A century after The Thirty Years War wound down,
Taken apart into atoms, bits of its metal have yielded an
isotopic census of its component
elements. This geochemical
equivalent of a DNA ‘ fingerprint ‘ reveals where much of
the two tons of bell metal
originated, for each mining district has a
unique isotopic signature. The conclusion is clear-- the bell was not
cast from virgin metal, which in colonial
To give birth to
Along with tin traceable to Sir Walter Raleigh’s term as Warden Of The Stanneries , the great bell cast in 1751 represents copper sheathing from stranded British Men O’War, lead European cathedral roofs, Persian and Andalusian brass, a pinch of debased Roman silver, a dash of Byzantine and African gold, and enough arsenic of unknown origin -- having just one isotope, there's no telling whence the toxic stuff was mined -- to assure that the EPA will forever keep the Liberty Bell from being turned into souvenir spoons and shot glasses. Many historic bells have faced worse indignities .
One of Stalin’s first acts on coming
to power was to silence the
loudest Christian voice in
They were saved from the melting pot
by Charles R. Crane, an American diplomat of independent means who bought them
for his alma mater. Installed in the
The story of the bells' migration dates to 1929, when Crane learned Harvard planned a 214 foot clock tower atop it newest and largest undergraduate residence, the masterpiece of Silent Cal’s architect cousin, Charles Allerton Coolidge. Crane reasoned correctly that President Lowell would have to be bats not to convert it to a belfry, if presented with a whole carillon of clarion bronze, for Lowell had a deep interest in bells, his library of rare books including De Tintinnabulis by 16th century Master Caster Hieronymus Magius.
Crane, who served President Wilson at
the Versailles Conference, was appointed the
In May 1930, the Byzantinist cabled The Soviet Union Combine for Export and Import of Antiquaries and Art Goods (known as “Antiquariat”) from Berlin, and wired Crane’s personal affairs manager, instructing him to “Ask University transfer by cable $10,000 to Guaranty Trust Co New York.” It wasn’t Harvard’s money--Whittemore used Crane’s pseudonym “University” in his cable traffic lest the Kremlin discover the diplomat's involvement in the transaction. But his cover broke on March 9, 1931, when Time magazine got wind of the deal, and put the musical rescue mission on the cover.
Besides tolling in grief, celebration , and alarm-- in my memory the loudest on the night the Berlin Wall fell, the bells of what some once presumed to style Moscow on the Charles also rang in Stolzhynetsyn’s honorary Doctorate. But they are coming down this week. After 78 years of refuge here, these iconic Russian bells will return ,one hopes permanently, to their former home --the Danilov Monastery is once again the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church .
“While recognizing that the bells legally belong to Harvard, the more than 700-year-old Danilov Monastery, now the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church, has made formal and informal requests for their return over the past 20 years. An agreement between Harvard and the church, reached in... 2003, stipulated that the Danilov Bells would be relinquished by the University in exchange for a set of replacement bells. The Link of Times Foundation, dedicated to the restoration of Russian arts and culture, has financed the replacement bells... As the project to return the bells brought a new era of cultural relations between Lowell House and the Danilov Monastery, Harvard bell ringers traveled to Russia to train, and Russian bell experts held master classes in bell ringing at Lowell House.
“Today our team of bell ringers produces a rich, layered sound that is more beautiful than ever,” [Lowell House Master] Eck says. “We have grown to love these old bells, but we are happy to see them return to their Russian home, and look forward to welcoming their replacements.”
Many of the big guns Napoleon abandoned on his retreat from
Harvard’s 33 ton trade-in has given it a new set, wrought in no small part from the smelted heads of a horde of dead Bolshevik. Having once given voice to God ,the metal in which they were briefly immortalized has been melted down yet again into the very octave Stalin's Kremlin most feared to hear.
Ask for whom Harvard's new thirteen ton bell will toll when the mass of bronze is hoist into its vantage and the answer will be uncountable Lenins , four score and seven Stalins, far too many Trotskys , a leavening of Brezhnev’s, and Kruschevs and the odd Iron Feliks, Lysenko and Malenkov. That’s why Harvard’s few and proud conservatives can scarcely restrain our reactionary glee on seeing the eight hundred pound beam of quilted iron that sits in the Lowell house courtyard, ready to spend the next century, or three, clapping Vladimir, Leon, and Uncle Joe smack in their collective teeth.
So if you’re in