The last of a saga

The last of a saga

The family tradition goes back to 1630, date on which they settled in Caldas de Reis, probably on one of the itinerant routes followed by the bell ringers of yesteryear, coming from the north. Since then Philip White Ocampo is located in O Ameal, Arcos da Condesa (Pontevedra)and the documented history of the saga begins until reaching Jose Enrique Lopez Ocampo, bell ringer and last representative – at least for now – of a trade that is dying out.

As in other itinerant professions, the foundry craftsmen gathered in a village, they set up an oven and made the bells for all the neighboring parishes. And so they moved from one place to another. At the beginning of the 19th century, the family moved the O Ameal workshop to its current location in Badoucos, and it remains there. There are four hundred years of history, and there is practically no town in Galicia that does not bear the signature on the heights of the belfries or towers of Campanas Ocampo.

Famous bells have come out of Arcos, such as those of the church of San Fiz de Anllóns, which would inspire Edward Pondalthose of San Xulián de Bastabales, evoked by Rosalia Castrothose of the Collegiate Church of Vigo or those that rang in the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid on the occasion of the royal wedding of Philip and Letizia.

The manufacturing process remains the same as it was centuries ago, "we use clay, firewood and bronze as raw materials and we start first by making the moulds," explains José Enrique. It is a complicated part because it involves three superimposed clay molds of which the intermediate part is eliminated, making the other two fit between which the molten metal is introduced.

The models vary depending on the hoods because each of these sound works “can be from twenty or one hundred kilos to more than two thousand”says the craftsman. The diameter and thickness of the bronze will determine the type of final sound that the bells will emit, as well as the appropriate proportion between weight and height. An indispensable piece of the entire process is the template or 'boxo rule' that keeps, in its symbols carved on the three sides, the secrets of the trade.

"The weight of each bell varies. It can go from twenty kilos to a hundred or more than two thousand. First, you start by making the clay molds, a complex and precise task”


The knowledge and the way of building the bells, following the tradition, have passed from generation to generation. The Ocampos are the last bell ringers in Spain who make pieces completely by hand. It takes about three months to build a bell, although several are usually done at once. One of the next will be for a parish in Oza-Cesuras.

José Enrique, national master bell ringer, with several awards in the long history of the company, learned as a child, but he does not know if his daughter, who is eight years old, could be the link that maintains the saga. At the moment, he, at forty-five, perpetuates a trade with four hundred years of family history.

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