Harvard Signs Official Pact With Monastery to Send Historic Lowell Bells Back to Russia by Summer 2008

Lowell House’s historic Russian bells are officially headed back to the motherland, following a formal agreement inked in Moscow Tuesday between Harvard representatives and officials from the Danilov Monastery in the Russian capital.

Last week, a delegation from the University visited the Vera Bell Foundry, which was selected to mold the bells that will replace Lowell’s current set, and closed a deal to have the original bells shipped back by the summer of 2008.

Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck said that the agreement, which marks the conclusion of negotiations that began last September, was clear-cut.

“Eighteen bells for eighteen bells, that’s it,” she said.

In addition to the bell swap, Eck said, the agreement includes a future endowment to support cultural exchange and provide the musical training necessary to learn how to ring the new bells.

Lowell House will be closed off to residents during the summer of 2008 in order to facilitate installation of the new bells, according to Eck.

The old bells will be taken down around the time of next year’s commencement, she said, and will be accompanied by a farewell celebration.

“We’ll have a general symposium and conference, and invite many past Lowell bell-ringers. It will be an appropriate send-off,” said Eck.

The bell exchange is being financed by a foundation for the arts established by Russian metals mogul Viktor Vekselberg, and will cost around $1 million.

Lowell’s bells arrived at Harvard from Russia nearly 80 years ago. The 18 bronze giants are over 100 years old, with one dating back to the 17th century.

The Harvard delegation, comprised of Associate Provost of Art and Culture Sean T. Buffington ’91, project manager Peter Riley, and Lowell House tutor Luis A. Campos, returned from Russia last night.