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Behind the Scenes: What Makes the Bells Toll at St. Mary’s Cathedral [VIDEO]

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ST. CLOUD — This week in our “Behind the Scenes” series, we follow the music that comes from the St. Mary’s Cathedral bell tower in St. Cloud.

During it’s 150 year history, St. Mary’s Cathedral has been a landmark to the downtown area. However, the building we see today was built after a fire in 1920 destroyed the original church.

“The cathedral was built in 1920 when they finished the lower level and they finished the upper church in 1930,” says custodian Dan Primus.

However it’s not the church that draws curiosity, but instead a structure that stands 120 feet above the city.

Primus has been the custodian at St. Mary’s for 31 years. He says many people ask what is hiding up in the bell tower.

“Walking around town they hear the bells ringing and they look up and often wonder what’s up there,” says Primus.

As you climb your way to the top, with the use of a ladder, three bells await you.

Primus says each one has a name.

“You have the “St. Mary bell”, “the St. Cloud bell” and “St. Cecilia bell,” says Primus.

The bells are programed to ring every hour, and are cleaned and rotated on a regular basis.

“The company we go through comes up and oil the chains, clean the gear boxes and rotate the bells so the striker doesn’t hit the same spot every time,” says Primus.

He also explained that the St. Mary’s bell is the only one that is original to the building.

“In 1973 they (St. Cloud and St. Cecilia bells) were taken out of the courthouse and brought over here,” says Primus. “It was a perfect fit because the two smaller bells match.”

The two bells were rented from the city for one dollar over a 99 year period before finally given to the church.

See Other Behind the Scenes Stories


Three bells rest high above the city in the St. Mary’s Cathedral bell tower. (Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON News)

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