On the Danilov Belfry (with reductions)

M. I. Makarov

Come, feeble,
Come, glad,
They ring to the Vespers,
To the blessed prayer
And ringing subduing
Wants into all souls,
Resounds in the fields
Calling around,

«I was recently in Zvenigorod, drove into Saint Savva Monastery, attended Christ’s Tenebrae, and two days climbed the belfry and rang all bells. I rested very well and have got a great pleasure»

(from F.I. Shalyapin’s letter to M. Gorky of April 19, 1913).

I don’t recollect, who is the author of the epigraph lines, but it is indisputable that he loved church bell ringing. And, of course, F.I. Shalyapin, about whom Gor’kiy spoke: «Shalyapin in the Russian art is the epoch as Pushkin», loved it by all his wide soul.

Who of the Russian people, especially of the Muscovites, did not love bell ringing! It was not for nothing that Moscow was so rich in bells, and bell ringing was its adornment.

Nobody was disturbed or irritated by the ringing. On the contrary, when Muscovite, as any Russian man, heard the beginning of church bell ringing during his work, he reverentially crossed and with the new energy continued his work. The same occurred also upon the ringing to Tenebrae. The ringing woke the man, who did not go to the church, he crossed and, yawning, said,: «it rings to Tenebrae „, turned over on his another side and again strongly fell asleep with peace in his soul.

But if bell ringing woke the man, who had any work, he adopted it as God’s blessings, crossed, arose, arranged himself and started to work with gladness.


Many church ringings of our neighbourhood floated above the house, in which we lived. They were especially joyful for me in spring, when they swam above the Moskva River ice drift into an unknown country, filling the air by beneficial joy, as the melt waters fill the spring earth, which is ready to be beautified by invigorating moisture. When ringings merged together, it was incomparable, marvellous symphony of praise to God. But especially I loved Danilov Monastery’s ringing, more than all ringings, since it distinguished by its specific articulation. Yes, actually, by the articulation. 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 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!

Here Flor and Lavr monastery rings: the bell larger than the Danilov’s one weighs 821 poods, and the bass of the bell is thicker, more velvety, but it is not as clear as Danilov’s sound. Moreover, it goes without saying about the pealing.

Here Simonov monastery pealing greets. Sound flows freely — monastery is on a mountain, above Moskva River. People say, the large bell there weighs 2000 poods. This bass is beautiful. Pealing sounds as if somebody plays the piano. But against Danilov, the sound is somewhat weaker.

Here is the ringing of Vozneseniya na Serpukhovke. The large bell, baritone, weights about 500 poods. Both church-going bells and pealing are weaker than the Danilov’s ones.

Here the ringings of the Church of the Resurection of Christ in Monetshiki and of the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr in Ordynka. The bells are large, probably, each weights 1000 poods. Ringing is almost the same as that of Flor and Lavr monastery. From a distance, it is even possible to confuse them.

Here is Donskoy monastery’s pealing. Again, it is far from Danilov’s one in clearness, and the Large bell is less dense.

Needless to say about the Churches in Polyanka, Pyatnitskaya, and Ordynka (besides the Church of St. Catherine the Great Martyr), about the Kazanskaya church in Kaluzhskaya square, about the house temples on Serpukhovka: there both the bells are smaller than Danilov’s ones, and the chime is poorer.

Somewhere on high, the ringing of the Kremlin or of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour stately swam above the house, and it was heard: „bu — u — u — u…„, but there was no clearness of pealing since it was far.

The Danilov ringing „wanted into the soul“ more than others. At one time I thought that such impression appears because we lived rather close to monastery. However, once in summer (in 1920) I returned along the Raspberry path after a jaunt, from the Kolomenskoe village. The sun drooped. When I began to get down from the hill against the bend of Moskva-River, the Danilov bells began to ring. The ringing was distinctly heard in the fields, it swam above the river, above the city, and this was marvellously in the rays of the setting sun. I involuntarily stopped and, bewitched, listened and looked… looked and listened…

Danilov’s ringing resounded far in the city. It occurred, one returned from Tenebrae from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and already somewhere near Boloto recognized the voices of Danilov bells.

