Harvard Meets Moscow: Visiting the “Original” Lowell House Bells

Sometimes life creates its own metaphors.

Last weekend, I visited the Danilov Monastery (Tulskaya Metro) in Moscow with a friend from university to see the famous Danilov bells– one of only three sets of surviving pre-revolutionary bells in Russia.

The Danilov Bells, Danilov Belfry, Moscow

Replica of the Danilov Bells, Harvard University circa Fall 2009 (my freshman year)

In 1930, they were sold to an American businessman by the name of Charles Crane who brought them to Harvard University. They were installed in the Lowell House Belfry where their main purpose, as far as I can tell, was to wake up hung over students in time for Sunday afternoon brunch.

Danilov Belfry

In 2008, they made the return trip to Moscow to much celebration.

Lowell House Bell Tower

As a goodwill gesture, Danilov provides free tours to all Harvard students, alumni, and faculty who visit the monastery. Our tour guide said we were the first Harvard visitors she had ever had, so I guess there hasn’t been much traffic.

We made it to the noon-time bell ringing. It’s a pretty phenomenal feeling standing hundreds of feet up in the air and feeling the floor beneath you shake from sound vibrations. We had to put cotton in our ears to protect our hearing.

Afterwards, my friend and I had a great half-Russian/half-Russian conversation with one of the monks at the monastery, Brother Roman, over a traditional Russian meal. He had been at the monastery for four years, having spent two decades working as a computer programmer. Religion had been an interest of his since his time in college. Ultimately, he decided to dedicate his life to his faith and the search for truth. I think the motto “veritas” is something he would understand well.

Salmon soup with vegetables and potato salad

I have a little over two days left in this city. In retrospect, this was a fitting end to my time in Moscow. The Danilov/Lowell Bells and I made the same trip, starting and ending in Moscow with a long stretch of time in the U.S. in between. Their homecoming was returning to Russia, but I think mine will be coming back to America. 10,552 miles to go.

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