The role of the sanctus bells

The sanctus bells, or sanctuary chimes, are the bells used during the process of Mass. The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul’s three-tiered sanctus bells may look familiar to parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church as they were rung at that church until it closed on Oct. 28, 2009.

The likely provenance of the bells is a Cincinnati foundry that produced them under the name Vanduzen & Tift during the period of 1865 to 1894.

At the basilica, the antique sanctus bells are used five times during Sunday’s 10 a.m. Mass. They are first rung by the sacristan to signal the congregation to stand, the music to start and the altar servers, readers, deacons and priests to begin the procession down the main aisle.

The four other times occur during the Eucharist, rung by the head altar server, including during the elevation of the host and the elevation of the cup.

The sanctus bells are rung five times during certain Masses at the basilica, four of those times during the liturgy of the Eucharist rung by the head altar server. 

Altar boy Ethan Wall prepares to ring the sanctus bells at St. Patrick’s Church on Bates Street in Lewiston in this undated photo from the church’s 100th anniversary yearbook (1890-1990), which is now part of the Androscoggin Historical Society’s collection. The bells are now used at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

The sanctus bells at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul are rung five times during certain Masses at the basilica. The head altar server rings them four of those five times during the liturgy of the Eucharist.

This undated photo in the St. Patrick’s Church 100th anniversary yearbook (1890-1990) shows the church’s altar boys at that time. The yearbook resides with the Androscoggin Historical Society in Auburn.

The cross at the top of the sanctus bells serves as a handle.