The Sevillian town of Utrera has always maintained a special link with its bells, with the way they are rung and with the ritual associated with them, particularly in its two main churches: the Church of Santiago el Mayor and the Church of Santa María de la Mesa.

The traditional style of ringing the bells, both the fixed ones and those that can be turned over, does not differ too much from that used in other Andalusian bell towers. However, the tradition of jumping the bells and leaving them in balance is really exceptional and unique.

Until the 1950s and 1960s, there were families of bell ringers living in the two main towers of Utrera, Santiago el Mayor and Santa María de la Mesa, whose lives were totally devoted to the activity of ringing the bells at all the relevant moments of the ecclesiastical calendar, as well as for all the governmental ringing that were stipulated with the civil authority.

Often, the main bell ringer of the tower needed help to ring the larger bells, which can require up to 4 people to ring them. Thus, family and friends regularly shared the act of ringing the bells, and therefore also shared the practice and oral transmission of this knowledge. The bell ringers of Utrera have kept these cultural practices alive for centuries, organised around companionship and solidarity, and putting a lot of passion into preserving the legacy of cultural heritage received by each former generation of bell ringers.

The art of bell ringing and pealing is a tradition that has been part of the town and of the habits of many generations that have succeeded each other for more than five hundred years. At the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s, the extraordinary ringing and turning of bells by hand by professionals and amateur bell ringers in this town ceased for various reasons, the most important being the lack of generational transmission and the poor condition of the bells.

For half a millennium, the ringing of bells has marked the life of the local people and their times. They have announced births and deaths, triumphs and catastrophes, great festivals, liturgical and festive events, peals of glory, joyful or solemn peals. These peals were relegated to light tolls by means of striking mechanisms of the small bells (esquilones), and most of the bells were no longer used, thus losing the harmony, the audible range produced by all the bells together and the spectacular way of ringing them, much admired and respected by the neighbours.

Faced with this uncertain situation, José Manuel Carnerero López, a neighbour of the village, decided to bring together several people with the aim of reviving the tradition of bell ringing in Utrera. The creation in 2001 of an association of bell ringers, the ACAMU Association, was the first step towards safeguarding the “manual ringing” of bells in Utrera. Since then, the Association of Bell Ringers of Utrera has met regularly, especially on the eve of feast days, to organise the ringing of the bells. Santa María de la Mesa and Santiago el Mayor are the main towers where they ring, and also, to a lesser extent, the tower of the Sanctuary of Consolación. The latter church takes on greater importance on the days devoted to the patron saint of Utrera, Virgen de Consolación.

On 1 December 2022, when the bells had almost disappeared from the sound map of the villages of Spain, UNESCO recognised the traditional manual ringing of bells in Utrera as Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Photo: Jesús Quesada. Asociación de Campaneros de Utrera

Photo: Jesús Quesada. Asociación de Campaneros de Utrera

Photo: Jesús Quesada. Asociación de Campaneros de Utrera

Photo: Jesús Quesada. Asociación de Campaneros de Utrera

ABC de Sevilla. (2019). El espectacular toque de las campanas de Utrera desde dentro. [Video File].

UVITEL producciones. El toque campanas en Utrera Patrimonio Inmaterial de la Humanidad [Video File]