Winter in Siberia: Ringing the Bells in Irkutsk (VIDEO)
Bell ringing came to Russia in the 10th century. Although Byzantium’s Orthodox Christians hammered on narrow wooden boards called semantrons during the liturgy, the Orthodox Rus joyfully took up bell ringing like the European Christians.
The Russian Orthodox hierarchy developed sets of special instructions, called zvon, handed down from ear to ear, which conveyed a variety of different messages and were rung for different occasions. Many were lost during the communist era, but modern bell ringers have made a huge effort to collect the remaining ones from the elders.
Russian bell makers were quick to give the bells a distinctive Russian character, using precise proportions of bronze, pewter and silver. By the 17th century, there were reportedly some 40,000 church bells in the city of Moscow alone, and they all pealed together on Easter Sunday.
Russian bells are mounted in a fixed position and only the clappers move, giving the bell ringer more freedom. One bell ringer can usually play all the bells himself, pulling their ropes with his feet as well as his hands.
On a recent winter visit to Siberia, MIR co-founder and president Douglas Grimes captured video of a master bell ringer in Irkutsk’s Church of the Epiphany. This zvon begins slowly, and works up into a celebration of peals that gradually fade away.
Travel to Siberia with MIR
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You can hear a winter concert of church chimes in Irkutsk on these trips:
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Top Photo: A church bell concert in Irkutsk; Photo Credit: Douglas Grimes
PUBLISHED: September 13, 2016