Unesco recognition for the Belgian carillon culture


At the end of November 2014 Unesco recognised the Belgian carillon culture as a 'best practice in protecting immaterial cultural heritage'. This is important international recognition for the Belgian carillon players and those who are active in carillon culture in Belgium.

The Belgian dossier was the only one to pass the strict selection procedures of Unesco's ‘Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage’. The committee met between 24 and 28 November 2014 in Paris under the chairmanship of Peru.

The recognition covers the carillon repertoire, training, concert traditions as well as the stories around carillon music. Unesco values Belgium's years of experience and activities in passing down and developing the carillon culture. The organisation calls them ‘an example for heritage communities throughout the world’.

A carillon or chimes is a musical instrument consisting of at least 23 cast bronze bells which are made to sound harmonically together. Mostly the instrument is found in a tower. It is played using a keyboard, by striking wooden batons and pedals which are attached to metal clappers like an automatic chiming installation. The carillon is the heaviest of all existing musical instruments: the weight of the bells alone can reach up to 100 tonnes in the largest examples. Belgium has 86 carillons.

The carillon began around the year 1500 in the Southern Netherlands (the area that is now mainly Belgium) and is the oldest musical mass medium in our history. Over the last 100 years carillon players have been trying to renew this unique musical heritage which still rings out in tens of Belgian towns and cities. The Belgian carillon culture tries to find the balance between creating new initiatives and respecting the historic role of the carillon.