A Tale of Two Bells

How the Liberty Bell’s Sister came to find its way to Villanova’s campus

By Colleen Donnelly

On July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell wasn’t the only bell to mark the proclamation of the US Declaration of Independence. Its lesser-known twin, the Sister Bell, also rang that day — more than 70 years before finding its new home on Villanova’s campus. Lancaster Avenue wasn’t the bell’s first stop. In 1830, it moved from Independence Hall to St. Augustine’s Church in downtown Philadelphia, where it hung in the steeple until the church burned to the ground in 1844.

Recast into a smaller replica from a mix of new materials and pieces retrieved from the fire, the Sister Bell moved to campus in 1847. Hung in a locust tree, it spent the next 70 years calling Villanova students to classes, meals and chapel exercises. As director of Falvey Library from 1962 to 1980, the Rev. Louis A. Rongione, OSA, ’36 CLAS, (see photo) brought renewed interest to this national treasure, writing a treatise calledThe Liberty Bell’s Sister about its history and significance.

No longer on active duty, this piece of American history now sits on display in the monastery’s Augustinian Heritage Room, where it has attracted visitors from across the globe.

Photo: Villanova University Archives


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