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Orthodox Bell Ringing**************

The Patriarch of Moscow, with the cooperation of the Moscow Bell Center and Pyatkov & Co., has issued a standard of Typikon for Church Bell Ringing

This is intended to serve as a basis for the ongoing resurrection of the Orthodox bell tradition in Russia. The value of such a guide will be immediately obvious, but some background might be useful:

As is well known, Orthodoxy's most highly developed bell tradition was actually almost entirely lost under Communism, and where it did survive, it had to get by on very limited means— few ringers, and even fewer bells. In a few cases, local traditions had been written down. Thus we have, for example, the Bell-Ringers' Ustav of Optina Monastery, published by A. Nikanorov, and other such documentation. In a very few areas— notably in Pskov and some others— some continuity of living practice survived. And we have one or two live recordings like the archival footage of bell-ringing at Great Rostov that we have included on our video. However, much of the Russian bell tradition was oral and folkloric, and what written typically there were, existed only in handwritten and rather colloquial form. This was true, for example, even at Optina.

Moreover, apart from the invaluable work of Fr. Aristarkh Israilev and Konstantin Saradjev at the beginning of the 20th century, no one ever attempted to collect, collate, and compare such typical even from throughout Russia, much less from throughout the Orthodox world. Bells were just such a part of the fabric of Orthodox life that one hardly thought to study them
across the whole culture!

Today, however, although bell-towers are coming back to life, the continuous network of bell-ringing that characterized pre-Revolutionary Russia is hardly even conceivable to us. Moreover, in new countries like America, this culture never existed in the first place, so we really have little idea what to do with the bells we have.

Therefore, this 80-page booklet, a distillation of all that is known of Russia's vast and reviving culture of local and universal bell traditions, is indispensable, especially in America where we have almost no other guidance. It sets forth the basic principles as well as the rules for all occasions during the church year. It also contains wise instruction on safety and on the care of bells. A future edition will contain the complete service of ordination of a bell ringer, and it presently contains a service of consecration of a bell which differs in interesting ways from the one provided elsewhere on this site, taken from our standard Book of Needs and augmented from other sources. And finally, it contains a list of over 150 titles of books and other materials, of great interest to the serious student of this aspect of the Orthodox liturgical tradition.

Our understanding is that this booklet is a preliminary edition, which is to be revised and corrected in the light of the experience of actual zvonars, and with further input from local traditions, in a definitive edition to be published a couple of
years hence.

Therefore, although we are translating the current edition as need arises and as time permits, we have not thought it wise to publish a complete English version just yet. In fact we hope to produce an annotated edition, supplemented, for example, with the aforementioned ustav of Optina Monastery and others, to provide a glimpse of the range and flexibility of the tradition from the outset, and to dispel any tendency to treat any particular as the Only and Final Word. For our church bell music is perforce somewhat flexible, and must be so, given the often wide differences between sets of bells. But we do not deem it advisable to do this until the final version of the new, standard Typikon is available.

Meanwhile, however, our clients and others who are striving to bring their bell-ringing into line with the fullness of Tradition have immediate needs. Thus we are providing an interim translation, in piecemeal fashion— which we will update from time to time with new material. You can download the current version as a .pdf file, but be sure also to subscribe to our newsletter for notice of updates.

We are also making the current Russian version available in our secure shopping facility (the price is a modest $10, which includes importation, handling, and shipping).

On Orthodox Christian Bells

NOTE: PDF DOWNLOAD - Practical Training for Bell-ringers: Director of the Arkhangelsk School for Bell Ringing
Bell Ringing Rubrics - On Bells:
From Archpriest Rostislav Gan's
Russian Orthodox Bell Ringing: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Russian Bells: What did St. Innocent know, that we don’t?
Russian Bell Ringing: A free collection of bell recordings - in Russian
When to Ring Bells: Translated by Rev. Victor Sokolov and Kirill Sokolov
On Bells and Their Ringing: Article from newspaper, "Russian Life", in April of 1983.
The Bells: Copyright 1986 by the St. Tikhon's Seminary Press
Bells & Russian Orthodox Peals:
Missionary Leaflet # E50a Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission

A Brief History of Russian Bells: In the one-thousand-year history of Christian Russia, bells have played a rather prominent role. Fr. Roman Lukianov Overview of the Origin and History of Russian Bell-Founding: John Burnett, MA
Traditions of Orthodox Bell Ringing: From ancient times church bells were perceived as living beings in Russia. Each of them was given a special name. Before raising a bell up to the chapel it was consecrated, the ritual corresponding to the sacrament of christening.
The Bells: A striking component of Orthodox worship is the ringing of bells. Every daily cycle of public divine services starts with the ringing of bells

Russian Orthodox Bell Ringing

Russian Orthodox bell ringing has a history starting from the baptism of Rus in 988 and plays an important role in the traditions of the Russian Orthodox Church. In Not only did Communism muffle the voices of the Russian Orthodox faith, it also silenced its soundtrack - the ringing of the bells. In the 1930s the Soviet authorities melted down for the metal tons of bells from churches. Once silenced, Russian bells ring again. Campanology is the study of bells — the methods of casting and tuning them, and the art or science of ringing them. The Russian Orthodox so loved the ringing of church bells that they have enriched it with ingenuity and art. Bell ringing is enjoying a major revival. Orthodox bells ring at a harmony (often a seventh).

A striking component of Orthodox worship is the ringing of bells. Every daily cycle of public divine services starts with the ringing of bells and no one who has witnessed the procession around the church at Holy Pascha can forget the almost continuous ringing of all the church bells.They are rung at specific times in the worship services using a peculiar method of pulling ropes with arms and legs or simply hitting taught pull-ropes.

Usually a separate structure, the Bell Tower, was constructed to contain the bells, but more often in modern times a belfry is erected over the entrance to the church building, within which the bells are placed. The purpose of ringing the bells is to call the faithful to services, to inform those absent from divine services of the various important liturgical moments of the services, as well as calling the worshippers to concentrated attention at these same moments. It is also used to signal the arrival of the Archpastor at the church or monastery. There are four basic types of bell-ringing in the Russian Church: The Announcement (Blaguvest' - announcing); the Peal (Trezvon - three bells); Chain-ringing (Perezvon - across (or linked) bells); and the Toll (Perebor - broken (or interrupted).


Technique of ringing: The bells in Russian tradition are rung exclusively by tolling and never by pealing. For tolling bells a special complicated system of ropes is developed and used individually for every bell tower. All the ropes are gathered in approximately one point, where the bell-ringer stands. Some ropes (the smaller ones) are played by hands, the bigger ropes are played by legs. The major part of the ropes (usually - all ropes) are not actually pulled, but rather pressed. Since one end of every rope is fixed, and the ropes are kept in tension, a press or even a punch on a rope makes a clapper move.

It's also important that no melody be rung, but rather a complicated poly rhythmical sequence of sounds. These sequences have a very special harmony, since Russian bells (unlike European ones) are not tuned into single note. European bells usually have an octave between the loudest upper tone (ring) and the loudest lower tone (hum). Russian bells have a seventh between these sounds. Generally, a good Russian bell is tuned to produce a whole scale of sounds (up to several tens of them).

Types of ringing: Russian Orthodox services provide different types of bell ringing. Different ringing is used on different days (on working days, on Sunday, on holy days, during fasts, Lent, Easter etc.) Different ringing is required for different services (for morning service, service for the dead, Liturgy, etc.). Different ringing is used at different moments of the service (before the Liturgy, during the most essential parts of Liturgy etc.). There are several names for different types of bell-ringing: blagovest, perezvon, trezvon, etc.

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II speaks in front of a church bell during a blessing ceremony in Sergiyev Posad, Russia, about 55 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Moscow, Thursday, July 18, 2002. The Patriarch on Thursday blessed two giant church bells made to replace a pair that were torn down from a tower at the country's holiest site and destroyed 72 years ago under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. The bells have President Valdimir Putin's name cast on their side in relief. (AP Photo/Tanya Makeyeva)

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