Historical Bells


Holy Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius bells: Big, Godunov, Karnoukhy, Swan and Perespor — Kievskaya Lavra bells: Uspensky and Balyk — Historical bells of the Novo-Dyevitchi Convent. Recasting of bells into guns — Demidov’s Big Bell of Tobolsk — Amsterdam-cast bell — Exiled bell of Uglich and its history — Unique bells of St. Sofia Cathedral — Old Novgorod bells and the assembly Siege Bell of Pskov — Prince Vorotynsky’s Murom Bell — Kazi-Kermensky Bell in the town of Poltava — Swedish bells in Finland — Remarkable bells of St. Petersburg

The bell tower of the Holy Trinity Lavra (Monastery) of St. Sergius near Moscow ranks among the best with regard to the bell size. This bell tower counts 34 bells, including the clock bells. The Big Bell weighs 4,000 poods (67,200kg). It was recast in 1746 by the personal order of Empress Elisaveta Petrovna at the expense of the monastery from the old broken 3319-pood (55,759kg) Lavra bell. The second bell, Godunov, was named after the then Tsar Boris Feodorovich Godunov, who offered it to the Lavra. It weighed 1850 poods (31,080kg). The third bell, Karnoukhy, which was cast in 1684 by the monastery, weighs 1275 poods (21,420kg). The fourth bell is called Swan. It weighs 625 poods (10,500kg). The bell was offered to the monastery by konyushi boyar Boris Feodorovich Godunov. The fifth bell Perespor was cast in 1780. It weighs 315 poods and 28 pounds (5,306kg).

Kievskaya Lavra cannot boast of either very big or very old bells. Its biggest bell is Uspensky, which weighs 1,000 poods (16,800kg); and its oldest bell is Balyk, which was cast in 1719. The total number of the bells is 10.

The bells of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow are also remarkable with regard to the size. This ring includes 14 bells, including the small ones. They were all cast at the foundry of the Moscow merchant N. D. Finlyandsky. Their total weight is 4008 poods and 39 pounds (67,354kg) and they cost 88,184 roubles. The biggest bell, which was named Torzhestvenny (Solemn), weighs 1654 poods and 24 pounds (27,799kg).

The Moscow Novo-Dyevitchy Convent has several historical bells. The oldest of them, Maly Zazvonny Bell was cast in 1551 in the reign of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich and Archbishop Makary. The second bell was cast on 3 May, 1628 and has the following inscription: «This bell was given to the house of the Most Pure Mother of God of Smolensk, Novo-Dyevitchy Convent, by Prince Aleksey Ivanovich Vorotynsky in the blessed memory of Princess Maria, wife of Prince Ivan Mikhailovich Vorotynsky, in memory of Princess Maria Petrovna, my mother, and in memory of both my parents».

According to the inscription on the third bell, it was cast «In the year 7138 (1630), on the 13th day of April in the 17th year of the reign of the Grand Duke Mikhail Fyodorovich, Tsar and Autocrat of all Russia and the Blessed Tsarevich and Grand Duke Aleksey Mikhailovich and the Holy Patriarch Filaret Nikitich of Moscow and all Russia, this bell was given by the mother of the Tsar and Grand Duke of all Russia, her Majesty Eldress Marfa Ivanovna, to the house of the Most Pure Mother of God , Novo-Dyevitchy Convent, for the salvation of her soul, so that the Mother Superior and the nuns enter my soul in the Synodycon and mention me in their daily prayers».

The fourth bell is of a foreign origin. It has the following inscription in Latin: «Me fecit, Daventriae, a 1673. Henryck. Thor. Horst. Amor vincit omnia», i.e. «I was made in Deventer in 1673 by Henryck Thor Horst. Love conquers all». On the outside, the bell has an image of a double-headed eagle. On the eagle’s breast there is a seal with a riderless horse, which resembles a unicorn.

