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Saved by the Church Bell

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"Ring in the valiant man and free, / the larger heart, the kindlier hand / Ring out the darkness of the land; / Ring in the Christ that is to be."
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam AHH

The ringing of a church bell can often be used in fiction as a sign of salvation, redemption, or the triumph of good over evil.

Whether the connection between said triumph and the church bells is literal varies from example to example. Often, supernatural threats like The Legions of Hell and The Fair Folk are literally repelled by the bells, as well as serving as a symbol. In less spiritual works, the bells are merely symbols of triumph.

The trope is derived from the custom of churches coming equipped with bells to announce if it was time to pray or attend a service like the Mass, a wedding, or a funeral. In some denominations, these bells are believed to drive away evil, which is likely the root of many examples of this trope.

The opposite of this trope is For Doom the Bell Tolls when church bells are an omen of horror and discomfort. Related to Holy Burns Evil. May overlap with Holy Pipe Organ and Cherubic Choir.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: When this pair of angels defeat the demon of the week, their victory is celebrated by the chiming of the church bell. That church is also their headquarters, living space, and where they receive their assignments. Later episodes tend to skip this chiming.
  • Pokémon: The Rise of Darkrai:
    • Darkrai's theme includes bells that at first seem foreboding. However, as we learn that Darkrai is a misunderstood hero, the bells gradually become less ominous until Darkrai's final appearance, where the bells are downright triumphant in the face of Darkrai's miraculous recovery from his Heroic Sacrifice.
    • The town of Alamos Town is saved from destruction as the bells of its cathedral toll. Simultaneously, the soundtrack switches to "Oración," which is played on the bells.

  • Big Finish Doctor Who. In "Spare Parts", the Doctor draws attention to what the Committee is doing by tying up a Cyber-Policeman with the bell ropes in the disused cathedral, drawing the curious citizens there as the bells haven't been run in years. At the end of the story, the bells are rung for real when the Cybermen repair the breached roof of the Underground City and save the people of Mondas. At least for now.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man used church bells to remove the corrupting Venom symbiote from himself in Web of Spider-Man #1. The process nearly killed him and he could only go through with it by reminding himself of the people he needed to make up to, like Aunt May, Mary-Jane, and Harry Osborn.

    Film — Animated 
  • In the penultimate Fantasia segment, the church bell prompts the retreat of Chernobog the Dark God and his ghouls; the bell denotes his doom.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney) prominently features the bells of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and heavily associates them with the freedom and expression of its protagonist Quasimodo. The bells ring out especially prominently during the film's Happy Ending.
  • In the Pixar short Sanjay's Super Team, a Hindu god uses the sound emitted by a prayer bell to drive away a demon. This fails, but then Sanjay uses the prayer-candle holder as a bell, which succeeds.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Lady Bird ends with the protagonist having a bad night, seeing a mutilated kid in the ER, and walking aimlessly until she hears church bells ringing and goes to church. Moved by the sound of the bells and the Cherubic Choir, she's finally moved to call her parents and make up for all the shit she's given them.
  • The Last Temptation of Christ ends with Jesus triumphantly accepting his death on the cross, shouting that "it is accomplished" before the film gives way to a heavenly light show and the closing credits. All the while, the footage is underscored by Peter Gabriel's "It Is Accomplished", a jubilant mix of church bells tolling and Gabriel himself chanting in praise, representing Jesus' salvation of mankind from sin.
  • The week-long death knell for Olga Treskovna in The Miracle of the Bells is what catches the attention of the town and the world of this unknown actress' selfless love for her hometown. She had died making a movie to make everyone back home proud, and because of the bells, thousands pour into the town and give money for the poor parish there and for a hospital to be built in the actress' honor.
  • Spider-Man 3 adapts Peter's removal of the symbiote from Web of Spider-Man #1 with extra focus on the religious context. The scene comes immediately after Peter reaches his moral low point by hitting Mary-Jane and begins with him standing atop a church, with a Crucial Cross in frame, as church bells call him to the bell tower. As the ringing increases, he rips the symbiote off bit by bit as he turns his back on the selfishness he indulged throughout the movie. The same scene also inverts the trope with Eddie Brock, however, who had just committed a Prayer of Malice against Peter; he's attracted to the scene by the ringing of the bell, where the symbiote lands on him and forms the monster Venom.
  • To Catch a Thief ends with church bells ringing as our two leads are exonerated of any wrong-doing and finally allowed to be together.

