After a long journey across the Atlantic (and some jet lag) we arrived at the Danilov Monastery in Moscow! That first night we had dinner in the monastery refectory with Father Roman and then met the Father Superior Alexy for tea (and some very delicious consecrated honey). Here we are (except Jeffery, who is taking the picture) in front of the Danilov bell tower where the original bells hang. This tower is much closer to the ground than Lowell’s tower and more… well, pink.

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Up a very narrow set of stairs we met the original Mother Earth. Here she is, hung a bit lower than in Lowell’s tower. Father Roman mentioned that the name “Mother Earth” was actually given to the bell by Harvard students. She is just called “the big bell” in Russian. He also pointed out tiny paint splotches on the outside of the bell, where paint from decades of window restoration dripped onto these bells. When we asked if it was possible to remove these blemishes, Father Roman said, “Why? It is part of the history.”

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If you look closely at the inside of Mother Earth, you can see dozens of names carved into her underbelly. The tradition of carving one’s name into the inside of the bell started almost a century ago, in the 1930s, when Harvard bell ringers carved their names and class years. Up until 2008, this tradition continued (though Father Roman tells us that he wrote his name on the inside of the replica Mother Earth that now hangs in Lowell).

We also saw different sets of indentations on the inner lip of Danilov’s Mother Earth; one pair of indentations where the clapper had hit the lip–back and forth–from 1907 until its transport to the U.S. in 1928, the deepest pair of indentations where the clapper had struck while hanging at Harvard, and the last pair where the clapper has struck the lip from 2008 until today.

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We got to participate in the 7pm ringing that evening. It was a feast day, and while a service was being conducted in the monastery itself, we gathered in the bell tower and listened to the sung vespers through the speakers in the bell tower. We were joined by members of Father Roman’s new bell-ringing class, and we got to partake in the initial descending peal, which was all timed very precisely with the progression of the prayers below. One by one we stomped or pulled strings attached to seven of the twenty-three bells that make up the Danilov set. Father Roman finished with a traditional peal for the occasion. Just as the harmonized voices concluded, a rain storm picked up all around the bell tower. We watched the lightening come closer and met the chilly wind with something like exhilaration. As the first drops hit our faces and the surfaces of the bells, we made our way down the tower to have yet another round of tea with other bell ringers.

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