The inscription on the fifth bell goes as follows: «According to His Purpose, this bell was offered by 500 streltsy (musketeers) under the command of Temir Zasetsky to the Great Miracle Worker Nikolay on the hills across the Moskva River».

The sixth bell bears the inscription of the following nature: «This bell was cast in Moscow, for the house of the Most Pure Mother of God Hodigitria of the miracle-working icon of Smolensk, Novo-Dyevitchy Convent, situated outside the suburb, by the grace of God and by the order of the Blessed Tsar and Grand Duke Aleksey Mikhailovich in the year 7159 (1651), on the 1st day of September, on the donators’ money. Master Baranov. The weight of this bell is 200 poods».

The seventh bell is no less interesting. The inscription on the bell says: «In the year 7192 (1684) on the 3rd day of August, this bell was cast in the praise, to the glory and in honour of God, praised in Trinity, and in honour of the Holy Mother of God and of all the saints for the house of the Most Pure Mother of God’s Hodigitria of Smolensk Icon miraculous appearance, by the order of our most pious Tsars and Grand Dukes Ioann Alekseevich and Pyotr Alekseevich Autocrats of all Russias, with the participation and approval of their Royal sister, the Blessed Tsarevna and Grand Duchess Sofia Alekseevna of all Russias, since she has been the builder of this Holy House for years and now has a special zeal for its supervision and development, as everybody can confirm. The weight of this bell is 540 poods. The bell was cast by casting-master Feodor Matorin».

The eights bell has almost the same title and inscription as the seventh. They differ only in that the eights bell was cast by the casting-master Mikhail Lodygin on 1 December 1688.

The fate of many Moscow bells was decided during the wars with Sweden fought by Peter the Great. Before his reign it was common belief that there was a multitude of churches in Moscow. Contemporaries said that there were over two thousand churches — at least half of them were parish churches and each had its own set of bells. In 1700, after a defeat at the fortress of Narva, one of Peter’s foreign counsellors drew his attention to the unbelievable amount of bells in Moscow and in other cities. Peter reacted by ordering to cast different kinds of garrison and field guns from those bells, which would be found redundant.

In the winter of the same year the «redundant» bells were recast into 100 big cannons, 143 field guns, 42 mortar guns and 13 howitzers. Today, the total number of bells in Moscow alone by far exceeds three thousands, and it is really difficult to calculate the number of bells in Russia. They are quite numerous even in the remote Siberia. The biggest Siberian bell can be found in Tobolsk Cathedral.

It weighs 1011 poods and 22 pounds (16,996kg). The inscription on the bell says that it was cast in 1738 at Tagilsk Works under the supervision of the Tagil Metropolitan Antony; and at the expense of the local nobleman Akinf Nikitich Demidov. The bell has a wonderful sound and a pleasant aspect. Apart from Tagilsk, the bells were also cast in Tumen orYeniseisk. They were mostly characterised by a coarse finish, small size and by not particularly good sound.

For the most part, the bells used in Siberia have been imported into this territory; some of the bells are of a foreign origin. Thus, Bogoroditskaya Church in Tobolsk has a bell that was ordered from Holland. The inscription on the bell says: «me fecit Jan Albertde Grave Amstelodamu Anno Domini 1719», i.e. «I was cast in Amsterdam by Jan Albert de Grave, in the year of 1719 AD»).

From the historical point of view, the most remarkable of the bells, which were imported to Siberia, is Karnoukhy Bell from Uglich. The bell was used to call people to reveal the terrible crime of killing Tsarevich Dmitry. Boris Godunov exiled the accusers to Pelym. The accusing bell was also executed by cutting off its ear (bearing) and exiling it to Tobolsk in 1595. This undying exile was first hung on Spasskaya Church Bell Tower.

Then, it was removed to the Cathedral belfry until, finally, in 1837, by the order of Archbishop Anthony of Tobolsk the bell was taken down from the belfry and placed near the hierarch’s residence on the Cross Church premises under a small wooden canopy. The last change of the bell’s residence was done in order to make the bell accessible for the crown prince, who visited Tobolsk in 1837, should the latter express a wish to see this historical monument. Currently the Bell of Uglich calls people to church services, but when it resided on the Cathedral belfry it was used to beat the hours and toll the alarm in case of a fire. The bell weighed 19 poods and 20 pounds (329kg).

