Agnone – Pontifical Marinelli bell foundry

Artisan constructing a mould for a “false bell” using wooden strickle boards in Pontifical Marinelli bell foundry

Moving on with my research on ancient metal craft, I visited Pontifical Marinelli bell foundry in Agnone, a small medieval town in the Molise region of ltaly. The foundry is considered the oldest continuously family-run business in the world. The descendants are using technique dating back to the founders, a milennium years ago.

The art of bell making today is a dying craft and there are only around a dozen historical foundries left in Europe. As with the blacksmiths of Lucca, the bellfounding process has remained so close to the Medieval working method that the twelve artisans who work here could still make bells without any use of electricity. The entire process is handcrafted. Plaster molds of the bell motifs and inscriptions are everywhere to be found in the foundry. I witnessed how the artisans build the structure of the bells out of clay and bricks, and how they make and press wax inscriptions and decorations onto the bell. Even the testing of the tone of the bells is still done by hand.

Artisans making wax letters for the bell casting process…
… and testing the tone of the bells in Pontifical Marinelli bell foundry