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The underground experience.
Looking Back - John Kinnear









Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne – 1624

Standing in front of the Catholic Church in Blairmore are three marvellous church bells that rest unringable on a specially dedicated brick mount. They stand in mute testimony to a time when parishioners faithfully yanked on long ropes to draw bell clappers against their sound rims and call their congregations to service. They are the bells from the retired Holy Spirit Church in Coleman, Saint Cyril’s Church in Bellevue and the bell from St. Anne’s in Blairmore.
Whether it be mass, evening prayers, a wedding or a funeral, they were for many years the principle way of announcing to all within earshot what was going on at the Catholic church. I remember well the particular tone of the Holy Spirit Church bell in Coleman as it reminded us all on Sundays that 10 A.M. was drawing near and mass was about to start. On a cold winter’s day the bell’s after tones would carry across the valley and back again creating a solemn echo for all to contemplate.
The front side of the Coleman bell has a decorative gothic design on its upper waist and is inscribed with the words:”FONDUE A LOUVAIN- PAR ALPH.BEULLENS.” Best guess for translation is:”Cast in Louvain by Alph. Beullens.” Alphonse Beullens was active as a bell caster between 1890 and 1903 at his foundry in Leuven, Belgium (spelled Louvain by the French). It was a small foundry but made very clear-sounding bells which got him a gold medal in Antwerp in 1894. On its other side are the words; “I.D. DE LOURDES – PRIEZ POUR NOUS”. According to that intrepid researcher for the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative, Ian McKenzie, best guess at the translation is Lady of Lourdes Pray for us.
Leuven Belgium endured utter devastation in both world wars. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about this:” In the 20th century, both world wars inflicted major damage to the city. Upon German entry in World War I, the town was heavily damaged due to German Schrecklichkeit policy. The Germans shot the burgomaster, university rector and all the city's police officers. The university library was deliberately destroyed by the German army on August 25, 1914, using petrol and incendiary pastilles. Hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable volumes and Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts were lost. The world was outraged over this and the library was completely rebuilt after World War I with American charity funds and German war indemnities. After World War II, the burnt down building had to be restored again. It still stands as a symbol of the wars and of Allied solidarity.”
Schrecklichkeit (means “terror” or “frightfulness”) was a German Army policy towards civilians in World War l in Belgium, France, Poland and Russia. Continued resistance by them brought brutal measures and in the case of Leuven the massive mortar cannon “Big Bertha” was used against the town center.
A German officer later wrote that: “We will wipe it out... Not one stone will stand upon another. We will teach them to respect Germany”.

 

Today this spectacular city stands fully restored and its city hall that took 23 years to build starting in 1448 still stands in all its original magnificence. Wiped out indeed!
The retired St. Anne’s bell is in fact a bell that came from the Catholic Church in Frank which was known as the Sacred Heart Church. Here is what the Crowsnest Heritage Initiative research has to say about its history. “Father Felix M. Lajat (1870 - 1942) was one of a series of Catholic priests who served the new settlements of the Crowsnest Pass. Like many Order of St. Benedict priests, Father Lajat left his native France because of French government restrictions on Catholic organizations and schools. Arriving in Frank in September of 1907, Father Lajat was responsible for Frank, Lille, Bellevue and Hillcrest.
In the spring of 1910 Father Felix Lajat raised funds for the Sacred Heart - Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Frank, to be built on a design provided by Bishop Emile Legal of St. Albert. The church was built between July and November 1910 by contractor E. Morino of Bellevue on the hill overlooking Frank about a hundred metres behind the Frank Villa site, on land donated by the Canadian Coal Consolidated Company. Father Lajat returned from a visit to France in April 1911 with eight Mass vestments, a Sacrament lamp, candelabras and five statues for his new church. An ornate bell arrived from Belgium by ship and rail.”
A strong wind in Frank in 1918 destroyed the church and since the town was in decline then it was not rebuilt. Father Lajat had St. Anne’s constructed in 1920 and reused the Frank bell for its belfry.
The Frank bell is nothing short of spectacular with intricate gothic inscriptions and designs on its sound rim, shoulder and waist. Some of its text reads:

MY NAME IS MARY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.

I HAVE BEEN MADE BY A. CAUSARD, OF TELLIN-BELGIUM-

FOR THE CHURCH OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, OF FRANK,

IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1911,

UNDER THE PONTIFICATE OF POPE PIUS X,

THE R.-RVD E. T. LEGAL R, O.M.I. BEING BISHOP OF ST. ALBERT,

R-RVD. FATHER FELIX M. LAJAT, O.S.B. MISSIONARY OF FRANK.”

Adrien Causard was the son of Charles Causard who converted an ironworks in Tellin, Belgium into a bell foundry in 1832. Between that date and 1970 over 13,000 bells were cast at the Causard Foundry and shipped to places like Germany, France, Switzerland and of course Canada. What a day it must have been when Mary of the Blessed Sacrament arrived in Frank and one can only imagine what she sounded like as she rang out across the Frank landscape.

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