It has a cut ear (bearing). As we have already said, the bell had been subjected to execution by the order of Boris Godunov. The bell has a harsh and loud voice; the inscription, which runs around the bell’s lip, is cut and not cast. It says: «This bell, which rang the alarm during the murder of the Blessed Tsarevich Dmitri in 1593 was sent from the town of Uglich to Siberia to serve the term of exile in the Church of the All-Merciful Spas on the Trading Place, and then was used to beat the hours on St. Sofia Cathedral belfry». The style of the inscription and the form of the letters show that it was made quite recently.

In the 1840-s «The Yaroslavl Province Bulletin» published an article, which said that according to a popular rumour, the bell in Tobolsk was not a real Bell of Uglich but its modern replica. Allegedly, the authentic bell had been accidentally broken and then recast. As for the bell’s ear, it was cut off to make it look like the original. However, this rumour does not give sufficient grounds for definite conclusions. When I visited Tobolsk in 1882, I saw the bell.

Its surface looks definitely very old — even the brass had turned grey with age — whereas the inscription looks quite new. Even a most thorough examination will not prove that the bell is a recent recast and not the original bell of Uglich. Besides, the firm conviction of the local residents, who have been passing the story of the bell from generation to generation for many centuries, leaves no ground for any reservations with regard to its authenticity. Tobolsk chronicles also have enough evidence to prove that this is the very bell, with the which on the fatal day of 15 May, 1591, in the hour of the after-lunch nap, the cathedral watchman Maxim Kuznetsov and the widowed priest Fedot, nicknamed Ogurets (Cucumber) roused the peaceful Uglich, and that the rumour of its cracking and recast spread by «The Yaroslavl Province Bulletin» deserves no credit and cannot undermine the authenticity of the bell.

In December 1849, the citizens of Uglich decided to return the bell from exile; a group of 40 citizens addressed the Minister of Internal Affairs, Count Perovsky with an appeal to obtain the imperial permission for the return of the bell from Tobolsk at their expense. When the minister reported the above petition to the Emperor, the latter ordered: «to grant the request after making sure of the existence of the bell in Tobolsk, and discussing the matter with Chief Procurator».

The minister got in touch with the chief-procurator and on the latter’s suggestion the Synod addressed a request to Archbishop Georgy of Tobolsk. From the Archbishop’s answer it followed that there was a bell with a cutoff ear on the premises of the Cross of the Holy Spirit Church in Tobolsk and that the said bell was believed to be exiled. The Archbishop also informed the minister that the book under the title «Short Description of Siberian Voevodes» (Old-Russian Generals) written in Tobolsk mentioned the fact that in 1593, the bell with a cut-off ear, which had rung in Uglich at the moment of the murder of the Blessed Tsarevich Dmitry, was sent to Tobolsk as an exile.

On getting this information, the Synod ordered that the Yaroslavl Consistory «should collect the most reliable information to find out whether the eparchial authorities or Uglich clergy knew anything definite about the bell, which the citizens of Uglich ask to return from Tobolsk». On receiving this order, the consistory with the approval of the then Archbishop Evgeny of Yaroslavl and Rostov, issued an order on 25 June 1850, in which it gave respective instructions to Uglich clerical department. The local officials were ordered to make the necessary research in the departmental archive, but since the archive dated back only to 1740, it could not provide any relevant supporting documents referring to the bell.

No documentary evidence was found in the local churches. However, some local clergymen cited a local legend, which confirmed that the Alarm Bell of Uglich had been exiled to Tobolsk and mentions of this event in the Ancient Russia’s Bibliofica by Novikov, History of the Russian State by Karamzin and Relics of the Moscow Antiquities by Snegirev. Archbishop Evgeny reported all the information to the Synod and added that the eparch authorities «did not know anything definite about the said bell».

