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18 Jul, 2008 17:58

Monastery’s bells head back to Moscow after 78 years

Some Russian relics are beginning their journey home. Harvard University has officially transferred ownership of bells from the St.Danilov Monastery back to Russia in exchange for newly-made replicas.

The last Danilov bell has been lowered from Harvard University's Lowell House marking both an end and a beginning. After 78 years Harvard has relinquished custody of the bells – beginning their long-awaited return journey to Moscow.

Father Aleksey Superior of the St.Danilov Monastery presided over a ceremony marking the official exchange of the bells at Harvard on Tuesday. He said for them it's 'a day of thanks'.

A congregation from Moscow marked the occasion with a prayer service and choral performance.

Sealing the deal with a signature, the Russian Orthodox Church officially regained ownership of its musical relics.

“It took a quarter of a century to get this opportunity to take these bells back to the motherland,” said Father Aleksey Superior

Negotiations between the Danilov Monastery and Harvard began in 1980s.
Talk finally turned to action when Harvard was promised a set of seventeen new bells, which are exact Danilov replicas cast by a Russian foundry.

Providing most of the finance for the project is Victor Vekselberg of the Link of Times Foundation.

“As the years go on, America and Russia will remember this wonderful, exceptionally important event connected to the Danilov bells,” said Vekselberg.

It was in 1930 that the Danilov bells were silenced by communism. They managed to avoid destruction. They were sold to an American for scrap metal before gaining a safe haven at Harvard. Over the decades, their voice became an integral part of university life.

The Danilov bells will travel back to Russia by sea, retracing their original voyage to the U.S. On September 12, they will make their official return to the Danilov monastery, where they will once again contribute to the soundscape of Russia.