During many years the church bells fought off frosts, storms, droughts and witches, attracted the rain and encouraged the harvest. However, the bells of Alquézar’s collegiate brought rumours of ghosts, spirits and souls in turmoil.

It is said that a young man who worked there as the bell-ringer’s apprentice presented himself to the abbot of the Santa Maria church after hearing they were looking for someone to ring their bells.

As he arrived he saw the abbot who said to him “After the first night, we can talk in more detail.” There was nothing to tell him of the times of the masses or the type of prayers, but the apprentice was possessed with a great urgency to get to know the main bell of the abbey. On the point of opening the door to the bell tower, an elderly lady came to him and said, “Boy, keep away from the enchanted bell, it doesn’t like to be touched by human hands.” And with that she disappeared into the shadow of the side chapel. The young man smiled inside and took no notice of the old lady.

Hardly an hour had passed when he decided to get started with the chiming of the midnight bells but was amazed when a bell started to ring. It must be a huge bell judging by the roar that was heard. No, of course it couldn’t be a small bell being pushed by the wind, it was no other than the bell of the death throes calling for the dead.

His curiosity was stronger than the panic he felt, “Who was ringing the bell?” because there had to be someone. Was it the previous bell ringer, indignant and vindictive? Or maybe it was the abbot putting his skill to the test? The boy cautiously climbed the stairs that separated him from the bell tower and just as he arrived in sight of the bell, it started to ring once again. He had never heard such as sad peal of bells and at the same time so heartbreaking and violent!

But the worst of all was that there was nobody there. The candle blew out and the young man was faced with darkness as black as the night. A flutter of heavy robes brushed his skin and hot, foul breath made him shudder. Then he heard the ghost say, “In life I was the abbot of that abbey, devoted to the Lady whose name I am not worthy of saying….I sacrificed the last years of my earthly body suffering the hardest and most frightful penance….My soul had and still has no pardon. My sin was and wasn’t of body, and I will pay for eternity….That supernatural beauty arose before me without equal, and I still wonder why: who allowed it? Why did that appearance in my solitary cell cause my senses to stir and make me fall? With the body of an incorporeal fairy I had carnal thoughts on my sinful unconsciousness, captivated by deceitful charms, and now, and forever, and for the centuries of the centuries, I will give voice to my pain in the clapper of this bell, and my regretful crying will turn into tolling of the funeral mass...”

And after each phrase the bell rang time and time again. That same night the abbot with whom the boy had been speaking just a few hours before died.

Chema Gutiérrez Lera: Aragón: sus leyendas (1997)


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