Monday was a day of excursion for us! We drove to Zvenigorod (translated as “city of bells”) with bell ringers from the Danilov monastery. Our first church stop was at the Church of New Jerusalem, which is currently under restoration. We were able to ring a new set of bells, cast about two years ago, as well as an ancient bell which was cast in 1666.
The head bell ringer played a unique peal, which he told us was inspired by Led Zeppelin’s guitar solo!
From there we traveled to Zvenigorod and visited a very small church that was built by the soil embankments of a very old city. This church is the oldest in the Moscow region and was also under renovation. We met the head bell ringer who has been living and serving at this church for 32 years. He kindly let us climb up the smallest staircase we had encountered thus far to the bell tower. There we played quite old bells, cast in the 17th and 18th centuries. The setup was simple–only eight bells–but the view of the garden and fruit trees below was really charming.
Next stop was St. Savva Storozhevsky monastery whose enormous bell features at the beginning of this post. Once the country home of Tsar Alexi, the monastery dates back to the 15th century, and this bell tower to 1650. We could survey much of the dark-green countryside from the tower, and when 5 o’clock came around, we gathered at the bottom of the tower so that Father Roman could ring one of the bells by pulling a very long rope attached to its clapper.
Today we visited another former country home of a Tsar. Ivan the Terrible grew up in the grounds of Kolomenskoye park, which, lucky for us, has a pretty incredible bell tower.
At Kolomenskoye we tried again to play the Welcome peal, and we think it worked a bit better this time. Take a listen!
Sadly, today was our last day at the Danilov monastery. We gathered with our fellow bell ringers to take pictures in the tower, and ring during the evening service. Thanks to the expertise of the other bell ringers, we were able to cobble together a Rachmaninoff-inspired peal. Rachmaninoff imitated the sounds of Russian church bells in one of his compositions, and from this score it is possible to recreate the peal he might have heard. It’s a double transliteration (bells to piano to bells), but it’s perhaps one of the best records of peals from the 19th century.
We will miss Danilov monastery. Thanks to all the people who made our stay here truly memorable and enjoyable!