The Secrets of the Lake Chapala Bells

June 2, 2012

(Please click the far left arrow head to listen to this article)

If you've ever visited Lake Chapala or other places in Mexico and stayed for any length of time in or near any of the quaint plaza you most certainly found a Catholic church on or near
The central plaza.
This being said you must have heard the church bells ringing
to call the faithful to worship.
OK, so far so good, but what about all those other times you hear the bells tolling at all hours without much rhyme or reason
… or so it seems.
Well, there is a very definite meaning to the various bell tones and timing of the bell sounds.
Call to Mass:
Let’s start to unwind the secrets with what many already know which is the call to Mass. The first call to Mass is a series of bell sounds 30 minutes before the Mass begins. First there’s a solitary bell sound followed by 15 to 30 bell sounds, a pause, and a final single bell sound.
Then 15 minutes later when there’s only 15 minutes to go before Mass begins you’ll hear two single chimes followed by about 30 rapid ringing tones followed by two single chimes. So, the second call begins with 2 single bell sounds and multiple chimes and a final 2 solitary sounds.
As Mass begins you hear the final third call consist of three solitary sounds followed by a long series of tones.
I guess if you can clear the front door by the end of this final set of sounds you’re on time.
Telling Time by the Bells
Years ago when I was walking in one of the area villages I would often say as I approached an older Mexican lady, I would often say either “Buena’s Dias or Buena’s Tardes” depending upon the time of the day.
More than once I offered “Buena’s Dias” and met with a smile and the words, “Buena’s Tardes Senior”. After passing by I’d check my watch and it would be like 12:05 P.M.
I often wondered how they new it was afternoon when they were
not wearing a watch. Now I know. They were listening no doubt to the bells tolling the hour.
You see the church bells serve as a sort of clock for the village.
Back then few people had clocks in their homes living with the rhythms’ of the day, and even fewer had wrist watches.
There are four sets of “ding dong” sounds followed by a series of sounds equal to the hour of the day. Then, at 15 minutes past the hour you hear “ding dong” and at 30 minutes pas the hour you hear “ding done” repeated twice.
Then at 45 minutes past the hour you get three “ding dong” sets.
The new hour gets four sets of “ding dong” followed by the respective hour sounds.
These sounds continue all night long, but thankfully much softer.
So, now you too know the Secret of the Lake Chapala Bells.


  • Elizabeth

    you forgot the very slow ding dong ding dong, that signals the death of someone

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Elizabeth, Yes, I did. Thanks for your timely addition, Tu amigo, Sid


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