It is necessary to note that Large Danilov’s bell held the sound for a long time after the ringing was ceased. Sometimes, entering into the monastery, I met the end of the ringing. I came through the gates, on monastery, past Troitsky cathedral to its doors and all this time distinctly heard the lasting sound „u — u — u — u …„ of the bell, which had already become silent.


Once I came in the monastery earlier than usually and from behind heard a voice: „Brother, let us go to ring to the belfry“. I looked back, even with a certain doubt, desiring to ascertain that this invitation is referred to me. Only a few steps away from me, a ringer stood, frate Andrey, and looked at me. I was so gladdened! Now I will climb the belfry, I will ring now! I gave a nod and followed Andrey. The door to the stairs of the belfry was small, with a small square window. It was in the gates wall, from the side of the monastery court. Immediately behind the door, I had seen a step downward, then long wooden stairs upward, then a small area, turning and another flight of the same stairs. Then we climbed the narrow and very steep step stones cut directly in the wall. It was seen through the small window that we were already at a substantial height, the roof of the three-storey cloister building attached to the belfry remained below, and the stairs lead us to the garret of the Church over-the-gates of Simeon Stolpnik. It smelled of dust, and it was a bit stuffy because of the iron roofing. We again rise by wooden stairs, and at last we are on the belfry. It is high and it is free and easy! The air is pure. And all around is far seen through eight wide arches of belfry. In the southern arch, deeply below, Father Superior’ house is visible. From here it looked quite small. And the Holy Well before it appeared quite as a toy. Not far from Father Superior’ house, to the right, the apse of Troitsky cathedral was seen, and its cupola was seen above the building of brethrenrnal cells. To the left of Father Superior’ house, as far as was allowed by the growing trees, Cathedral of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumencal Councils was visible. A water tower of a factory stuck up over the southern wall of the monastery, at a rather large distance from it, and the parish church of Holy Word Resurrection (’Voskresenya Slovushchego) was seen somewhat more left and nearer to the monastery. After it, there was a shining band of Moskva-River. Then houses extended to the south, after them we saw the steel frames of the railroad bridge through Moskva-river, and there, fields to the horizon, and at the horizon, the village of Kolomenskoe softly surrounded by gardens. Tsaritsyno was barely revealed in the haze after Kolomenskoe, somewhat more left. To the east, the view was more monotonous: the rails of Paveletskaya railroad, then somewhere Moskva-river, and, further, fields. From the north-east, on the high shore of Moskva-river, Simonov monastery stood in beauty with the belfry crowned by a gold cupola, which unbearably shone on the sunset. To the left of Simonov, Novospasskiy monastery and his huge belfry were seen, and still more to the left, Andronikov monastery was seen, also with a huge belfry.

The Kremlin was raised on the north, and Ivan’s belfry reigned above it. More left, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour with his five gold chapters, which burned as the sun in clear days, ruled above the city. The entire space to the Kremlin and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was literally sown by the cupolas of Zamoskvorech’e churches. Everything shone and sparkled in the solar rays and touched the very soul.

To the West, a parkway passed, at the end of which the horizon gained Donskoy monastery; to the right of it, Shukhov radio tower riddled the sky.

