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Harvard University to return historic bells to Moscow monastery


A foundry in the central Russian city of Voronezh has completed the casting of a 14-tonne bell for Harvard University, the latest chapter in an 80 year odyssey that has linked the US seat of learning with one of Russia’s most famous monasteries.

The bell is the largest of a set to be sent to Harvard to replace 18 bells from the Danilovsky Monastery, the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Moscow Patriarchate. They ended up at Harvard after being sold in 1930 by the Soviet government as scrap metal to a US diplomat. Harvard is returning the original bells to the Moscow monastery.

"In the years of Soviet godlessness, from the outset the Church had its voice taken away – the sound of its bells. That’s why it’s not by chance that one of the first manifestations and vivid symbols of religious revival in Russia was the restoration of pealing bells," Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II said at a signing ceremony held at the Danilovsky Monastery on 20 March.

The bells were sold by the then Soviet government after it shut down the monastery, killed its monks, and turned it into a prison for the children of dissidents.

"Russian bells often became not only witnesses to, but also victims of history, and like people they stoically bore their long-suffering," Alexei said, quoted on www.mospat.ru, one of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Web sites.

Inquiries into returning the bells began when the monastery was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1983. In 2004, Link of Times, a foundation funded by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oil and metals magnate, stepped in to fund the project.

During the past 20 years the foundry, called "Vera", which means faith, has cast more than 17 000 bells for Orthodox churches across Russia and around the world, the Web site www.patriarhia.ru reported.

(c) Ecumenical News International