Speech on the Consecration of the new bells. Professor Diana L. Eck, Harvard University
What a joy it is to be here on this historic occasion. This is a great day for Harvard University and the Danilov Monastery and for the bells that have linked us together.
One day in the year 1930 when the Danilov monastery was all but closed and its buildings desolate, the historic bells of this monastery fell silent. Luckily they were not destroyed, but were taken from the bell tower and shipped by rail to St. Petersburg and then by ship to Boston. They had been purchased by Charles R. Crane, who had visited Russian more than twenty times and was deeply appreciative of Russian culture. He presented them as a gift to Harvard University. The Danilov bells arrived at Lowell House, one of the colleges of Harvard University, on October 12, 1930 on a great flatbed truck.
Thus began a period of seventy-seven years when we at Harvard University listened to the sound of the bells of the Danilov Monastery. The greatest, of course, was the deep sound of the bell we came to call «Mother Earth,» for her voice seemed as primordial as the earth’s creation. For most of these years, students knew the history of these bells and knew that their original home was here in Russia. They did not, of course, know how to play them properly, but they rang them enthusiastically. For the nine years we have served as House Masters at Lowell House, we have heard them every Sunday, on great festival occasions, and always at the time of Commencement.
The past five years have brought a new dialogue between Harvard and the Monastery on the possibility of returning the bells to their original home. Here I must thank Archimandrite Father Superior Alexey for his initiative, persistence, and patience as we negotiated the return of the bells. And I must thank Hierodeacon Roman for demonstrating to us all the remarkable sound of these bells. In December 2003, Father Superior Alexsey, Hierodeacon Roman, and Marina Belugobova of the Russian Federation visited us at Harvard University to open conversations about these bells. At that time, we said, with one voice:
Both sides acknowledged that the bells are cherished by the students and faculty of Lowell House and play an important part in the life of Harvard University. The bells also have a deep spiritual significance for the monks, priests, and parishioners of the Danilov Monastery in Moscow and the Russian government and its people.
Both sides agreed that the return of the bells was «necessary and timely.» But there were many steps to take to make today a reality. For our part, we needed to study the structure of the bell tower. We needed to agree on replacements. Perhaps we should have English bells? Belgian bells? But no, we at Harvard felt that already our history was entwined with yours. We needed Russian bells. So a year ago, we came to Russia to learn as much as we could about the foundries, now making marvelous Russian bells once again.
And, of course, there was the matter of funding an expensive project –both for Russia and for Harvard. Here, we must offer our heartfelt thanks to the foresight and vision of the Link of Times Foundation, including its founder Viktor Vekselberg and it’s General Director, Vladimir Voronchenko. Without the commitment of the Foundation, this project would not have been impossible.
It has been a miracle to watch the birth of these bells. They are sacred works of art, both in their iconography and in their resonant tones. The bell master of the Vera Foundry, Valery Anisimov, and his skilled artists have worked with the campanological masters of AKIR, Igor Konovalov and Konstantin Michourovski, to bring these bells to life. They are also, to be sure, a work of the Spirit.
Here they are, today, on the grounds of the Danilov Monastery. Before long they will also make the journey from here to Boston, repeating that journey of seventy-seven years ago. May the sound of these new bells always give strength and vision to the students and faculty of Harvard University. And next September, may we all rejoice to hear the historic bells of the Danilov Monastery ring again in this place.
It has been a great privilege and honor to have a small part in seeing this project to completion.