Danilov bells

The bells were arranged on the belfry as follows. In the northern half of belfry, the Large (Festive) bell was placed. It hung on the oak beam supported by a steel construction, bed. It seems that this construction was built in order to shorten the beam and to strengthen the bell hanger. When the steel bed was made, the bell was attached on a low wooden belfry, which stood near the belfry. The cast inscription on the bell usually indicated the name and surname of God’s Slave, whose soul was commemorated by the bell, as well as master’s name and the date of the bell casting. The weight of bell was engraved, apparently, according to the actual weight after casting. I very well remember a number of 721 poods; I see it as now. The surname of the commemorated man manifests itself in my memory very dimly: whether Lyapin, whether Lapin, or Lyalin. I remember neither his name, nor caster’s name. The year when the bell was cast is forgotten, 1896, 1898 or 1902, the bottom edge of the Large Danilov bell was at a height somewhat exceeding one meter from the floor. Therefore, a hollow closed with a cover was made in the floor under the bell: the bell ringer stood there, when he intended to ring. The bell areas, where the tongue beat, shone, as if they were gilded, and the tongue was polished as mirror. Tongue hung on a steel finger, fastened to two loops, which entered into the bell body from its upper internal part. The place of the contact of the tongue with the finger was densely greased with somewhat black. Probably, for this cause the tongue swung easy and smoothly and the ringing did not require large effort. The Polielei bell hung in the southern part of the Danilov belfry. It weighed 365 poods. That’s all I firmly remembered from the inscriptions made on it. The bell was fixed on the wooden beam sufficiently highly, so that the bell ringer could freely stand under it. The bell tongue was suspended on a new thick belt, several times threaded through the ear of the tongue and into the loop in the bell body. When the tongue was swung, the belt squeaked so strongly, that it was heard even from the earth, but the first verberation muffled the squeak. It was more tiresome to ring the Polielei bell than the Large one, indeed the tongue spread of the former bell was smaller, and the impacts were more frequent. The Everyday bell, which occupied the northern arch of the belfry, weighed 121 poods. When the Father Superior of Danilov monastery was archimandrite Joachim, this bell rang everyday without pealing; the ringers rang from the earth, pulling the rope hanging from the belfry through a block. At the new Father Superior, bishop Feodor, the rope was taken off, and the everyday bell began to ring only from the belfry, and always with the pealing in meat fares. I did not ask, how much did each of fourteen chime bells weigh, but, judging from their sizes, one can assume that the largest of them was not heavier than 80 poods. As far as my memory allows me to again hear the ringing of Danilov bells, I will dare to assert that the large bell rang the note „do“, Polielei bell rang „mi“, Everyday ball rang «sol“. The combinations of sounds at the skillful pealing were beautiful. The Danilov tantonies (“zazvonchiki“) were quite small, at most of one pood in weight, but their voices were very sonorous, and, upon pealing, other bells never muffled them. People said that one tantony was from silver, and silver was largely added into the alloy upon casting of other three steel bells. In addition to the bells on the over-the-gates belfry in the Danilov monastery, there were three additional tantonies; each weighed not more than a half of pood. One tantony hung outside on the altar wall of Troitsky Cathedral, the second tantony hung at the altar of the Cathedral of the Holy Fathers of the Seven Ecumencal Councils, and the third tantony hung at the altar of Pokrovskiy Cathedral. A rope was pulled from the altar of the Simeon Stolpnik church to the belfry, to a pealing bell, which was also a tantony of this Church. About ten bells lay on the earth at the entrance into the building of brethren cells; the weight of the largest of them did not exceed 150 poods. People said that these bells were brought in 1915 by refugees from the western provinces. In the 20’s, some of these bells already deeply grew into the earth under their gravity.

