The mystery of the stolen bell

The bell from Guadalcanal was eventually located in the Netherlands.
The bell from Guadalcanal was eventually located in the Netherlands. / José Manuel Pedrosa. EFE
  • The bell of a church in Seville province has been recovered by police in the Netherlands after it went missing while supposedly being restored in Germany

The travels of the bell from the parish church in Guadalcanal (Seville) would delight any detective, especially knowing that there is a happy ending. This ancient item left its church to be restored by a workshop in Jaén; they sent it to another specialist in Germany, but then it suddenly disappeared.

A few weeks after sending it to Germany, the workshop in Jaén received the box which supposedly contained the repaired bell, but it was empty. Luckily, the bell has been recovered in the Netherlands thanks to cooperation between the police in several countries. It is now on its way back to Germany to finally be repaired.

The National Police in Jaén explained this week that they are working with Europol to clarify whether the bell had been lost or stolen, but the initial hypothesis is that some of the people who participated or were involved in moving it realised that it was extremely valuable and there would be a buyer for it on the black market. For that reason the investigations are continuing, trying to identify the person or people involved in the thwarted robbery.

The bell was manufactured at the end of the 17th century for the Convento de la Concepción in Guadalcanal, although it later became part of the belltower of the parish church of Santa María, which is its present location. Restoration works carried out on the tower showed that four of the bells were damaged, so it was decided to send them to the Rosas Bells and Clocks workshop in Torredonjimeno (Jaén), one of the few companies remaining in Spain which restores items such as these.

It was the first journey the bells had taken in 350 years. The experts at the workshop analysed them and decided that three could be repaired there, but the fourth was more badly damaged and needed to be sent to the only specialist in the world capable of repairing it without losing any of its qualities, so that it could continue to be rung to call worshippers to Mass and prayer.

What is known for certain is that the bell left Jaén on 31 July, and at the end of August the workshop received a package which they believed would contain the repaired bell. "It was a cardboard box with nothing in it except some boards to give it weight," they say.

The police have managed to ascertain that the bell went to Barcelona and from there to Belgium, but that is where the clues come to an end. A spokesman says the company which was supposed to transport the bell from Belgium to Germany had no idea where it was. Finally, it was found in the Netherlands, in a warehouse used to store merchandise or items which could not be delivered.

Once safely recovered, the bell was returned to the parish priest in Guadalcanal, Genaro Escudero, who says everyone had been very worried when it disappeared. "It wasn't just because of the bell's artistic or even financial value; it has great sentimental value for our community," he explains.

He says the bell has some "very serious" damage because an unsuitable clapper had been fitted to it in the past. Despite the recent scare, the priest and the company in Jaén are now making new arrangements to send it to the German workshop where it was due to be repaired in the first place, but never arrived.