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16 Oct, 2007 22:30

Church bells sound again on Russia’s Mount Calvary

Church bells at the Solovetsky Monastery in northern Russia are sounding again for the first time in decades. Ten newly cast bells have been raised to the top of the bell tower of the monastery’s Calvary Cloister.

The Solovetsky monastery was founded almost 600 years ago and now consists of several cloisters. The  'Mount Calvary' cloister is home to only five monks. It is not by chance that the place carries the name of Calvary, where Jesus Christ was crucified. As legend goes, the Virgin Mary appeared before a monk there and told him to give the name to the mount, which has the same longitude as Mount Calvary in Jerusalem.

After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, the monastery became a political prison where thousands were kept and hundreds executed over two decades.

The monks returned to the ruins in the early 1990s and then went in search for the bells. What they found on the bottom of the nearby lake was a gruesome discovery.

“We searched with underwater cameras. We stopped  work when we saw human bones covering the bells,” recalls Antoly Karanin, the head of the search party.

So the decision was made not to disturb the remains of the prisoners who had been put to death and mould new bells. 

Although the bells are now in their right place, till next spring only the monks will be able to listen to their chimes. The upcoming winter will freeze the waters around the Solovetsky Islands, cutting the monks off from civilisation and leaving them in solitude for prayer.