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For Whom the Bell Tolls

August 22, 2014







Have you ever wondered about the biggest bell in the world? Most people would say it’s in Moscow, weighing in at 445,166 pounds. The Tsar Bell was commissioned by the niece of Peter the Great. It broke during casting and has never been rung. But it’s possible the Tsar Bell will soon lose it’s ranking as the world’s largest. The new contender for the title might be resting under twenty-five feet of mud at the bottom of a river. 



Tsar Bell, Moscow


The Dhammazedi Bell has long fascinated those captivated by lost treasure. It was cast around 1484 by order of King Dhammazedi in what is now Myanmar. The bell was a gift to the nearby gold Schwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in the country. The bell, made of copper, gold and silver, is said to have weighed nearly three hundred tons (661,400 pounds), a mind boggling figure that’s about the weight of twenty-five double-decker buses.



Shwedagon Pagoda, home of the lost Dhammazedi Bell



In 1583, Gaspero Balbi, a Venetian gem merchant, visited the Shwedagon Pagoda and wrote in his journal about the great bell. His description said that it had indecipherable writing engraved from top to bottom around its circumference:


"I found in a faire hall a very large bell which we measured, and found to be seven paces and three hand breadths and it is full of letters from the top to the bottom but there was no Nation that could understand them."


The great Dhammazedi Bell, which unlike the Tsar Bell was actually rung for many years, became too famous for its own good. In 1608 disaster struck when Portuguese adventurer and mercenary Filipe de Brito, overthrew the government and seized the bell with the aim of melting it down to make cannon. De Brito and his men removed the Dhammazedi Bell from the Shwedagon Pagoda and rolled it to a raft on the Pazundaung Creek. The bell was then hauled by elephants to the Bago River where it was lashed to de Brito’s flagship for the journey across the river to be melted down. The load proved to be too heavy; the raft broke up and the bell went to the bottom, taking de Brito’s ship with it. Burmese forces later defeated and captured de Brito, who was executed by impalement on a wooden stake.  


It’s quite possible, and highly probable, that the world’s largest bell is still resting at the bottom of the Bago River. Over the centuries many have tried to locate it but the river is extremely muddy with limited visibility. Beneath the swift currents are several shipwrecks, and the waters are inhabited by man eating creatures.


Professional deep sea divers have attempted to bring modern scientific equipment to the river, which has shifted and changed course over the centuries, but until recently the Burmese government hasn’t been cooperative. Now that’s changed. The Burmese government has ordered the bell found and returned to the pagoda.


The time may soon come when The Dhammazedi Bell will once more ring out for all to hear. Is it possible that a new wonder of the world is about to be rediscovered?



The Dhammazedi Bell would be approximately twice as big as this one.


A truly fascinating story. Thank you for sharing it!
By: John on August 22, 2014
Fascinating...sounds like a Clive Custler novel.
By: Tabor on August 22, 2014
Aside from the historical points mentioned. Does this not suggest that even then... size seemed to matter. Was it to honour a deity?
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 22, 2014
I would think modern technology would enable finding it....thanks for yet another intriguing story- I bet they do find it! Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on August 22, 2014
I am reluctant to think that the price for putting the bell back in its proper place would be more than it is worth, but it would have to be astronomical.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on August 22, 2014
i cannot imagine the ego that must drive some to create such monstrosities. me, give me 42 smaller bells and i'll be just pleased as punch. :)
By: TexWisGirl on August 22, 2014
Sounds like a challenge for you and me to get those people their bell back.
By: Snowbrush on August 22, 2014
Interesting. But I say a bell cannot be measured in metal alone ... and that makes the Liberty Bell the biggest in the world!
By: Tom Sightings on August 22, 2014
It serves thieves right when they don't get to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and in fact are punished for it. And i do hope the bell is found soon.
By: mimi on August 22, 2014
Fascinating story!!
By: fishducky on August 22, 2014
Absolutely fascinating story and wouldn't it be marvelous to have it resurrected once again. Thanks for telling this story.
By: Bouncin Barb on August 22, 2014
Great story, I have to Google to make sure you didn't make it up.
By: Cranky on August 22, 2014
A marvelous and enlightening post. Learned fascinating detail. Thanks.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 22, 2014
What a wonderful story! I hope they find the bell!
By: Eva Gallant on August 22, 2014
Sounds like that Portuguese guy got what he deserved.
By: PT Dilloway on August 22, 2014
Some people are fascinated with things that are the biggest???
By: red on August 22, 2014
Well. I don't know whether to shout, "Oh, the bellmanity!" or "What a bellamity!"
By: Val on August 22, 2014
VERY cool story! I hope they find the bell---amazing discovery if it happens and I would LOVE to see how big this thing is!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on August 22, 2014
If they do find it and they do ring it, we'll probably hear it over here.
By: Catalyst on August 22, 2014
Fascinating! So was it the bass bell in the Christmas bell choir? Seriously, maybe it would be best to leave it right where it is.
By: on August 23, 2014
I'd never heard of this bell before. It boggles my mind that they could even handle anything that size in the 15th century. I hope it does get found - it may give us a number of historical clues and insights!
By: Pixel Peeper on August 23, 2014
Hi Stephen! It's great to read your posts again. Didn't realize how much I missed reading them. By the way, I'm back again. Hope you can check out my blog again...
By: Anne on August 24, 2014
What a fascinating story! It will be in the back of my mind now when I read the international news. The river where it is buried sounds like some horrendous spot out of a boys adventure story!
By: Jenny Woolf on August 24, 2014
I love what I learn from your posts.
By: Shelly on August 24, 2014
Never fear James Cameron will find it. That is his thing.
By: Akansas Patti on August 25, 2014
Yet again, you highlight my ignorance; I'd never even heard of the Dhammazedi bell but, thanks to your story, I will be listening for any progress in retrieving it from the bottom of the river.
By: Bryan Jones on August 25, 2014
Stephen: Be glad your next door neighbor doesn't have one of these!
By: Michael Manning on August 25, 2014
Wow. That would be truly amazing.
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 26, 2014
I love this story! I hope it can be found and restored. There's something magical about bells and the fascination we have with lost treasure.
By: Sharon Bradshaw on August 30, 2014
It's not the size of the bell, it's how you use it. I'm not sure that even makes sense.
By: Al Penwasser on August 30, 2014

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