell was complete, be it the miracle or not, the mighty artifact was hung in a Spanish Church and would ring out a rallying cry for the Spanish as wave after wave of invading armies assaulted the city it protected. Soon, surprisingly, the tide of the war began to change, and eventually the Moors were defeated, bringing about a period of Spanish domination across the region for centuries to come.
The bell was later transferred to the capital of New Spain (Santa Fe) and placed at San Miguel with the intent of bringing order and peace to the wild New World frontier. A number of years later, as the story goes, sometime in the nineteenth century, a blind man who frequented the chapel and prayed to the Saints often was suddenly astounded as the bell began to ring on its on volition. During this ringing, which occurred often as he prayed, his sight was temporarily restored, in spite of being blind since birth. When the bell would stop ringing however, the old man lost his ability to see again, leaving him in the shadow of blindness.
But during the brief periods of his miraculous vision he was able to describe, in detail, the altar and the vast ceiling above the church, even the number of candles on the altar, convincing even the most skeptical that indeed he was able to see through the miracle of the mysterious ringing bell. The miracle was often tested as church workers would change the number of candles on the altar and place various religious artifacts there in an attempt to dispose the possibility of a fraudulent claim. The local friars even attempted to induce the “miracle” by ringing the bell themselves, but the old man’s sight was restored only when the bell rang under its own power.
A few years later, after the old man died, the bell fell from the 50-foot ceiling and crashed to the floor, never to be reinstalled in its high place of honor because its weight had proven too great for the mud and adobe building to support. But to this day there are still those who come, the faithful who believe one day the bell may once again ring on its own, perhaps powered by the hand of God, bringing miracles to those that hear it.