Last modified on 21 March 2012, at 10:03


A carillon is a musical instrument that is typically housed in a free-standing bell tower, or the belfry of a church or other municipal building. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to play a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. A carillon is played by striking a keyboard - the keys of which are sometimes called batons - with the fists, and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that strike the bells, allowing the performer, or carillonneur, to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key.

The carillon is the heaviest of all extant musical instruments;[1] the total weight of bells alone can be 100 tons in the largest instruments.

The greatest concentration of carillons is still found in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Northern France, where they were symbols of civic pride and status. Some of the most spectacular are now protected by UNESCO as part of the world heritage site the Belfries of Belgium and France.


  1. The Mark II and Mark III Telharmonium, an early Synthesizer, were each twice as heavy as the largest carillon ever made (200 tons as compared to 100 tons).