Will Harvard’s Lowell House bells return to Russia?

Background: Harvard has a set of 18 Russian bells purchased from the Soviet government in 1930, one of only five complete, intact sets of pre-revolutionary Russian bells left in the world. They came from Moscow's oldest monastery, which is now also the Patriarch's residence.

The monastery has been trying to get the bells back for the past 20 years, but they have become part of Harvard's culture too, and the university is not just hoping to get rid of them. Among other things, two towers would have to be dismantled in order to remove them. Nonetheless, the dialogue has been amicable, and Harvard is willing to entertain the idea of their return.

In reverse chronological order, the whole story is archived here, mostly from Harvard sources, for your convenience:

  • 12/15/03— Russian Church wants to bring back St. Daniil Monastery bells from U.S.

    The Russian Orthodox Church has called on the country's citizens to help raise funds to finance the return of 18 bells to Moscow's St. Daniil Monastery from Harvard. (Interfax)

  • 12/11/03— Harvard and Danilov Monastery officially announce feasibility study
  • Details of a joint plan to study the feasibility of returning the Lowell House bells to Danilov Monastery. (Harvard Gazette)

  • 12/09/03— Harvard To Study Return of Bells
  • Harvard announced that it would commission a study to determine the cost and feasibility of returning the Lowell House bells to their ancestral home in a Moscow monastery. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 12/08/03— Monks Visit Harvard Seeking Lowell Bells
  • After years of clicking a link on the Lowell House website to hear their Russian bells clang, a delegation of monks from Moscow rang the bells in person for the first time this weekend. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 12/05/03— Accounting for the Bells’ Toll
  • As a delegation of monks arrives to urge Harvard to return their monastery’s bells, realistic discussions of the cost of such a project take place. This is an important development, in view of some of the wildly inflated figures being bandied about previously. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 12/05/03— Talks on return of bells of Svyato-Danilov monastery to Russia
  • A delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church will start talks with the authorities of Harvard University on the return to Russia of 18 old bells of the Svyato-Danilov monastery in Boston on Friday. (Pravda Online)

  • 12/04/03— Russian Monks To Visit, Seeking Return of Lowell Bells
  • A delegation of monks from Moscow’s Danilov Monastery is due to arrive in Cambridge today for a brief trip to see the Lowell House bells and ask the University to return them to the 721-year-old monastery where they originated. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 10/27/03— Visa Troubles Keep Monks From Visiting Lowell Bells
  • Visa problems prevented a delegation of Muscovite monks from coming to Harvard this weekend on a quest to reclaim their sacred bells from Lowell House. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 09/15/03— A Monastery’s History
  • St Prince Daniel of Moscow, the son of legendary Russian military leader St Alexander Nevsky, founded the Danilov monastery with the building of a small church in 1282. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 09/15/03— Monastery Mourns Loss of Bells
  • MOSCOW— At the top of the bell tower of Danilov Monastery, fruit flies buzz around the dark metal bells and a cool breeze sweeps off the nearby Moscow river.... (Harvard Crimson)

  • 03/18/03— Lowell House Bells Toll To Commemorate Saint's Death
  • Lowell House attempted to share their coveted bells in spirit— if not in kind— with their original owner in a noontime ceremony yesterday. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 12/18/02— Klappermeister Offers Poem Lauding Bells
  • To the editors: As many Crimson readers know, the Patriarch of the Russian Church has appealed to have the Lowell House Bells returned to the Motherland. We regret to inform the Patriarch... [Actually this article ends up surprisingly sympathetic. See the following opinion piece for context.] (Harvard Crimson)

  • 12/17/03— Russian Bells Inspire Tug of War at Harvard
  • MOSCOW - Every Sunday, at the Lowell House dormitory on Harvard University's Cambridge, Massachusetts campus, a klappermeister climbs to the top of a red brick tower and creates a sound that has become almost as central to dorm life there as all-night study sessions or fast food. (St Petersburg Times)

  • 12/13/02— Our House, Our Bells
  • The Russians are mad at Harvard again. But this time, instead of faculty bungling their economy, it’s an alum pilfering their bells. In 1930, Charles Crane bought 18 bells from the St. Danilov Monastery to save them from the Soviet authorities, who wanted to melt them down, and donated them to Harvard. But now the rebuilt monastery wants them back by March 2003. (Harvard Crimson)

  • 12/10/02— Russians Seek Lowell Bells
  • The Lowell House bells, whose tones resound for a quarter-hour each Sunday morning, may be claimed by an echo of their Russian past. (Harvard Crimson)

  • A statement by the Danilov Monastery on the return of the bells
  • Translated from the website of the organizing committee of the monastery's 700th jubilee.

  • A history of Harvard's acquisition of the bells

    It's an interesting story. The bells were not appreciated at first, but kind of grew on Harvard's community.

  • Lowell House website
  • Including a bell page where you can click and ring the Harvard-Danilov bells.

  • Danilov Monastery website
  • Mostly in Russian, but some English.