Replacing a cathedral's bells might be rare, but not inexplicable. Sixteen years ago, eight new bells were purchased for Split's St. Domnius Cathedral (locally Katedrala Sv. Duje) to replace five old ones. However, the new bells' sound was significantly different to that of the old and considered less pleasing to the ear by locals and tourists alike. So, construction is currently underway to remove the new and bring back the old.
The best bells in Dalmatia are thought to have been made either by Split bell-maker Jakov Cukrov (1838-1902) or the workshop 'Antica fonderia De Poli' near Treviso, Italy, which dates back to 1453. A 90% copper, 10% tin bronze is considered the highest quality material in terms of bell sound and durability. In Croatia, De Poli bells can be found in the Visovac Monastery in Krka National Park, the Franciscan Monastery in Sinj and the Zadar Cathedral. Both Cukrov's and the De Poli bells are recognisable for powerful, booming and melodic sounds and often bear the reliefs of local patron saints, nobles' coats of arms, invocations and prayers.
Fortunately, the Split cathedral's old bells, which date back to the 19th century, have been preserved. For the past sixteen years, two of the five bells were kept in Split's crypt of St. Lucia and three in the nearby Church of St. Philip Neri. They range in weight from 70 to 700 pounds. Three are from Cukrov's workshop and two are Italian, but the foundry has yet to be unravelled.
Experts from the Kaštela-based bell company 'Grivi' are in charge of changing the cathedral's bells. The newer, 21st-century bells, each of which weighs about 500 pounds, are currently being brought down with the help of cables, ropes and lifts.
The old bells will make a major return debut by ringing out in honour of St. Domnius during his annual May 7th feast, before being put back into regular use.