Uncle Nikolai

Unlike brother Andrey, uncle Nikolai was a real bell ringer. He was near fifty years old, a man of inches, very thin and pale, with a small light-brown beard and whiskers. He was always quite presentably dressed: waistcoat with the silver chain and watch was put on above the Russian blouse, then a coat was put on above the waistcoat, the trousers were tucked into elegant general boots, a cap was on the head, as he stands before my eyes. He was reasonable, almost always he spoke not immediately, but after a certain meditation. He was a shoemaker, and had a reputation of a don at this craft. «My boots walk ten years“, said uncle Nikolai. And, as then I heard from his clients, this was really truth. Besides the shoemaking and inspired pealing, uncle Nikolai had one additional interest such as reading. Brother Andrey reverenced uncle Nikolai both for his shoe craftsmanship and for his ringing skill. When he appeared at the belfry, brother Andrey with respect and good smile spoke him: «Did you come to ring? Glorify God! Ad majorem Dei gloriam!“ — and stood somewhere on the side from the banister, freeing the place at the bells to uncle Nikolai. When uncle Nikolai saw me the first time, he said: «Warn me: I have consumption“ «How are you taken ill of it, Sir?“ — I asked.- «Remember, guy, the bell order: all are equal on the belfry, all glorify God, you should not tell „Sir“ here”. You do ask, how did I fall ill? It was from tea. I greatly liked to drink tea. In winter, as you are sweat with tea, you stir out — and catch it. So I did take cold, and it went: bronchitis, tracheitis, pleurisy, and now consumption, in other words, tuberculosis, this disease is very infectious and dangerous. Therefore, fear me. Earlier, when people drank kvass rather than tea, they caught cold less often, and were more healthily“.

Bell ringer — the theologian

I have already said that uncle Nikolai was a real bell ringer-artist. It is necessary to add that he was not only artist, but really bell ringer-theologian. His pealing not only gladdened soul, but (most important!) raised it, made it necessary to pray, to pray without any words. His beginnings of chime were remarkable! When he began the chime, then it seemed as if some birds-sounds joyfully float around the belfry and rocket upwards. Not occasionally, upon his pealing, flocks of pigeons sometimes flew not far from the belfry, racing with the flock of celestial sounds. Sometimes, in the middle of pealing, uncle Nikolai softly removed the ringing of tantonies and left the solo of one or three small bells, which tenderly intertwined their melody with the toll, against the background of bass toll. This beneficially touched the soul, subdued it, called to the prayer.

Uncle Nikolai had special compositions of pealing along with inspired extemporizations. The composition «Thy Cross do we adore, O Christ», which was chimed by uncle Nikolai after Tenebrae three times per annum: on Exaltation of the Cross, on the First Savior Feast Day, and on Adoration of the Precious Cross. Sometimes after Tenebrae he performed the composition «Glory To God In The Highest». It was, apparently, the Kiev-chant Great glorification transposed by uncle Nikolai for the Danilov bells. It touched, instilled the rest and silence into the heart, prepared for the peaceful and serene sleep. Uncle Nikolai chimed the Composition «Blessed is the man», also by Kiev chant, after the Tenebrae upon the ringing to the Gospel. It wonderfully transferred the afternoon temper of the soul, and I believe that just for this reason uncle Nikolai chimed it only on the sunset. However, since the swings of the tongues of Large and Polielei bells were different, they rang discordantly. Therefore uncle Nikolai preferred to ring without the Polielei bell, but the introduction of this bell into pealing did not confuse him. In this case, he had a special pealing, which greatly pleased me just by its discordance. It seemed that several belfries ring. It was extraordinarily solemnly.

Uncle Nikolai liked to finish the pealing by simultaneous breaking it on all bells. He required the bell ringers on the Large and Polielei bells to attentively follow his pealing. As he began to raise melody upward, increasing the measure frequency, this meant that the end of the pealing is close. The simultaneous verberation of all bells attainable for him meant the end, as if the point in the ringing. Here it was necessary to break the ringing of the Large and Polielei bells. It was very beautiful. And the metal of bells flurried by ringing still for long boomed after this «point». «Uncle Nikolai, why do you ring so wonderfully?» — I asked once. — «This is a tricky work. Pealing is the same as music. But only this music is specific. In the usual music, all tools are known and all notes, which they can play, are known. But here the matter is different. You come to the belfry and don’t know, what bell will ring what note. It is necessary first to hear each bell, what note does it ring, and then to thoroughly think over, how will you ring, to select pealing. And here, when you thought over all this, then begin the pealing. But there is a difficulty again: whether or not people will understand your pealing? It is necessary to ring so that everyone would understand you, so that your pealing would reach everybody and touch his soul. But this is very difficult. God, grant me the beauty of pealing! But those hath ears to hear, let them hear this beauty!»

