Part the first
The city-state of San Giovanni was blessed with one of the finest cathedrals of its time. Pilgrims traveled from every corner of the known world in order to witness its splendor, and all of San Giovanni's citizenry took pride in a miracle they could call their own.
Was it the alabaster masonry that took well over a hundred years to complete that drew such attention? No. Was it the unparalleled splendor of the cathedralís wooden carvings that invoked such divine wonder? No, it wasnít the carvings either.
Nor was it the dark and mighty gargoyles that struck fear in the hearts of the bravest men; nor was it the stained glass windows from on high that inspired human spirits to soar into the heavenly skies. Any of these features would be worthy of holy pilgrimages, but they all paled, frankly, in comparison to the one true blessing brought unto this holy place.
It was the cathedral bell that drew such magnificent crowds. For the bell of San Giovanni carried a melody that no other earthly machine could evoke. When the bell of San Giovanni sang unto the people of the land, all work ceased; all arguments were put to the side; even lovemaking paused. The music created by that bell may as well have been sung by the angels themselves. And no spiritual person in the known lands would ever dream of reaching the end of life without at least once experiencing the miracle of the glorious bell of San Giovanni.
And for fifty-three years, beginning the very day the bell was first hung, only one man had been given the honor of pulling the rope that rang the glorious bell of San Giovanni. But alas: the sad day finally came, as it must to us all, when the old bell ringer passed away. And all the nation mourned.
Naturally it was not long until the whispering began -- who would now ring the bell? And the whispers soon became shouts! And the shouts soon became a clamoring chorus of despair! What would they do? Who would ring the bell? Well, the Archbishop of San Giovanni knew action would have to be taken quickly, so he did the only thing he knew to do: he began to pray.
Just then, a man pushed his way through the crowd, begging for audience with the Archbishop. And all this pushing was remarkable you see, because the poor man had no arms.
The armless man fell down on his knees and pleaded, "Your Eminence, I am at your mercy and beg you. I have five children and no means of trade. I ask of you please, may I be your bell-ringer?"
"But my son, you have no arms! How can you possibly ring the bell?"
"Think not of the details, Your Eminence. Just please lead me to your belfry and I shall prove my worth to you."
The Archbishop sighed, for such was the pity of the crowd that he seemed to have no other recourse. So, he led the man with no arms up to the belfry and granted him his chance.
The armless man took one step back...two steps back...three steps back...and ran face-first into the bell!
And reader, in 53 years of the cathedral's existence, no finer sound had echoed from the belfry chamber. The bell rang with such force and such glory that birds forgot their song, knowing well they could never outdo such a performance.
This time the Archbishop was on his knees before the now somewhat dazed, armless man and said, "My son, do you think you could do this every Sunday?"
The armless man answered, "Yes, and may I have this job?"
The Archbishop, of course, agreed.
The following Sunday, worshippers arrived in record numbers to witness the miraculous new sound of the cathedral bell. And the man with no arms did not disappoint. High up in the belfry, he took one step back...two steps back...three steps back...and ran face-first into the bell. BONG!!! The sound became as light, illuminating with glory the astounded audience.
Now again, the armless man took one step back...two steps back...three steps back...and ran face-first into the bell. BOONNGG!!!! And this time the music seemed to take on physical form, driving the worshippers into epiphanal joy.
Elated with his rapturous reception, the bell ringer once again took one step back...two steps back...three steps back...four steps back, which was unfortunate, as the belfry was only three paces wide. And so it came to pass, to the horror of all the observers, the bell-ringer fell out the side of the bell tower and plunged to his death upon the pavement below.
A crowd gathered Ďround; a policeman came; and the Archbishop padded out to see what was the commotion. Looking up, the policeman asked, "Do you know this manís name?"
And the Archbishop replied Ö.
but his face rings a bell."