LONDON — Big Ben rang out 12 times at noon Monday before halting its regularly scheduled bonging for four years to allow for major renovations at the Houses of Parliament.

The 13-ton bell will still sound for special occasions such as New Year’s Eve, but parliamentary officials say the bonging must be muted while the repair work is being carried out. The Elizabeth Tower, the official name of the tower that many call Big Ben, is already partially covered in scaffolding.

Few question that the Palace of Westminster, the Gothic castle on the northern banks of the River Thames that is home to Britain’s Parliament, is in dire need of renovations. But many have asked why it will take so long to carry out.

Until noon Monday, Big Ben bonged every hour, while chimes – now also silent – rang out every 15 minutes. At the appointed hour, hundreds gathered in Parliament Square to hear the final ringing of the regular bongs, many with smartphones held aloft. A round of polite applause rippled through the crowd once the last bong had faded away.

“It was very emotional,” said Jess Fulcher, 35, a Londoner who said she can hear the bongs from her home about three miles away. “The atmosphere is sad, but a happy sad,” she said, noting the urgency of the repairs for the tower.

“At least it’s still standing,” she said.

Last week’s announcement that Big Ben will be silenced for four long years sparked a backlash from some politicians and sections of the British media.

“It can’t be right,” said Prime Minister Theresa May, who urged a review of the decision.

David Davis, Britain’s Brexit secretary, said it was “mad.”

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