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History of Bell Founding in Russia, Part 2
June 14, 2015 16:32


The growing power of the Moscow Principality and consolidating all lands into the uniform Russian State promoted the religious and secular role of church bells. Churches and monasteries tried to acquire an increasing number of bells of large size. It was also propelled by the improved quality of bell sounding due to the choice of optimum profile. In the 16th -17th centuries the Russian handymen developed their own profile and the technology of making it, which has remained nearly the same up to now. Moreover, the technology of bell founding was brought to such perfection that allowed casting bells with tailor-made properties.

In the 16th century Russian masters surpassed West European foundrymen as regards the quality and weight of bells. From then on whole dynasties of Russians bell founders, mainly those in Pskov and Novgorod were known.
By order of Prince Vasily III a bell weighing 16000 kg was cast in 1533. This bell laid the foundation to making the heaviest church-going bells of Moscow sovereigns. Bells with the weight of about 1600-2300 kg were considered daily in Moscow, i.e. tolled only on the week-days. The bell of Ivan the Terrible weighed already 32000 kg. This bell was first cast by the German founder Kashpir Ganusov, and refounded by the glorified Russian foundryman Andrey Chokhov. It was this very bell that was first nicknamed the Tsar Bell.

The heyday of bell foundry craft in Russia fell on the 17th century. In many respects it was aided by the circumstance of copper ore deposits discovered in the north of Russia.
In 1653 the Russian master Yemelyan Danilov cast a huge bell weighing about 128 000 kg in the Moscow Kremlin. It was the biggest ringing bell ever made in the world. Augustine Meyerberg, an Austrian ambassador to Moscow made its picture in his traveling sketches.

The church and the government of Russia extended patronage to the bell foundry craft. There were imperial and patriarchal foundry workshops in Moscow and large monasteries. At the end of the 17th century the first representatives of the glorified Motorins dynasty started working. Several bells created by these masters have remained in Ivan the Great Bell Tower. In 1735 Ivan and Mikhail Motorins cast a bell weighing more than 190 000 kg. We can see this very Tsar Bell in the Moscow Kremlin on the granite pedestal near Ivan the Great. In 1686 Fyodor Motorin founded the first private plant casting bells to order and for daily sale in Moscow. Some other private plants appeared later as well. In the 19th – early 20th centuries there were about 20 large bell foundry plants in many cities of Russia.

At the end of the 19th century Russian bells won wide international acclaim. Products by Russian bell foundries were presented at numerous international exhibitions, and their owners took gold and silver prizes. Russian bells excelled not only in their timbre, but also stood out with skillful decoration that made them unique works of art. In addition to that, several large-scale producers, aspiring to enter the international market, started adjusting bells to make belfries tuned to the note row of 2-3-4 octaves for playing various melodies.

In the 19th century sovereigns and philanthropists supported and financed creation of such belfries, as chimes of St. Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg and Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, as well as in a range of monasteries, city cathedrals, and parish churches. Altogether Russia had few thousand bells. By the beginning of the 20th century Russia became truly the state of bells, surpassing the Christian West in the quantity and weight of bells.
However, the October revolution changed it all. After 70 years of anti-church persecutions in Russia the revival of Orthodox churches and parishes took place and was accompanied with restoration of domestic bell founding production. Unfortunately, over the years of the Soviet rule certain secrets of bell manufacture and bell ringing were lost. Thus, masters had to rediscover and comprehend all this again.

Read more about russian Music Instruments... 




Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Bells Bell Ringing Bell Founding Russian Church Russian Music Instruments 

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