"Please return the bell to Saint John’s church”

A bell that weighs 25 kilos has been stolen from Saint John’s Church in the West Flemish town of Ieper. The bronze bell dates from 1728. The theft was first noticed during morning Mass on All Saints’ Day.   

The bell at Saint John’s Church Ieper hung in the belfry of the church for many years. In 2011 it was taken down and put on display in a wooden frame at the church. In all probability the theft occurred on 31 October. The bell has a rich and interesting history. The Chairwoman of the board of administrators of the church Jenny Vandenbulke wrote a book about the 800 year history of Saint John’s Church and is an expert on the history surrounding the bell. She told VRT Radio 2 West Flanders that the bell was made in 1728 for a chapel in the hamlet of Saint-Yvon between Ploegsteert and Warneton (Hainaut). The chapel was destroyed after the French Revolution. The bell turned up again during World War I. It was among the contents of a crate given by a Canadian soldier to someone in the UK capital London.

The Canadian spent his leave with the person to whom he had entrusted the package containing the bell. The soldier died on the front. When the Londoner opened the package he found the bell. It was returned to Belgium via the Belgian Embassy. The Embassy sent the bell to Saint-John’s Church as someone there had mistakenly read “Saint-Jean” rather than “Saint-Yvon” on the bell.     

During the Second World War the Germans had the bell hung in the belfry due to its great historical value.  

Now the bell has been stolen. On VRT Radio 2 West Flanders Jenny Vandenbulcke called on the thief to return the bell and to certainly not have it melted down.