History of the belfry and the Bells

The survived invoices for the 10 bells cast in 1907 reveal another fact. To settle its accounts with the foundry, the monastery gave up to the latter some old, evidently damaged, bells. This is the downside of bell-ringing and sometimes of misuse. The bell can ring for centuries, but the moment comes when it breaks either from wear or from misuse. It’s the reality of life: the past is gradually replaced by the present. Old bells were replaced by the new ones in the famous Rostov Belfry ring and in the Moscow Kremlin bell ensemble. Obviously, at that time, Danilov Monastery also had a dead-load of cracked bells. The total weight of the bells given to Finlyandsky’s Bell Foundry amounted to 141 poods (2,300kg). Yet, one mystery remains unsolved – “Tsarsky” (the Tsar-gifted) Bell, which weighed 65 poods (1066kg) mysteriously disappeared. It had been mentioned in different sources up to 1898. However, it was not found among the bells brought to Harvard in 1930. We can only suppose that it had been damaged and sold to the foundry like other old bells. Finally, the total number of the bells at the bell tier had reached 18 and their total weight had reached 1,500 poods (25 tons).The new 722-pood Big Bell and a number of smaller bells made Danilov bell ensemble complete. Starting from that time, Danilov bells, especially “the Biggest” Bell, could be heard at the Kremlin walls and even in the village of Kolomenskoye, i.e. at a distance of 3 miles from the monastery. The local parishioners and visitors, who came to the monastery, singled out Danilov bells for their high musical merit. Anyone who heard them could appreciate the beautiful sound of “the Biggset” Bell and the stunning chord of the three bigger bells (when the “Biggest” Bell was joined by the 365-pood “Polyelaion” bell and the 125-pood “Everyday” Bell).

Danilov Monastery bell ensemble became quite famous in Moscow. The late Mikhail Makarov, Danilov parishioner, who recently died at the age of 99, used to ring Danilov bells in the 1920es, when he was a young boy. In his autobiographical book «From My Life» he recalled: «The large bells of other zvons drew: „bohm — bohm „, either „bumm — bumm“, or „boom — boom“ either „bem — bem“, or „lyam — lyam“, while the word „zvon“ itself was clearly heard in the voice of “the Biggest” Danilov bell. It was just so obtained: „zvon-on — zvon, zvon-on — zvon, zvon-on — zvon“. The unshielded, clear, beautiful accord of three bells: “the Biggest”, “Polyelaion”, and “Everyday”, was distinguished in the Danilov pealing, being supplemented by the harmonious melody of small bells. This was magnificently!» [10]

K. Saradjef, the sound spectrums of the Danilov bells
K. Saradjef, the sound spectrums of the Danilov bells
Brilliantly hearing bell-ringer, specialist Konstantin Saradjef, who could tell apart each of the 4,000 Moscow big bells, wrote that Danilov bells had a supreme musical value and that they represented an artistically and musically valuable set of bells, which ranked among the most outstanding scientific and artistic phenomena» [11].

After the revolution of the 1917, the cloister was closed as Monastery, although the brethren for a long time further existed as a “group of the believers of the former Danilov Monastery”. They were to suffer long years of severe persecutions and hardships. The Soviet authorities began to cut the time of liturgical bell-ringing and restrict the use of big bells.

Permit to sell the ensemble
«I would like to report that the unit under my command is located next to the f(ormer)/Danilov Monastery», — wrote the Head of the local militia (police) department to the Moscow Soviet of People’s Deputies in July of 1925. «Every day, starting from 9 a.m., a deafening ringing comes from the monastery. It prevents us from talking over the telephone and disrupts the work of the department at large. Proceeding from the above, I’m addressing you with a request to support my appeal to the Moscow Soviet Administrative Department to ban the ringing of bells or, at least, restrict it to 5 minutes at most» [12]. On receiving this report, the Moscow authorities took the following decision: «On weekdays the ringing shall be limited to 5 minutes and shall be performed using a smaller bell; on holidays and patron saint’s days ringing shall be limited to 7 minutes for the big bell and 9 minutes for pealing» [13].

In March 1924, Mosfinotdel (the Financial Department of Moscow) received a document saying that «the Administrative Department of Mossovet had no objections to selling the bells from St. Daniel’s Monastery placed in custody to a group of believers…» [14].

Charles Crane

So the fate of St. Daniel’s bells was decided. A representative of «Antiquariat» Bureau of the People’s Commissariat of Trade and Thomas Wittemore, an American national made a transaction immediately after St. Daniel’s Monastery was closed in 1930. It was an American industrialist Charles Crane, who had ordered the expensive purchase. He had visited Russia many times, was a connoisseur of the Russian culture, and wanted to save this the famous bells ensemble harmless. Most of them had been severely damaged or even molten by that time. When the bells arrived in Harvard, he wrote to his son John, «The bells are beautiful; they are fairly arranged and perfectly made…, this small collection can be the last and almost the only surviving fragment of the wonderful Russian culture» [15]. An unproved legend says that His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow Tikhon asked Charles Crane to buy and save one of the full historic ensembles of the Russian bells from meltdown. His Holiness had been holding a bishop’s cathedra in the USA for a long time, and personally knew Charles Crane. This fact could explain a six-year interval between the date of the permit to purchase the bells and the date of actual transaction (His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon died on April 7, 1925) [16].

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