A hollow vessel of metal, formed to produce a sound by the act of striking it. The principal uses to which bells are applied, are to sound the hours, and to summon persons from a distance. The forms of bells vary considerably, some being segments of spheres, others truncated cones, but the most common form is that in which the sides diminish in a curve line from the base to the upper edge, the crown being slightly convex. The use of bells is very ancient and extensive, as they were to be found amongst Jews, Greeks, Romans, Christians, and Heathens, variously employed. Their first application to ecclesiastical purposes is said to have been about the year 400, and in the city of Nola. In Britain, bells were used in churches before the close of the seventh century. Abroad are bells of dimensions greatly exceeding any to be met with in this country. At Rouen, in Normandy, was a bell said to weigh 36,000 lbs. At Erfurth is one weighing 28,200 lbs.; its periphery is 141/2 ells, and its height, 4f ells. In the church of St. Ivan, at Moscow, is a bell weighing 127,836 lbs.; but the largest bell in the known world, is the unsuspended bell in the Kremlin of that city.
It is computed to weigh 443,772 lbs.
In England, the largest is " Great Tom," of Christ Church, Oxford, weighing 17,000 lbs.; the great bell of Lincoln weighs 9,894, and that of St. Paul's, 8,400 lbs.