The Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli (or Marinelli Pontifical Foundry, Marinelli Bell Foundry) is the successor of a bell foundry already at work in Agnone, Italy in 1040. The bell foundry is considered Italy’s oldest family business and among the three oldest family businesses worldwide.
The Marinelli family first started the bell foundry in 1339 in the Apennine hills of Italy. The village of Agnone, where the foundry is located, “has a tradition of foundries that dates back 10 centuries.” In 1924, the foundry was awarded “the title of pontifical foundry” by The Vatican.
The Roman Catholic Church now accounts for 90 percent of all orders placed for the company.The company is co-owned and operated by brothers Armando and Pasquale Marinelli. The foundry typically produces up to 50 bells a year and currently employs around 12 people.
The foundry produced the last bell to be hung within the bell tower of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The bell is a 600-kilogram (1,300 lb) replica of the 17th-century bell damaged in 1944 during the bombings on Italy during World War II. The newest addition started service on Easter 2004, replacing the missing bell for the first time in 60 years.
In 1923, the foundry made a set of bells for the Mariano Sanctuary in Pompeii. The bell of Monte Cassino was cast for the church of San Benedetto in 1950, which was destroyed during the Battle of Monte Cassino. In 1961, The foundry cast a special bell to commemorate the “100th anniversary of Italy’s founding as a united country.” In 1992, one of their bells commemorated the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. Pope John Paul II was presented the official Jubilee Bell in 2000 that is hung in St. Peters Square. The bells of Pontificia Fonderia Marinelli can also be found in New York City (United Nations Building), Beijing, Jerusalem, South America, and South Korea.
In addition to a bell foundry, it is an artisan foundry that produces bronze portals, bas-reliefs, church artifacts, and bell restorations.The firm’s managers still apply the same lost wax casting technique that the firm’s founders used nearly a thousand years ago. The artisans use wax to transfer the bell’s designs onto a brick “core” slathered with clay, slightly smaller than the bell to be forged. Another layer of clay is applied to form a “false bell”. After this hardens, the wax inside is melted, leaving the imprint of the design on the inside of the false bell. Molten bronze, at a temperature of 1,200 degrees Celsius (2,200 degrees Fahrenheit), is poured into the space to form the bell.