The Synod examined the information about the bell presented by the Uglich clergy and reported by the Archbishop found them unsatisfactory and on 11 May, 1851, wrote a conclusion, in which declared that «the information obtained in the course of the investigation does not confirm the fact that the bell in Tobolsk is the same bell, which announced in Uglich about the murder of Tsarevich Dimitry, and that the confidence of the Uglich citizens with regard to the bell’s origin must have been already undermined by the articled published in „The Yaroslavl Province Bulletin“ No5 of 1850. That conclusion rendered the appeal for the return of the bell impossible. In 1888, the Uglich citizens raised the problem again and sent their representative to St. Petersburg to promote their request for the return of the bell from Tobolsk. But as far as I know, the attempt failed.

On the belfry of St. Sofia Cathedral in Novgorod there are several big historical bells. The biggest of them was cast in 1660 by St. Sofia’s in-house casting master Ermolay Vasiliev in the reign of Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich.

Vsednevny Bell was also cast in Novgorod in 1677 at the expense of Novgorod Archbishop’s House in the reign of Tsar Feodor Alekseevich. It weighed 300 poods (5,040kg) and was cast by two brothers: Vasily and Jacob, sons of Leont.

There are two other historically interesting small bells, which were funded from the donations of Novgorod citizens and date back to 1566. They were cast in the reign of Tsar and Grand Duke Ioann Vasilievich at the foundry of Voznesenie Gospodne (Ascension of Christ) Church in Prusskaya Street (which has not survived to our day). Another small bell was cast in 1637 and offered to Tihvinsky Vvedensky Convent of the Presentation of the Mother of God by Ksenia Feodorova, the wife of a visitor Ivan Yudin, for the remembrance of her son Grigory and her parents.

In Novgorod, there are quite a few ancient bells bearing Russian and foreign inscriptions. Thus, in Klopsky Monastery there are two XIV-century bells. One of them weighs 15 and the other — 9 poods (252 and 151kg respectively). Both bells have the same inscription: «This bell was cast in the year 7039 for the Monastery of the Life-Giving Trinity and St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker for the day of the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God and St. Michael, in the reign of the Blessed Vasily Ivanovich, Grand Duke of all Russia in the time of Vladiko Makary, Archbishop of Novgorod the Great and Pskov and hegumen Iev».

Vsednevny Bell in Khutynsky Monastery has an inscription around the crown and the bottom edge. The inscription starts: «By the Grace of God Tsar and Monarch of all Rus’ and of its Vladimirsky, Moskovsky, Novgorodsky, Pskovsky, Smolensky, Tverskoy, Yugorsky, Permsky, Vyatsky, Bolgarsky, etcetera, etcetera realms, blessed and Christ-loving Grand-Duke Vasily Ivanovich» etc. Although this inscription appears to be rather fragmentary, it makes it clear that the bell was made in the last year of Vasily III of Russia reign.

The inscription on one of the bells in Znamensky Cathedral says that it was cast in 1554 for this particular church by the order and will of the Holy Pimen and of all the Orthodox Christians of Novgorod the Great by casting master Ivan «so as our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Mother of God should deliver us, Orthodox Christians (sic), from the deadly pestilence and wasteful death».

Uspenskaya (Assumption) Church of the closed Kolmov Monastery has two bells cast in the reign of Ioann IV (the Terrible).

The Convent of the Holy Spirit has three bells, which date back to the XVI century. One of them bears an interesting inscription, from which we get to know that «it was offered to the Convent of the Descent of the Holy Spirit and Love-Giving Trinity in 1589 by konyushy (equerry) boyar Boris Fyodorovich Godunov».

The inscriptions on the Khutynsky Monastery bells, which date back to the end of the XVII century, also deserve interest.

