After a series of raucous protests involving pots and pans, residents in a small Catalan town near Barcelona have won a victory in their bid to do away with the nightly silence imposed on the town to appease tourists.
The clattering began late last month in Banyoles, population 19,600, after residents realised that the bells on the Santa Maria dels Turers church had stopped ringing at night. A protest was hastily called. “We ask that the bells return to sounding out the 24 hours as well as the quarter-hours,” read the call to action posted online.
As residents sought explanations for the sudden silence, the rector of the church pointed to the tourist apartments located across the street. The owner of the apartment had complained about the bells, said the rector, after several tourists had grumbled that the constant ringing was keeping them awake at night.
The rector, Ramon Pijoan, said he had checked with municipal officials, who said there was no bylaw in place regarding the ringing of the bells. “After the man insisted – and as I didn’t want to fight – I decided to stop ringing the bells at night,” Pijoan told newspaper El Periodico.
The decision left some residents fuming. “It’s tradition. Without the bells, I can’t sleep,” one told broadcaster Antena 3. Others took aim at the tourists. “They need to put up with what there is, wherever they go,” said one. “They should be informed beforehand that there’s a church here where the bells ring out.”
The latest protest, held on Tuesday, saw 200 residents rattle and bang their way past the austere church, which has been a steady presence in the town since the 10th century.
The next day, the campaign achieved a victory of sorts, with the mayor, Miquel Noguer, telling local radio that the church bells would begin ringing again as of Thursday while the municipality explores potential compromises, such as lowering the volume of the bells at night.
But this idea has already been rejected by the neighbourhood association behind the protests. “We think it is an expense that is completely unnecessary, the funds could be instead be spent on more urgent causes,” it said in a statement.
In 2016, the bells of the cathedral in Girona, 20 miles from Banyoles, were silenced for 49 nights after a hotel in the city complained that the ringing was disturbing guests. After protests by residents, the case ended up in court. The matter was settled, however, after the cathedral and the hotel reached an agreement that saw the hotel help fund the expense of reducing the volume of the bells by 50 decibels.