The traditional European church bell (see cutaway drawing) used in Christian churches worldwide consists of a cup-shaped metal resonator with a pivoted clapper hanging inside which strikes the sides when the bell is swung. It is hung within a steeple or belltower of a church or religious building, so the sound can reach a wide area. Such bells are either fixed in position ("hung dead") or hung from a pivoted beam (the "headstock") so they can swing to and fro. A rope hangs from a lever or wheel attached to the headstock, and when the bell ringer pulls on the rope the bell swings back and forth and the clapper hits the inside, sounding the bell. Bells that are hung dead are normally sounded by hitting the sound bow with a hammer or occasionally by a rope which pulls the internal clapper against the bell.
A church may have a single bell, or a collection of bells which are tuned to a common scale. They may be stationary and chimed, rung randomly by swinging through a small arc, or swung through a full circle to enable the high degree of control of English change ringing.
Before modern communications, church bells were a common way to call the community together for all purposes, both sacred and secular.
In Christianity, some Anglican, Catholic, and Lutheran churches ring their church bells from belltowers three times a day, at 6:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., summoning the Christian faithful to recite the Lord’s Prayer, or the Angelus, a prayer recited in honour of the Incarnation of God.
The injunction to pray the Lord's prayer thrice daily was given in Didache 8, 2 f., which, in turn, was influenced by the Jewish practice of praying thrice daily found in the Old Testament, specifically in Psalm 55:17, which suggests "evening and morning and at noon," and Daniel 6:10, in which Daniel prays thrice a day. As such, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Early Church prayed the Lord's Prayer thrice a day, supplanting the former Amidah predominant in the Hebrew tradition. In the Book of Common Prayer, the Daily Office, which is central to Anglican spirituality, also includes the Lord's Prayer, along with "a selection from the Psalter, readings from the Holy Scriptures, one or more canticles."