  • In The Castle of the Black Queen by Sofia Prokofieva, the day is saved when the villainous dwarves crumble to dust at the sound of the church bells.
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens ends with Scrooge waking up to church bells ringing, letting him know that his haunted night is over and Christmas day has come at last. After the horrid vision of the future he's seen, Scrooge is overjoyed and takes the opportunity to turn his life into something as beautiful as the holiday knell.
  • The poem "In Memoriam A.H.H." by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is largely a somber reflection on grief, but the point where it shifts to moving on and finding happiness again starts with a description of bells ringing on Christmas Eve.
  • Some versions of The Pied Piper of Hamelin refer to the happy people ringing the church bells when the rats are dead.
  • In "The Tale of Thorstein Shiver" Thorstein, a follower of Norway's missionary king Olaf Tryggvason, enounters a demonic imp while using an outhouse late at night. Fearing for his life, Thorstein cleverly persuades the demon to imitate the screams of the damned in Hell. The screams alert King Olaf, who at once orders the bell of the local church to be rung, the sound of which makes the demon fall to the floor and disappear into the ground, thus saving Thorstein's life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cold Case: One victim in "The Road" is saved from her abductor because the villain gets overconfident and tells the investigators that the woman is able to stay sane due to being able to hear nearby church bells, which she uses to count her days in captivity. Det. Rush's knowledge of the neighborhood in question allows her to determine where she is being held and rescue her.
  • In the Doctor Who Christmas special The Time of the Doctor, the triumphant moment when the Doctor is given the ability to regenerate and live a new life is marked with the giant bell behind him beginning to ring. It only gets louder as his body starts firing regeneration energy like an erupting volcano and destroys his seemingly invincible enemies.

  • Near the end of Night on Bald Mountain, the loud, ominous music is interrupted by a single tolling church bell, winding down into a soft finish for the song. Mussorgsky himself intended the ringing of the church bell to represent the breaking up of the witches' sabbath described in the piece; witches and evil spirits traditionally could not bear the sound of consecrated bells.
  • The folk song Ring the Bell, Watchman! by Henry Clay Work is exhorting the sexton of a church to ring the bell in celebration of a momentous event. Since the song was written in 1865 it was presumably originally written to commemorate the end of The American Civil War although that's not explicitly stated in the lyrics.
  • Stars (Canadian Band): Ringing church bells are part of the melancholy, but hopeful imagery in "In Our Bedroom After The War".
    Listen, the birds sing
    Listen, the bells ring
    All the living are dead, and the dead are all living
    The war is over and we are beginning

  • A story about the 1999 US Open says that Payne Stewart was playing the final holes in a duel with Phil Mickelson. Stewart needed a 15-foot putt on the last hole to win it. As he was reading the putt, the religious Stewart could hear church bells in the distance. He made the putt to cling to victory.

  • The titular character of Peer Gynt is only saved by a beating from trolls when his mother rings church bells, causing the vile monsters to be shattered at the sound of them.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War: Cypher, Pixy, and the rest of the allied forces successfully drive out the Belkans from the occupied city of Directus, the capital of Ustio. As the Belkans are pushed out, the resisting citizens take the opportunity to climb up to the church and start ringing the bell to signal to the entire city that they're finally free. Ace pilot Rainer Altman would be shot down by Cypher that day, but he moved to Directus after the war in order to become a writer. During his interview, the church bells began ringing. He mentions that they ring every day at five PM to symbolize the moment that Galm squadron brought them freedom.
    Rainer Altman: It signals peace...but to me, they are the sounds of death.
  • In the original Dark Souls, online players may sometimes hear a lonely church bell ring in a certain part of the world. This means that another person has rung said bell. Since the bell is actually one of the early game objectives that require fighting a particularly powerful boss and is named The Bell of Awakening, hearing one actually gives a powerful sense of hope, as someone has achieved that particular objective, so you can too!
  • The Happy Ending of Final Fantasy XV is marked by the ringing of church bells that strike as the game cuts to its logo. Namely, they're wedding bells that marked the hero's reunion with his dead fiancee in the afterlife.
  • Five Nights at Freddy's: Most levels end when the clock strikes 6:00 and a bell can be heard ringing eight times. Given the Paranoia Fuel of being hunted down by mangled jumpscaring animatronics and the limited battery power, that sound is synonymous with safety for most players and probably the most wonderful sound they'll hear all game.
  • Resident Evil 4: Upon entering the village, Leon is forced to fend against a mob of infected villagers until a church bell begins ringing, which causes the villagers to stop attacking Leon and enter the church to pray. The Separate Way sidestory reveals that the ringing was caused by Ada Wong to save Leon.
  • Silent Hill: After Harry makes it through the Otherworld Midwich Elementary, Dahlia's ringing of the Balkan Church bell is what signals the return to the Fog World.

    Western Animation 
  • The Batman: The Animated Series episode "It's Never Too Late" ends with a cathedral bell ringing, just moments after the mob boss Stromwell hands himself to the police and repents of his life of crime.
  • House of Mouse: In the Mouse Tales version of Around the World in Eighty Days, it seems that Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy had failed the challenge and arrived back in England a whole day late. But then they hear church bells outside, and Mickey wonders why they'd be ringing on a Monday... before realizing that, because they crossed the International Date Line, they actually arrived a day earlier than they thought.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man adapts the comics' scene of Peter using church bells to get rid of the Venom symbiote into an entire episode. It takes place in a Battle in the Center of the Mind where the symbiote acts as a devil on his shoulder tempting Peter to evil, only for Peter to be reminded of his loved ones and reject the symbiote as the ringing drives it off.