The Rákóczi bell of the Reformed Church of Debrecen is 150 years old in 2023. The people of Debrecen are well acquainted with the sound of the southern chimes in the city center, the beautiful, deep, guttural sound of the 3800 kg bell in the western tower of the Great Church, which celebrates its 150th birthday this year. The Rákóczi bell is the largest Reformed bell in Hungary and the 7th largest bell in Hungary. Gyula Krúdy Hungarian writer wrote of the great bell of Debrecen: “the bell was as big as a farmhouse”.
The sound of the bells proclaims the glory of God, calls to worship and calls to prayer and devotion. Through the centuries, stories and emotions have been associated with the bells. Mourning and joy, discord and unity, remembrance and pride, faith and despondency are associated with them or appear in their inscriptions. The bell in the Great Church bears the inscription “Not to him that runneth, nor to him that willeth, but to God that hath mercy” (Romans 9.16), which was the motto of the Rákóczi family, since the original bell was cast by the Transylvanian Prince György Rákóczi I from a cannon captured from the enemy in 1636 in Gyulafehérvár with the help of the German Pronet master János Régner.
In the fire of 1802, the Rákóci bell fell to the ground when former Red Tower burnt down, and the inhabitants tried to water it down, but it cracked due to the sudden expansion of heat. It was not rebuilt until 1873.
In 1873, 150 years ago, Ignác Hilzer cast the bell that still exists today in Bécsújhely. It was fitted by József Pozdech, a master locksmith from Pest, and its fittings (bell tower, tongue) are still the original.
The bell in the eastern tower of the Reformed Great Church also weighs about 1800 kg and is also attributed to the Hilzer-Podecz masters.
The bells are part of the tourist trail of the Great Church, so visitors can see the Rákóczi bell live alongside the other tourist attractions of the Great Church by paying the church entrance fee.