Spaso-Nereditskaya Church has a bell, which says that it was cast in the reign of tsar Feodor for Spaso-Neredetsky Monastery: «Feodosey offered this bell, so that it could be rung in memory of his parents and of himself. The bell was cast by the casting master Timofey of Novgorod». A small metal kandia in Sofia Cathedral vestry can be also referred to the above described XVI century bells. It is made in the form of a small bowl. The inscription around its bottom rim says: «In the year 7079 (1541) this kandia was offered to the House of St. Nicholas on Borovno by starets (elderly monk) Andrey».

The kandia has a small iron clapper which was used to strike it during the reading of the New Testament on the first day of Easter. The written rules of Sofia Cathedral for the Holy Ester, which date back to the XVII century [17]. demand that: «…at each dismissal of the New Testament text made by the proto-deacon, the coliphia dish, the kandia and the herald bell shall be given one sole stroke». In the State Register of Russian antiquities «kandia» is mentioned under № 76 in Section I, where it was described as a chalice struck by the abbots during the repast to announce a new dish. There is one «kandia», known under the name of «Yasak» in the town of Rostov,Yaroslavl Province.

Almost all churches in Novgorod have XVII century bells with inscriptions in Old Russian and sometimes in Polish, Latin or German. Thus, one of the bells in Boris and Gleb Church has the following Latin inscription: «Gloria in Exselsis Deo Anno 1636» (Glory to God in the highest, 1636).

In Voskresenskaya (Resurrection) Church on Myachin, there are two bells, which bear similar Latin inscriptions cast on their crowns: «М.Kordt Kleiman me fecit» (I was made by M. Kordt Kleiman). Each of the bells also has a Russian inscription cut around the bottom edge. It runs as follows: «In the year 7155 (1647) on the 1st day of March, in the reign of the blessed Ts. and Gr. Duke Aleks.Mikh. Aut. of all R., these three bells of Novgorod the Great were given to the Church of the All-Merciful Vernical Image of the Saviour at Novinskiye gate… to praise God and after their death to prey for the their souls» rest until God blesses this saint Church to stand for the faith of the Christians, accepted on the 1st day of May in 1177 (1669).

Klopsky Monastery has a 50 pood (840kg) bell, which was cast in Germany. The cast Gothic description, which runs round its crown, says: «Kleiman aus Lubeck hat mie gegosen, aus dem feur ain ich geflossen anno 1647», i.e. «Kleiman from Lubeck made me, I was cast from fire at one go in the year 1647». There is one more inscription under the described one. It was cut seven years later. It reads: «In the year 7162 (1653), in the reign of Tsar and G. Duke Aleksey Mikhailovich, this 50-pood bell was given to Corky Monastery of the Life-Giving Trinity and Michael the Miracle-Worker by the nobleman Ivan Lufkin Lonezhskoy». In Georgievskaya Church of Novgorod, there is a small bell with the following Latin inscription: «Soli Deo, me fecit Arnstelodami 1671» («To God only I was made by Assilius Koster in Arnstelodami in 1671». In Nikitskaya Church, there are two bells which bear Latin inscriptions. One of them reads: «1643 Gloria in Exselsis Deo» (Glory to God in the highrst), and the other: «Anno Domiani 1673 Al».

In Pripisnaya Feodorovskaya Church on the Trading Side there is a bell with a Latin inscription on the crown next to the bearings: the inscription is made in Gothic German letters and contains four words and the year of the cast — 1680. Derevyanitsky Monastery has a 5-pood (84kg) foreign bell it is decorated with a cast image of Apostle Peter sitting on a throne holding a key. Above his head there are three Latin letters: S.P.T. There is another inscription above the first one, but unfortunately it can hardly be seen at all.

There are many ancient bells in Pskov as well but, for the most part they are just plane bells without any inscriptions and look very much the same. In this they are like the churches of this ancient town. The belfry of Pskov Cathedral houses twenty-two bells. The biggest of them weighs 600 poods (10,080kg) and has 3.5 arshins (2.485m) in diameter.

