Excerpt 3 – A Thing Done


 From Chapter 19, Baptism and Chapter 20, Easter

I hated waking to silence on Friday morning, and again on Holy Saturday. To wake without bells was like waking in another world–like waking in Hell itself, for surely anywhere else we would hear bells.

We Florentines are city people, born to the voices of the great bells. We wake to the bells, we pray and work, dine and go to mass, end our workday and close our city’s gates to bells, and when our time is come we die to the bells and are buried to them. Bells peal in celebration, in warning, in lamentation. They ring to inform, to proclaim, to summon, to alarm, to call to prayer. We hear their voices bouncing off stone walls, echoing across the river, following us down narrow, twisting streets.

No wonder, then, that on the fearful mornings of Good Friday and Holy Saturday we wake disoriented, for on those dark days the bells are silenced. It is right that in this small way we share in Our Lord’s passion, but still I find it hard.

Oddo once again appeared to forget all about me, and he sat for a while staring out the window while I stood nearby. Finally he sighed heavily and got up. As he did, we heard the first of the cathedral bells begin to peal. The other bells of the cathedral joined in, and then the bells from other churches, near and far, added their voices, one, then another, then too many to distinguish, until all were speaking joyfully together. The long silence was over. Oddo and I looked at each other and crossed ourselves.

I joined him at the window, and we watched the sky grow black with starlings. They boiled out of the church towers, shrieking in alarm, startled from their rest when the great bells began to wake and speak again. They swooped in great agitated spirals, fleeing the sounds they had forgotten in two long days of silence. Knight and fool together, we looked out at our city and drank in the sound of the bells.

Links to other excerpts. Excerpt 1. Excerpt 2Excerpt 4.