Samsø - My Island, Samsø´s History

The famous Bell Tower of Nordby

To understand why a bright yellow tower was built on a pile of boulders in Nordby, we have to journey from Mårup to Nordby. Approximately 2 km south of the centre of Nordby, looking up to the west, a beautiful medieval church can be seen overlooking the pastoral landscape. And it is the church – or rather more accurately the church bells – which uncovers the story behind what is today one of the most famous landmarks on Samsø.

The missing villages
When Nordby Church was built in the early 13th century, besides Nordby and Mårup, there were in the locality two other villages, Glistrup and Søby. Glistrup and Søby no longer exist. Maybe they burned down. Perhaps they were devastated by epidemics. Or maybe they were simply abandoned. No-one knows for certain. In any case the logical choice would be to position the church in the midst of the four villages.

The bell located in the church tower is used for all church services. But the residents of Nordby were having difficulties hearing the bell especially when there was an easterly wind. Consequently, by the 17th century a belfry had already been built on the square known in the vernacular as ‘galli’en’, meaning ‘the place of the gallows’. Up until 1820 it was also the site of the pillory, where criminals were publicly humiliated and shamed. With the belfry in place, the parishioners could be called to worship.

Ding, dong, the animal has been slaughtered!
The tower we see today was built in 1857. It was commissioned by Dean Frants V.S. Jacobsen of Nordby. Not without architectural skills, the Dean himself sketched the initial drawings, inspired by a tower he’d seen whilst travelling in Belgium. The cost of building the tower came to 253 rigsdaler (rix-dollars), 3 marks and 2 shillings and was financed in part by the small-holders and craftsmen of the parish, by the Consul Jacobsen and Count Danneskiold.

The Bell Tower is charming and colourful but also exhibits features of medieval architecture.

The tower is adorned by red rings and a blue cornice at the top with red rafter finials. In the upper half of the tower four arched openings reveal the inside of the tower, in which the bell is suspended.

The bell announced the rising and setting of the sun, the time for worship and services in the church or sounded in the event of fire, which was a serious threat to the many thatched cottages and farms in the village. It was even possible to pay to have the bell rung on ad hoc occasions, for example to announce the slaughter of animals and the subsequent sale of the meat.

The Ringers Guild
Until 2011 it was the sexton of Nordby Church who was in charge of ringing the bell, but today a group of volunteer ringers, established by the citizens of Nordby, takes care of it. The Ringers no longer announce services in the church. They only pull the rope to announce the rising and setting of the sun between the Easter and the Autumn school holidays as well as on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the rest of the year. At Christmas however, the bell sounds every day.

Last updated: 11/08/2020 15:31