The bell in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, prime Apostles (on the Battle-Field), which was founded in 1373, was believed to be one of the most ancient in Pskov. In 1804, it fell down and destroyed the Chapel of the Holy Sign of the same church.

The Church of Vasily the Great (on a Hill), whose foundation was laid in 1413, had the so-called ancient «siege» bell. Its voice informed the inhabitants about the approaching enemy.

Like Novgorod, Pskov used to have its own «Vechevoy» (Assembly) bell. Last time it was rung on the early morning of 13 January, 1510. When Pskov was submitted by the Moscow Tsar, this bell was hauled down from the Holy Trinity Church and taken to Snegorskoye Podvorie (town house of a monastery), where it was locked in the basement of John the Theologian Church, to the great sorrow of Pskov inhabitants, who wept for their olden times and lost freedom.

On 26 January, 1510, Prince Mikhail Danilovich Shchenyatov sent the bell to Moscow together with three hundred Pskov families. When the Prince was leaving Pskov he took another bell loved by Pskovityans, Korsunsky, which was replaced by a big bell sent by the Prince to Pskov from Moscow in 1518.

In Murom District of Vladimir Province there is a village called Moshka. In the old times it was the patrimonial estate of the Princes Vorotynskiye. The village church belfry has a bell, which bears an inscription that it was offered to the church by Prince Aleksey Ivanovich Vorotynsky in 1546. The bell was broken a long time ago, however people carefully preserve it a very precious relic. At Easter the old men of the village rise to the belfry to ring the bell. For some reason, the local residents believe the bell to be sacred.

Another remarkable bell can be seen on the premises of Poltava cathedral church. The bell has several inscriptions. The main inscription reads: «In the year one thousand six hundred ninety five, in the memory of the glorious Kazi-Kermen taken from the Christians», «For the reign of Russian Tsars Peter and Ioann», «For Mazepa’s hetmanate, granted by the Grace of God», «This bell is made for the Glory of God», «For the Church of Uspenie in the town of Poltava», «From the censers captured in Kazi-Kermen», «With the addition of three materials to give it a good sound», «From Poltava Army of his Worship», «Pavel Semyonovich, Ruler of the Ukraine».

Below this inscription there is a short addition: «Made by Afanasy Petrovich». The inscription below the bell bearings, which goes around its crown, says: «In the year 1695, on the 10th day of November». To the right of the inscription there is a seven-pointed cross in an aureole; next to the cross, is Herzikov?s coat-of-arms, which represents a heart (Herz) on a shield with a pour-pointed equilateral cross (the so-called Greek cross) crowned with ostrich feathers and an arm holding a spear pointing to the left; next to the coat-of-arms, is the image of the Holy Mother of God, who is standing with the Eternal Divine Child in her right arm, with cherubs at her head and two angels at her feet.

In the booklet written by Buchnevich about Kazi-Kermen Bell he wrongly assumed that the image represented the Assumption (sic!) of the Holy Mother of God. In doing so, he omitted the most important detail — the rows of vertical letters on both sides of the coat-of-arms: the Russian letters «И. П. В. И. П.» on the left and «Ц. В. 3. П. С.» on the right, which mean: «Их Пресветлых Царских Величеств Войск Запорожских — Their Most High Magesties’ Zaporozhie Armies…« etc. This unique relic of Russian history will be soon destroyed following the order of Poltava Assumption Cathedral head Priest. This August it was brought to Finlyandsky’s Works in Moscow, where it will be used as scrap metal for the casting of a new bell. The Moscow Historical Museum made an imprint of the inscriptions and plaster copies of the images.

Is this unique bell really doomed to perish’ On 5 June, 1890, a tsar silver bell for Uspensky Cathedral was cast at P.P.?

Ryzhov’s Bell Foundry in Kharkov. It will be hung in a special iron bell-stand on the cathedral belfry. The bell will be tolled daily at the time of the imperial train accident at Borok Station. The bell weighs 17 poods (303 kg). It is made of pure silver with insignificant copper and tin additions required for the cast. This memorial bell was made on the initiative of Kharkov archbishop Amvrosy and was funded from the donations collected by the clergy and parishioners of Kharkov Eparchy.

