Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.b.28

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Spain has nominated Manual bell ringing (No. 01873) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Over the centuries, bell ringing has served as a means of expression and communication in Spain, fulfilling a number of social functions, from information-sharing, to coordination, protection and cohesion. The coded messages conveyed through the ringing are recognized by the various communities and help to structure local life. There is a wide variety of sounds determined by the techniques (chiming, turning or half turning) combined with the skills of bell ringers and the physical characteristics and acoustical properties of the bells, towers and belfries. These elements converge to create a deep and rich repertory in both religious and civic arenas for marking distinct moments in the day, alerting the populace to natural events, such as fires or floods, or to funeral processions, and announcing decrees and other news. Bell ringing is also a central part of local events, celebrations and performances. The practice is transmitted from the bell ringers to younger generations and through bell-ringing groups or organizations that, in addition to documenting and researching the practice, also ring, transmit, instruct and disseminate the art of traditional bell ringing. Most individuals who pass on these skills are themselves young people attempting to recruit new enthusiasts to continue the practice.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Manual bell ringing in Spain is a communication system developed by the communities to communicate amongst each other. Different villages possess distinctive rings which are identifiable by their communities. The ringing of the bells is used to mark moments and events such as floods, fires, funerals, celebrations, life cycles and liturgical ceremonies. The bearers and practitioners of the element include bell ringers (including men and women), bellmakers, bell-ringing associations and other craft workers. The skills and knowledge are passed on from older bell ringers to younger ones, and through bell ringing associations and schools. The element allows diversity in its practice while representing a collective identity for the communities. Bell ringing helps residents to connect with their history, culture and customs, and ensures the preservation of the cultural spaces where it is carried out.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription will increase interest among younger generations, who can become familiar with their heritage, and thus stimulate the identification and rescue of other cultural manifestations. At the national level, inscription will raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding similar practices pertaining to the world of sound and communication, and will encourage other communities to identify their own cultural heritage. At the international level, inscription will showcase traditional bell ringing as a community-based manifestation of intangible cultural heritage that is open to the world and inclusive of diverse communities. Inscription will also encourage intercultural dialogue between different bell-ringing communities outside of Spain.

R.3:   The file provides information about past and current safeguarding efforts, which have been led primarily by the practitioners, bearers and associations. Bell-ringing events were also held during the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018. Regional governments adopted measures to protect traditional bell ringing and to create an inventory of bells in the 1990s. The file also presents a comprehensive set of safeguarding measures which were jointly proposed by the State Party and the bell-ringing associations. These measures include: safeguarding activities such as inventorying of bells and creation of acoustical records; promotional actions such as outreach to schools; and regulations to complement existing legislation to protect the element at the national level.

R.4:   The file explains that the communities, associations and individuals involved in the practice of traditional bell ringing participated in all stages of the nomination process. In 2018, during an annual meeting of bell ringers in Palencia, all associations agreed to work together towards the nomination of the element to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. As part of the nomination process, meetings were held with members of groups and professional associations who advised experts in various aspects of the submission and provided the necessary information. Various letters of consent were submitted as evidence of the communities' support for the nomination. Traditional bell ringing does not involve any practice or knowledge regarded by the communities as secret or private. Access to all aspects of the art form is open to all and is not subject to restrictions or limitations of any kind.

R.5:   The element was listed on the Register of Assets of Cultural Interest on 22 April 2019. The register is maintained by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, General Directorate of Fine Arts. The element was included on the register with the involvement of many regional and local associations, institutions and research centres that have been involved for several years in the discovery, identification, registration and archiving of practices.

  1. Decides to inscribe Manual bell ringing on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for a well-prepared file and an excellent video that clearly demonstrate the practices associated with the element and the participation of the communities in the safeguarding efforts.