Bells once belonging to Catholic church to ring a new tune at ‘Leaning Tower of Niles’

Bells once belonging to Catholic church to ring a new tune at ‘Leaning Tower of Niles’

The Leaning Tower of Niles -- a replica of the famed structure in Pisa -- in suburban Chicago. (Credit: Raniero Tazzi/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5).)

Bells at the top of a half-scale replica of Italy’s famed Leaning Tower of Pisa in suburban Chicago will be playing some new tunes after undergoing renovations.

NILES, Illinois — Bells at the top of a half-scale replica of Italy’s famed Leaning Tower of Pisa in suburban Chicago will be playing some new tunes after undergoing renovations.

The tower in Niles, built in 1934 as part of a park for employees of businessman Robert Ilg’s company, was recently named to the National Register of Historic places.

Kim Schafer, founder of Community Bell Advocates, said she arranged a collection of “familiar tunes” — including “When the Saints Go Marching In” — for the seven bells at the top of the Niles landmark to play, the Chicago Tribune reported. Schafer said she also created original chime patterns that will sound at each quarter hour.

“Rather than have a Westminster chime that everybody uses, I wrote two separate clock chime patterns that can be used for the quarter hour ring,” Schafer said.

She also developed a “peal of bells” that can be played for weddings.

Additionally, Schafer noted that she arranged a version of the well-known Korean folk song “Arirang” to pay homage to the village’s Korean-American community.

Three of the seven bronze bells are original to the tower and were restored to working order, while the other four were newly cast by Virginia-based B.A. Sunderlin Bellfoundry.

One of the tower’s bells dates back to 1623 and another dates back to 1747. Both have Latin inscriptions and religious motifs, and are believed to have come from a Catholic church in Cavezzo, Italy, according to Community Bell Advocates, which examined the bells’ history for the village.

With its National Registry status, interest in the Leaning Tower extends beyond Niles.

Katie Schneider, community engagement coordinator for Niles, said village officials are continuing to devise plans for an event to commemorate the tower, sound its bells and open it for tours.

“Nothing is confirmed in terms of dates and details, but we are working on it and hope to soon have that information, “ Schneider said. “Plans are in the works for an ‘opening ceremony’ event.”


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