The bell is about a meter high, with the monograms of the Emperor’s family on the front. Below the monograms are five medallions bearing the inscriptions made in ornamental Slavonic script: Nikolay, Ksenia, Georgy, Olga and Mikhail. The inscription on the other side of the bell tells about the bell’s offerers and manufacturers. The inscription around the bell’s lip tells about the event in memory of which the bell was cast.

In the North of Russia, and especially in Finland, bells in orthodox churches mostly have a foreign origin. Thus, the bell of Keksgolm Cathedral was cast in Stockholm and bears the following inscription: «Anno 1649 Gloria in excelsis Deo. Duxett Gottes Holf. m Kurken Pudensen me fecit Stocholmen. Qvis contra nos, si Deus pro nobis» (In the year 1649 for the Glory of God Duxett Gottes Holf. m Kurken Pudensen cast me in Stockholm. If God is with us who is against us). Peter and Paul Church in Serdobolsk has a similar bell with the inscription: «Soli Deo Gloria, anno 1680. Gloriain excelsis; me funderat Holmiae» (In the year 1680 for the Glory of God I was made in Stockholm).

In the village of Rozhdestvenno, the former patrimonial estate of Tsarevich Aleksey Petrovich, at the distance of 72 versts (115km) from Petersburg, there are two historical bells. The first bell is a gift of Tsar Fedor Ioannovich to Antoniev monastery in Novgorod. It was taken from the monastery in 1713. The second bell has a foreign origin. The inscription on the bell says: «Praising God Laudo Deum, populum solo. En ego camрапа nungam denuncio vana. Congrego devum (?) Anno dom 1619 iuni losephi Henrici Ledio fusa in Limingo» (The bell was cast in 1619 in Limingo, Finland).

The biggest bell in Petersburg can be found in St. Isaak’s Cathedral belfry. It weighs 1,860 poods and 23 pounds (31,359.5kg) excluding the clapper, which alone weighs (49 poods and 29 pounds (838kg). The belfry has 11 bells to the total weight of 4,349 poods and 14 pounds (73,070kg). The bells cost 62,029 roubles and 89 ¼ kopeks. They were all cast in Petersburg by a Val day casting-master Ivan Macaroon Stukolkin.

Peter and Paul’s Cathedral has fourteen bells. The biggest of them weighs 209 poods (3,511kg). However, this cathedral is remarkable for its clock bells (chimes). They represent an ensemble of 38 bells of different size. Each of them is decorated with a Dutch inscription. All the bells weigh 16,506.5 pounds, while the clappers weigh 1,843 pounds.

Four of Kazan Cathedral bells are also quite remarkable. They were brought from the Church of Nativity of the Holy Mother of God. The first «festive» bell was cast in 1796 by the casting-master Antip Dmitriev. It weighs 264 poods and 13 pounds (4,441.7kg). The second bell is a «polyelaion» bell. It was cast in 1762 in Petersburg by an alderman Konstantin Sizov. The bell weighs 129 poods and 25 pounds (2,181.7kg). The third bell was intended for «everyday» purposes. It was cast on 9 February, 1762 by the same casting-master. It weighs 61 pood and 18 pounds (1,033.8kg). The bell is broken and out of use. The fourth bell was cast in Petersburg «in the year 1734 on November 30th by the commissioner Semyon Leontiev». This bell is also broken.

The big festive bell of Smolny Cathedral was cast by a Valday casting-master Smirnov in Petersburg. The bell weighs 607 poods (10,197.6kg). the third «polyelaion» bell of this cathedral was cast by the casting-master Konstantin Slizov in Moscow in 1757. the bell weighs 240 poods and 5 pounds (4,034.5kg).

In Simeonovskaya Church, the big bell, which weighs 267 poods and 17 pounds (4,494kg) was cast in the town of Valday in 1821. Spasosennovskaya Church belfry has fifteen bells. The biggest bell weighs 542 poods and 18 pounds (9,114.6kg). It was cast in Moscow in 1780 at Yason Strugovshchik’s factory. The bell has an iron clapper, which weighs 17 poods and 5 pounds (288kg). The bell has the following inscription: «Offered by the assessor Sava Yakovlev to the Church of the Assumption in Sennaya». There is a legend that when Sava, who was born to a peasant family, was a very vain person. That is why, when he was alive, the bell was rung only by his personal permission. The bell’s clapper was allegedly fixed with an iron chain, which Sava kept locked and gave the key to unlock the clapper only when he thought appropriate. Another big bell, «Bogorodnichy», weighs 274 poods and 26 pounds (4,616kg). It was cast in 1780. The oldest bell on this belfry is the «everyday» bell, which weighs 78 poods and 32 pounds (1,295kg). The bell was cast in 1762 for Catherine II of Russia’s return from her coronation in Moscow.

To conclude, I would like to mention two more bells kept in Alexander Nevsky Monastery. The first is the biggest bell in the monastery. It weighs 800 poods (13,440kg) and hangs in the northern monastery tower among other bells. The bell was cast in 1658, by the initiative of the famous patriarch Nikon and brought to Petersburg from Iversky Monastery in 1724. The second «polyelaion» bell hangs in the southern tower. It weighs 200 poods (3,360kg). The total number of bells in Petersburg exceeds 1,500. About the third of the bells were cast in the previous century. This year, foreign inventors presented a musical instrument, «codonophone», which is expected to replace bells. The new instrument looks like a cabinet. Inside the cabinet there are several dozens of metal tubes struck with a special mallet. They say that in terms of the strength of the sound it can rival the most powerful real bells.

[1] Kievan bells were mentioned in a chronicle, which dates back to 1171. Refer to Complete Collection of Russian manuscripts, Vol. II, p.100 (hereafter author’s comments)
[2] Church chronicles in the XVIII Synodicon
[3] Ref. History of the Russian state by Karamzin, Vol.VI, pp. 120–123
[4] Russian tsars appeared there before the public, which gathered in the Red Square to greet them after the coronation ceremony
[5] Ref. Russian Antiquities, compiled by Martynov, Moscow, 1848
[6] Geographic Dictionary of the Russian State by Shchekatov
[7] Complete Collection of Russian manuscripts, Vol. III, p.246
[8]  According to Father Izrailev, the bell was named «Swan», because this bird with its tube-like throat can make loud sounds, which gave rise to the tales about the «swan’s song».
[9] It is called so because it is rung during the Lent
[10] Polyelaion bell is the one, which is rung during big church holidays. The word «polyelaion» is of a Greek origin and means «most merciful».
[11] Ref. Historical Review of Siberia by Slovtsov, Vol. I, p.198
[12] Ref. Letters and Deeds published the History of Siberia by Miller
[13] Ref. Moscow Gazette, 1859, p.580
[14] Later the bell was recast with addition of copper and hung in Ivan-the-Great Bell Tower extension. It was called festive (used on special occasions); the bell-ringer struck the bell three times on the occasion of the death of a monarch, a member of the Royal Family or a Patriarch
[15] The casting of this bell demanded 12,140,000 bricks! 330,000 bricks were used to build the furnace; 300,000 bricks were used for the pit; 25,000 bricks were used to pack the surfaces inside the bell mold and outside the shell!.
[16]. We have heard that Father Israilev, a recognized connoisseur of bells, believes that it is possible to recast the Tsar Bell, tune it and raise it to the bell tower. According to his estimates, the works will cost at least 50,000 roubles. Recently, the newspapers have published several projects for the Tsar Bell reconstruction.
[17]. Archaeological Description of Novgorod Church Antiquities by Archbishop Makary Played  M. I. Historical Bells // Academy of Trinitarism, M., el. № 77–6567, publ.10335, 14.04.2003

Pages: 1 2