An Italian priest has been ordered to pay more than eighty thousand dollars to a woman living near his church because she claims the bells were rung too loud and too long at “unsocial hours.”
The judgment was handed down by a court in the town of Chiavari after retired university teacher Flora Leuzzi and others claimed the ringing of church bells created a form of noise pollution, the Guardian reports.
Professor Leuzzi lives close to the Carmine church in Lavagna, which is near Genoa. She first voiced complaints about the bell ringing 13 years ago.
The judge ruled that the bells emitted sound louder than average and agreed Leuzzi’s hearing had been marginally impaired.
He awarded about $13,000 for “biological damage” but more than $66,000 for the disruption of the professor’s social life.
Witnesses testified that they had stopped visiting Leuzzi because of the noise.
Under the decision, Father Stefano Queirolo may only ring the bells for Sunday Mass and at Christmas and Easter. The bells may be rung no longer than 20 seconds.
Father Queirolo reportedly said he expected the diocese to appeal the decision, explaining that the belfry had been soundproofed.
“We haven't been ringing the bells for at least four years now," he said, according to the Guardian.
Italy has among the highest density of churches in Europe.