Merchant custom

«Uncle Nikolai, you have large talent, you ring so well that could take money for this „, I said once to uncle Nikolai. „You, guy, seems as if good, but for some reason you think as God-seller Judah. The Lord gave to me the talent of pealing, and I must centuple it and Gratuitously gladden people. Freely I have received, freely give. For me pealing is a great gladness. But I do not sell my gladness. For example, the Moscow merchants greatly loved the bell ringing, and loved to ring themselves, so they themselves paid for the permission to ring“. — „How?“ — „That is how. As the Moscow merchants meet together on Great Thursday in the Kremlin after Mass on the porch of John of the Ladder Church, under the Bell tower of Ivan the Great, they agree about the size of the share to the allotment. The share was as large as hundreds of rubles. Immediately these shares are collected from each volunteer. Coupons are cut according to the number of solderers, twelve coupons of them contain the word „ringing“. Then the coupons are rolled up, mixed, and put into the cap of one of the merchants. They call a boy or a girl from the beggars to pull the lot. Then they draw twelve happy lots and break up, presenting so large sum of the equity contribution to the child, who pulled the lot, that he or she with their entire family immediately cease to be beggarly. The remaining money is sacrificed to the charitable causes. And the twelve lucky men are those who will begin to ring for the entire Moscow into the large Kremlin bell to Easter Morning Prayer“. Uncle Nikolai coughed and then continued: „But you tell about any profit on the pealing. Even if I die to hunger, and then I will not take any money for the pealing. Since it is a praise to the Lord. But now, glory to God, I live well. I sew boots, earn well, and want for nothing“.

Bell ringing

„Uncle Nikolai, you speak that each bell has its own note. How is this note obtained? Is the bell specially cast for this note or it is obtained by itself?“ — „I think that it is obtained by chance. But then, when bells are bought, they are selected according to the notes. However, I heard that there are such bell masters, who at once cast the bells for the necessary note. I do not know, whether or not this is correct. This is already a very high craftsmanship itself, to cast a high-sounding bell. But it is already almost impossible to cast a bell for a specific note because the note of bell depends on many factors such as the metals used for the alloy, the bell size and shape. The masters, of course, have their secrets. People say that, if the bell went wrongly for the required note, the masters „bring“ it to this note: they either saw its, making thinner, or put rivet into it. It is a delicate matter, to cast bells, by contrast to boot sewing, — uncle Nikolai laughed and, having a little thought, added: — although it is not simple, to sew boots, if one makes it from the soul“.


Anatoly was about sixteen years old. He had gray, widely opened eyes, which seemed somewhat protruded. He was punch and very energetic and talented. He belonged to the type of people, who is capable of any job, any work. Anatoly attended school and was an altar boy in the church: held the prayer-book for bishop Feodor or, in his absence, for other bishops, who often and for a long time lived in the monastery. Once, when there was no Episcopal service, Anatoly climbed the belfry and began to ring the Large bell. Apparently, he enjoyed this. Since then he often came and rang the Large or the Polielei bell, or simply rose to the belfry, stood, looked, and listened, inclining head on one side and skewing at the bell ringer. This occurred somewhile. Finally once, arriving to the belfry, he turned to Brother Andrey: „Brother Andrey, I want to ring. Is it possible to me?“ Brother Andrey gave a nod to the side of uncle Nikolai and said: „Ask uncle Nikolai, he is our senior.“ Uncle Nikolai smiled and said with doubt: „Ring, if you get it“. But up to the moment of pealing, he stood near for the insurance, if ringing will not succeed. When Anatoly finished to ring, uncle Nikolai asked him with admiration: «Who did teach you to ring so well?“ — «I taught myself, answered Anatoly, I listened to your pealing, looked, as you ring, and learned». — «You’re a fine fellow! Come more often».

