St. Daniel’s bells

St. Daniel’s Monastery ensemble of bells consists of 18 bells. It took its present shape over a long period of over 200 years. St. Daniel’s ringing was lead by three major bells.

The biggest bell — Bolshoy (called the Mother Earth in Harvard) — weighs 722 poods (about 12 tons). It was recast from an old 300-pood bell and additional top-quality copper by the bell master Ksenophont Verevkin at N.D. Finlyandsky Works in Moscow in 1890. The bell was made due to the zeal of «Father Archimandrite Iona and the donation of merchant’s wife Anastasia Sergeevna Zakharova for the repose of her late lamented husband Ioann, a servant of God». The bell is remarkable for its «special diction» — a combination of bright and high overtones with velvety low ones, which is very rare in bells of such weight.

The two other leading bells are the Polieleiny Bell, which weighs 365 poods (about 6 tons), and the Weekday Bell, which weighs 131 poods (about 2.2 tons) or 125 poods according to other sources. The Polieleiny Bell was cast in 1904 and the Weekday Bell dates back to 1790.

The three major bells are complemented by a row of ten smaller (podzvonnye) bells (i.e. small bells controlled with the left hand), which weigh from 31 poods (about 500kg) to 1.75 poods (30kg). The first bell in this row (the one, which weighs 31 poods) is the oldest bell in the whole ring. It was cast in 1682 and is a contribution of the Tsar Theodore Alekseevich. The smaller bells form a chromatic order of tones, which permits to play canticles, mostly of the minor mode.

Four other small (zazvonnye) bells (i.e. trill bells controlled with the right hand) weigh 16, 13, 12 and 10kg respectively. The chime of the small podzvonnye and zazvonnye bells harmonically combines with the sound quality of the Big Bell.

In this way, we can see that 17 big and small bells were engaged in the festive change ringing («trezvon»). The remaining Lent Bell, which weighs 137 poods (about 2.3 tons), was cast in 1907.

Most of St. Daniel’s bells come from the same foundry – they were cast at N.D. Finlyandsky Works in Moscow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, hence the harmo-nious sound of the whole ring. The bell ensemble incarnates the many-century experience of bell-founding inherited by the last bell masters of the pre-revolutionary Russia.

Even at the beginning of the 20th century, connoisseurs and ordinary church-goers distinguished the beauty of St. Daniel’s ring among other Moscow rings. One of them was Mikhail Makarov, St. Daniel’s parishioner, who recently died at the age of 99. He used to ring the monastery bells when he was a young boy, and this is what he wrote in his book «From Life»: “The large bells of other ensembles 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 Large Danilov bell. It was just so obtained: „zvon-on — zvon, zvon-on — zvon, zvon-on — zvon“. The unshielded, clear, beautiful accord of three bells: Large, Polielei, and Everyday, was distinguished in the Danilov pealing, being supplemented by the harmonious melody of small bells. This was magnificently!”

Another witness is a professional bell-ringer Konstantin Saradzhev, whose absolute hearing permitted him to recognize the sound of each of the 4,000 Moscow bells and placed him among the musical geniuses of his time. He wrote that St. Daniel’s Bells “are of great Musical Value; they represent an Artistic and Musical set of bells, which occupies one of the highest positions in science, as well as in art». That is the opinion, which reflects the state of things at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, St. Daniel’s “ring” is one of the few preserved heavy-weight pre-revolutionary world bell ensembles. Its significance for the Russian culture, science and history, both secular and ecclesiastical is extremely high.

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