The sound of church bells tolling for you across the fields and meadows is indeed one of the finest sounds there is; unless you happen to live next door to them of course.
Even worse than living next door to them is standing right next to them, and yet that is what some tourists voluntarily choose to do, and the fact is that it’s an amazing experience.
The church bells of Albaida have been hand rung for 800 years now and, should you choose to climb the steps to the belfry on any given Sunday, you can stand, watch and listen (if the damage isn’t permanent) as a group of young (some are actually minors) people who literally climb the walls hanging onto those ropes and honouring the traditions of their ancestors during this unique event.
The ringers call themselves the Colla de Campaners d’Albaida, which probably means something to somebody, and curiously all of them wear earphones when ringing; a privelege they don’t extend to the general public.
The Colla is responsible for the Consueta, which is a list of all the occasions when the bells must be rung, and apart from the daily ringing to tell the time, there are 150 special ringing sessions, which may explain why there are so few houses in the square where the church is situated, although there is an interesting range of museums and historic buildings.
There are ten big bells, each with a name, or more than one, of some religious character. The lightest, the Virgin of the Rosario weighs a mere 37 kilos, while the heaviest, affectionately known as La Grossa, weighs in at 1,375 kilos. The Virgin of Rosario is also the oldest, dating from 1808, the same year that Spain rebelled against the Napoleonic occupation, and the bell must have rung to warn the people of his advancing armies.
The three newest bells are from 2003.
For more information www.campanersalbaida.es
If you want to visit Albaida and enjoy the many attractions of the town and its valley, I can think of no better place to stay than the rural accomodation in the peaceful village of Beniatjar run by Juan and Mari Carmen, where you can watch the sun setting over the valley from their large terrace as you cook your BBQ and listen to the sounds of nature wafting up from the valley below.
See also our article about an unusual wedding in the Albaida Valley:
and our article about the museum of the local artist Segrelles: