How Swansea and Chile Are Linked by the Bells of Santiago; Three Giant Church Bells Cast in Spain in the 1750s and Taken to South America Eventually Found an Unlikely Home in Mumbles, Swansea, Following One of the Worst Fire Tragedies in History and Have since Returned to Chile. Robin Turner Reports
Byline: Robin Turner
THEY are a symbol of death, worship and latterly, co-operation and sympathy between South America and South Wales.
Now, the historic 'Bells of Santiago' have spawned a book and a series of songs contained in a new DVD which will be sung in Chile and Swansea this weekend.
The bells were originally housed in the church of La Compania de Jesus in Santiago, Chile. On December 8, 1863, the church caught fire during the Catholic feast of the Immaculate Conception.
More than 2,500 people died, mostly women and children, in the worst blaze in Santiago's history.
In fact, it was the largest loss of life the world has known in a single accidental building fire.
Because of the festival, the temple was adorned with a profusion of candles and oil lamps and wall coverings.
In the main altar, a large statue of the virgin Mary stood over a large half-moon that itself was a huge candelabra.
It is thought the fire began when a gust of wind blew the doors inwards, blowing lit candles through the building, igniting wall coverings, lamps and other easily flammable items. The church in Santiago was completely destroyed by flames except for its five, extremely heavy metal bells.
Three of the bells were bought as scrap and then shipped to Swansea by Welsh businessman Graham Vivian, who had extensive business links with South American in the copper ore trade.
They found a new home in the seafront All Saints Church in Oystermouth, Mumbles, Swansea, where the powerful Vivians had a family pew. This was to be their home for almost 150 years. It was in 2009 that the then Chilean Ambassador to the-Canon Keith EvansUK started negotiations with the Church in Wales to return the bells to Chile. …