The Bells of Holy Rosary
The Bells of Holy Rosary have been heard across the southeast quadrant of downtown Indianapolis for many decades. They ring before and after Mass, happily at weddings, triumphantly during the “Gloria” at Easter Mass, and joyously upon the election of a pope. They daily call us to pray the Angelus at noon and 6 p.m. They also toll sadly for funerals or upon news of the death of a pope or archbishop. As the “voice” of the church building, bells traditionally are given names and are said to be “baptized” – a blessing, in reality.
From the time of their installation until 1946, all six of Holy Rosary’s bells were rung by pulling ropes. Electric motors replaced the ropes in 1946. By 1980 the motor of San Salvador had failed, and ropes were again placed on the bell. New motors were installed on all the bells, including San Salvador, in 1987. Gus Stinnett and his family spent many hours working on these motors and the bells over the ensuing years, and we owe them much gratitude.
In early 2009 parishioners Mark Fricker and Jerry Friederick — with valuable assistance from master-electrician Brian Kelly and guidance from Gus Stinnett — headed up an effort to replace the motors with state-of-the-art equipment. The work was completed in July 2009, once again giving voice to the full complement of bells at Holy Rosary Church. In March 2021, Lee Manufacturing of Muskego, Wisconsin, upgraded the software to make our bells ring "like clockwork" on the hour, for the Angelus, and before Masses.
Here we provide a brief description and history of the six residents of our twin bell towers:
The second-largest free-swinging bell in the State of Indiana hangs in our west tower. Named “San Salvador” after the island upon which Christopher Columbus first landed in the New World in 1492, its deep note can be heard over the other bells when all are ringing. It is also the bell used to toll at funerals and to sound the notes of the Angelus every afternoon and evening.
San Salvador was cast in 1923 at the Old Buckeye Bell Foundry of the E.W. Vanduzen Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio. The bell weighs 7,000 lbs., the clapper weighs 300 lbs., and the yoke and stand for the bell weigh 3,000 lbs. A bell at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend is the only one larger in Indiana.
Thanks to a polishing in 2008 by parishioner Ryne Friederick and a team of Boy Scouts, San Salvador gleams majestically when the sun’s rays catch it. The inscription (exactly as it appears) on the north face of the bell reads:
The Discoverer of America
The pure glory of Italy and of the Church of Christ
This Bell, San Salvador, is dedicated with a modest tribute
Italian Catholic Colony
and Eternal Light Magazine
In the Year A.D. 1923. Pope Pius XI Apostolic Delegate of the
United States, Archbishop Pietro Fumasoni Biondi. Bishop of
Indianapolis, Rt. Rev. Joseph Chartrand, D.D., Pastor of Holy Rosary
Church, Rev. Marino Priori President of United States, Calvin Coolidge.
Governor of Indiana, Warren McCray Mayor of Indianapolis,
Samuel Lewis Shank.
Protector of this Bell, St. Michael the Archangel
The inscription on the south face of the bells reads:
Eternal Light Magazine
which has been blessed by three Popes
Vatican February 27th, 1914
To the Editor and subscribers of Eternal Light we heartily impart
the Apostolic Benediction.
Pius X, PP.
Vatican August 22nd, 1919
To our beloved son D. Marino Priori, (Editor of Eternal Light
Magazine) and to all his parishioners of Indianapolis we impart
from our heart the Apostolic Benediction.
Benedictus XV PP.
Vatican Sept 30th, 1922
His Holiness sends to you his blessing and encouragement in the
praiseworthy activity you display in the holy propaganda of your
Eternal Light, to which as to yourself and all its readers and
benefactors, he heartily imparts his Apostolic Benediction.
The largest bell in our east tower is named after St. Joseph, the foster father of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the patron saint of Sicily, the birthplace of the largest number of Italian immigrants who founded this parish. It weighs 3,000 lbs. and has the following inscription:
Donated by Caito Families
Weighing 1,000 lbs., the second-largest bell in our east tower is predictably named after a beloved Italian saint, Anthony of Padua, a statue of whom resides in the northwest corner of our nave. The inscription on this bell reads:
Donated by M. Jardina
G. & E. Paltani
Saint Francis of Assisi
Three bells hang on the upper tier in the east tower, and the largest of these “small” bells is named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron of Italy. It weighs 900 lbs. and is inscribed:
Saint Francis of Assisi
various men of
Holy Rosary Church
The smallest of the five bells cast for Holy Rosary in 1923 by the Buckeye Bell Foundry resides in the east tower and is named after St. Rita of Cascia, an Italian peasant who lived in the 14th and 15th centuries, and who was canonized in 1900, a mere nine years before Holy Rosary Parish was founded. The bell weighs 600 lbs. Its inscription reads:
Eternal Light Magazine
Rev. Marino Priori, Editor
Assumpta est Maria in Cœlum
The smallest bell in the east tower is older than the rest of Holy Rosary’s bells. Its Italian name is translated “Mary is Assumed into Heaven” (or “The Assumption”). It weighs 300 lbs. and was cast in 1909 at the Stuckstede Bell Foundry in St. Louis, Mo. This bell first hung in the tower of the original Holy Rosary Church, a frame chapel located about where the courtyard of our current church sits. Its inscription reads:
Assumpta est Maria in Cœlum Bell
Italian Catholic Church
May 2, 1909
Pastor, Rev. Marino Priori
San Salvador is raised to the top of Holy Rosary’s west tower in 1924, one year before the completion of the church.
The inscription on the north face of San Salvador.
Boy Scouts polish San Salvador in 2008.
Saint Joseph, in the bottom tier of the east tower, was defaced long ago by vandals, probably during the time when the Latin School minor seminary was here in the 60s and 70s.
Saint Anthony resides in the bottom tier of the east tower.
In the upper tier of the east tower are the three smallest bells, Saint Francis, Saint Rita and Assumpta.