History of the belfry and the Bells

St. Daniel with a view of the monastery. Icon, the 17th century

Like the Church of St. Daniel the Stylite built by Holy Prince Daniel of Moscow, the first Danilov Monastery belfry was made of wood. We do not possess any information about its appearance or location. It must have been built at the same time as the monastery church (i.e. about 1282). It could have been a belfry attached to the church or a simple wooden structure next to it – anyway, we have no reason to doubt its existence. Bells or bilos hanging flat panels traditionally made of wood or iron that are struck like gongs) have been used to strike the ‘hours’ of the monastical routine at monasteries and convents since the first days of Christianity in Russia.

An old monastery legend says that Tsar Ivan the Terrible, who built the Cathedral of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in 1561 (Cathedral of the Holy Fathers) and revived the monastery’s life, built a new belfry as well [1]As a matter of fact, by that time, the Church of St. Daniel the Stylite had become a parish church and stood outside the premises of the monastery revived by Ivan the Terrible. This wooden church was formally run by the monastery but was used for the purposes of the parish. In the 17th century, the 400-year-old wooden church was finally dissembled. Also, some sources mention the offering of a bell that Ivan the Terrible donated to the monastery[2]. However, the further fate of the bell was unclear even in the 19th century.

We have no accurate information about the external appearance or interior of the belfry built by Ivan the Terrible. This uncertainty gives rise to doubt, and some researches suppose that before the construction of the present belfry the monastery did not have its own ring of bells and had to use the bells of St. Daniel’s Church outside the monastery wall. However, facts prove the opposite. In 1682, Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich made the monastery a gift of two bells. Both of them bear an inscription, which says: «Great Tsar gave this bell to the House of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumenical Councils…» and not to the «House (church, monastery) of St. Daniel the Stylite». This material evidence clearly points to the whereabouts of the monastery belfry.

Entry on the construction of a new belfry, 1688–89, RGADA (Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts)

In 1688–89, the monastery builds a «new stone belfry». An entry in the monastery accounts book covering that period says: «Building of a new stone belfry, 65 roubles paid to Andrushka Antonov, Ivashka Fyodorov and other Ipatievsky stonemasons from Kostroma, as agreed in writing» [3].

A print by         P. Picard, 1705.
As we can see from a print by P. Picard (1705), the new belfry had a tabernacle structure. The cost of the construction works was paid from the funds donated by the «Boyar, Prince Ivan Petrovich Boryatinsky». He also donated a bell, which was rather big, since it was cast on the monastery premises. Judging from the proportion between the weight of the bells taken from the monastery or left there at the beginning of the 18th century, we can suppose that the bell weighed between 40 and 70 poods (about 640 – 1120kg). The belfry was built as a western attachment to the complex of buildings, which included a two-chapel Church of the Protection of the Mother of God and St. Daniel (Pokrovsko-Danilovskaya Church) with adjoining refectory and vestry chambers. 
Ensemble of Danilov Monastery churches in 1689–1730, reconstruction

The monastery church complex presented in the reconstruction stretched to the south of the Cathedral of the Holy Fathers and dated back to the 1670-s [4]. Later, in 1730, the Cathedral of the Holy Fathers, which had become dilapidated, was dissembled and rebuilt over the one-storeyed building of Pokrovsko-Danilovskaya Church with adjoining refectory and vestry chambers. As a part of this ensemble, the Church of the Holy Fathers has survived till nowadays.

We can suppose that the new belfry received the bells from St. Daniel the Stylite Church after the latter had been closed at about the same time. In this way, the belfry now housed all the monasterys historical bells. Two «Tsarsky» (Tsar-gifted) bells, which weigh 65 (about 1,000kg) and 31 (about 500kg) poods deserve special attention. They were cast in 1682 by a famous Royal casting-master Feodor Matorin and the monastery archives contain their detailed description[5]. One of them (the one that weighs 31 poods) has survived to this day. It is now the fifth biggest bell in the ring. The total weight of the monastery bell ring by the beginning of the 18th century was 292 poods (about 4800kg).

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