History of the belfry and the Bells

On 2 July, 1904 the works finally began. The workers knocked down a part of the western monastery wall and started preliminary excavation for the analysis of the ground safety. Unfortunately, it turned out that the ground was unsafe and unsuitable for the construction of a tall building. It was necessary to lay a deeper foundation. Additional work needed an increased amount of expenses that is why it was decided to suspend further building activities and prepare a cheaper design for the belfry to meet the approved budget. While the design was being revised a new abbot was appointed to the monastery. He gave up the idea of building a new belltower in favour of the project, which would provide for the reconstruction or reinforcement of the existing one.
Design of the supporting metal structures for the monastery belltower

Finally, the crucial moment came. In 1906, it was decided to reinforce the structure so as to make it strong enough for super-heavy bells without changing its exterior. One of the suggestions was to attach additional belfries to the historical one. However the idea was rejected because it entailed large expenses. On the other hand it was absolutely clear that the decrepit belfry might fail to sustain the overload after the planned raise of the biggest bell. For the first time in the history of restoration works in Russia it was decided to use an elaborate metal structure, which went through the belfry walls and bore against the corners of Simeon the Stylite Church. The construction supported two bells, one of which weighed 722 and the other 365 poods. In this way, the major part of the load was shifted to the sound bottom part of the building. In doing so, the new metal frame did not change the appearance of the historical building. This unique operation was developed and carried out by mechanic-engineer N.V. Podchinyonov.

A scaffold at the monastery belfry, the works of 1907

As soon as the design was approved on 6 September 1906, the team of restorers got down to work. After the completion of preliminary reinforcement and restoration of the bottom part of the building, i.e. the Holy Gates, the workers assembled the bottom part of the metal structure and used it to hang the 365-pood bell which had previously hung at the bell tier. Then, using the scaffold erected next to the belfry, the workers raised the biggest 722-pood bell to the bell tier and transferred it into the metal structure inside the belfry (to perform this operation, the workers had to make temporary V-shaped cut-outs in the belfry’s arched pillars because the bell’s bottom diameter was bigger than the width of the arch). The operation was completed by hanging the huge bell inside the metal structure. (The picture was taken from the book Design and Assembly of the Metal Structure Used for Hanging Bells on the Moscow Danilov Monastery Old Belltower)[9]. The works were completed in the summer of 1907. The bells were hoisted and hung by the team from P. Finlyandsky’s bell foundry.

The invoice made by Finlyandsky’s bell foundry for the casting of bells

At the beginning of the XX century new bells appeared in the monastery ring. The biggest weighed 365 poods (6 tons) and was cast through the efforts of the same abbot Archimandrite Tikhon in 1904. Evidently, it was ordered in connection with the plans for the construction of the new belfry. Like the «The Biggest» Bell it was cast at Finlyandsky’s Bell Foundry. In the monastery archives there is a letter written by P.N. Finlyandsky, which is addressed to Father Tikhon. In the letter he asked the abbot to provide the foundry with an icon of the Saint Prince Daniel, so that they could cast his relief image on the new bell. The letter is dated 25 January, 1904. This second biggest bell was called «Polyelaion».

The icon on «Polyelaion» Bell
Another batch of bells was ordered by the monastery at the same plant in 1907 before the assembly of the metal structure on the monastery belfry. They weighed from 137 poods to 24 pounds (from 2250 to 10 kg). 10 bells were cast in July 1907. The biggest of them (137 poods) appeared to be the third biggest bell in the ring. However, it was no match for the “Everyday” Bell, which was close to it in weight (125 poods) and major tone. It was called “Lent” Bell and was rung separately to call monks to prayer during Lent. From 1906 to 1907 several other smaller bells were cast for the monastery. Their total weight was 13 poods and 20 pounds (220kg) but their number is unknown. After being hung on the monastery belfry, the bell operating system was adjusted by the foundry workers.
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