— «I will come, when the service is without the Bishop». Thus a new bell ringer-master, Anatoly, appeared on the belfry. He rang actually very well. But his pealing differed from uncle Nikolai’s pealing, which called upwards, and itself was raised as censer smoke, to the sky. Anatoly’s pealing seemingly spread on the earth, it called somewhere forward, it was wide, full-blooded, and, if one may say so, punch as Anatoly himself. His pealing infused gladness, but this was the gladness of the earth rather than the gladness of sky.

Anatoly hated discordance in pealing. To remove the discordance, he began to bring two strong fellows to the belfry, who during the pealing held the tongue of the Polielei bell, forcing it to ring simultaneously with the Large bell. The resulting ringing was very powerful. Once Anatoly’s pealing was fully unusual. The melody was familiar, but completely far from the church ringing. In vain I tried to recollect, where did I hear something similar? After pealing, Anatoly, flapping me on the arm, gaily asked: «How did you like the bell „Korobochka?“ — „It is good as “Korobochka”, but it is absolutely non-church melody“. — „I thought, could I pick out „Korobochka“ on the bells? And for long I puzzled, how to do it. As it happens, I picked it out!“ — Anatoly joyfully exclaimed. In half-hour, Mitya Voskresenskii, Archbishop Feodor’s lay-brother, appeared on the belfry and asked: „Who did ring now?“ — „I did“, answered Anatoly. „Archbishop calls you“. In about forty five minutes Anatoly returned and said: „ Archbishop asked me, how did I learn to ring and what did I ring now. I said him“. — „Fine fellow! You ring well, praised ruler, but only you should understand yourself: such rollicking things as „Korobochka“ are not befit for the church pealing. Did you hear uncle Nikolai’s marvellous melodies? Now pick out something like this. I know, you will get it. I bless you for this work“. And Anatoly succeeded in it. Once during Vesper he rang „Having Beheld the Resurrection of Christ“ to reading of Gospel. It sounded very well. But, to my hearing, the background sound of the Large bell was somewhat mistiming with the melody. It is pity, that uncle Nikolai did not hear it, surely, he would suggest, how to correct it.

In 1923, Anatoly ceased to come to the belfry. He was busy for examinations for entry to Moscow University, the juridical department, from which he then successfully graduated. Subsequently Anatoly became a high-ranking foreign trade officer. He died at the end of the Fifties.

M.I. Makarov was the son of a gymnasium (classical school preparing to the universities) teacher. He was born in 1906 in Moscow in the area of Danilovka around St. Daniel’s Monastery, which included Pavlovskaya and Danilovskaya (now Dubininskaya) Streets and all the bystreets in the north; Tulskaya Street and Danilovskoye Graveyard in the west; Meshcherinov’s Factory (later it was named after M.V. Frunze) in the south.

After finishing school and doing a course in commerce Mikhail Ivanovich worked as an accounts clerk. In 1932 he was promoted to an economist, and worked in this capacity at different factories and at Chief Food Industry Directorates until retirement.

Since M.I. Makarov was born in Danilovka, he was baptized in the local Church of the Great Resurrection (’Voskreseniya Slovushche’) located at the walls of St. Daniel’s Monastery. In 1915, he attended classes at the monastery parochial school. Later he became a devotee and a bell-ringer at St. Daniel’s Monastery.

The special character of the monastic spiritual life left a lasting impression on M.I. Makarov’s soul. Having lived a long life and having become a witness and a participant of St. Daniel’s revival, he wrote a wonderful book of memories, in which he described the life of the monastery in the 1910–1920s (From the Life of the Orthodox Moscow of the 20th Century. M.,1996).