Description:St. Philip’s Bells Excerpted and edited from an articleby The Rev. Canon Samuel T. CobbRector and Rector Emeritus, St. Philip’s Church, 1965 to 2003All of us remember, however faintly, the old fairy tale of Why the Chimes Rang. One Christmas Eve many years ago, a very small and very poor boy made the hazardous journey to his Cathedral city, where ensconced in the Cathedral tower were chimes that had not rung for many, many years. On this particular Christmas Eve, many rich parishioners left fabulous gifts upon the Altar, but the chimes refused to ring. Then the little boy made his hesitant way to the Altar and there put his penny, and did the chimes ring? Of course, they did! This is what makes a tale a fairy tale.The story of the bells of St. Philip’s has much in common with the fairy tale, although ‘twas not a Christmas Eve upon which the bells rang, but rather the Fourth of July in the bicentennial year of 1976. ‘Twas not a small boy who made his way to the Cathedral city, but rather four determined ladies who made their way to the rector’s office. This non-Charleston rector was not as sensitive back in 1973 to the subtleties of being a Charlestonian, and thus, the importance of putting the bells back into St. Philip’s steeple was not as clear and dear to him as it was to the foursome who hereinafter will be referred to as the “determined ladies.” The rector thought there were more important improvements to the physiognomy of St. Philip’s which took priority over bells, however wonderful the bells might be.Such was the determination of the “determined ladies,” that, without any real encouragement from anyone, they set up a Bell Committee. There was first of all the necessity of determining if our stately 201-foot steeple could manage the vibration of the bells without joining the walls of Jericho in coming tumbling down. Then came the necessity of raising sufficient money to convince the Van Bergen Foundries that the “determined ladies” were really determined. And then came the great moment of placing the order.But we are a bit ahead of our story. Why did the bells need to be replaced? The Minute Books of the Vestry of St. Philip’s do not include minutes after those of July 1863 until those of November 1865 appear. Due to the “War,” these were years of heartbreak and disruption of parish activities.During the War Between the States, the steeples of St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s, the most conspicuous objects in the city from a distance, served as targets for the great guns with which the city was bombarded. St. Philip’s suffered particularly. Ten or more shells entered its walls. The chancel was destroyed, the roof pierced in several places, and the organ demolished.It was not until May of 1866, in what appear to be some “catch-up” minutes, that these terse, yet poignant, words appear: “Upon application of the Confederate Authorities, during the War, the Bells of the Church were given to the Ordnance Department to be melted into Cannon, upon the promise that, after the successful termination of the Struggle with the Northern Government, they would be replaced by other bells of the same tone and size. They were taken to Augusta, and with the loss of the Southern cause, all hope of their restoration has expired.”But the bells, which were cast in Annecy, France, twenty miles south of Geneva, rang out clearly, joyfully, and stalwartly on July Fourth, 1976 after a dedication service attended by some six hundred St. Philippians and friends. The “determined ladies” did not replace all eleven bells, as promised by the Confederacy, but they did replace four of them. The congregation and our neighbors (well, most of our neighbors) took the new St. Philip’s into their homes (no choice) and into their hearts. We are pleased that an old-new Charleston tradition has become part of the heartbeat of our neighborhood, as the bells ring out between the hours of eight in the morning until eight in the evening. The bells ring the Westminster chimes at 15, 30, and 45 minutes past the hour. The bells will ring joyfully to announce a wedding, occasions of state will set the bells a’ pealing, and they will toll for a service of the Burial of the Dead.