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24 Jul, 2007 15:25

U.S. and Russia exchange church bells

The Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch of all Russia, Aleksy the Second, has blessed replica monastery bells which are due to be presented to Harvard University in America. In return, Russia will get the historic originals back after more than

A set of  eighteen precious church bells is one step closer to returning to Russia more than 70 years after they were saved from destruction by an American businessman.

The bells of St. Daniel's Monastery in Moscow were bought in 1930, when many churches were being shut down by the Soviet regime, and donated to Harvard University, where they have been ever since.  

It has become a tradition that the bells play on every significant occasion for the students or alumni of Harvard University.  

Now a Russian billionaire, Viktor Vekselberg, is returning the original bells to the monastery. He's commissioned a set of replicas, which will travel to the U.S. In exchange, the originals will be back in Moscow next year.

The replicas were blessed by the Patriarch ahead of their journey.

A few hundred people, including Moscow’s Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Viktor Veksleberg, gathered at St. Daniel’s monastery to witness the ceremony.

“I hope that these bells will be our ambassadors in the faraway America. And they sing a song of peace and unity becoming a symbol of friendship between our two countries,” Viktor Vekselberg, the art patron, said.  

The negotiations took about 18 years and finally the university agreed to return the bells to their original place at the Moscow monastery.

And finally, the replicas Harvard has accepted in exchange are ready to be shipped.