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.
Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck said six representatives from Moscow’s Danilov Monastery, the Lowell bells’ original home, were supposed to visit Harvard this weekend to start talks about whether the bells could feasibly be returned to the 721-year-old monastery.
But Eck said the Russian monks failed to secure visas in time to come to Cambridge this weekend.
Representatives of the monastery have been seeking the return of the bells for almost 20 years, but intensified their quest last year before the 700th anniversary of St. Danil’s death.
While the monks’ attempts to secure the bells’ return for the celebratory year failed, they are not giving up.
And Eck said that their planned visit this weekend was meant to jump-start more discussions of the bells’ future.
“I personally would like to see the bells returned,” she said. “There are a lot of steps that need to be taken, and the purpose of the discussion is to talk about those steps.”
Despite her desire to see the bells back in their home in Moscow, Eck said she understands that there are many roadblocks to their transatlantic return.
University President Lawrence H. Summers said in September that the cost of removing the bells from Lowell and shipping them to Russia might prohibit a transfer.
Luis A. Campos ’99, a former Klappermeister, or bell-ringer, and a resident tutor in Lowell, said he had been looking forward to learning more about the bells’ history—and possibly picking up a few pointers on ringing from the monks.
“I’d love to have a chance to talk to them to piece together our understanding,” Campos said. “I want to know how they ring [the bells].”
Eck said the University and the monks were working on rescheduling the visit, possibly for December.
As part of their campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church—and in an effort to make money—the Soviets took the bells from the monastery and sold them to Charles R. Crane, an American industrialist, in the 1920s. Crane then donated them to Harvard in 1930, and Lowell residents soon created their Sunday tradition of bell-ringing.
Aara E. Edwards ’02-’04, who has been ringing the bells since her freshman year, said she thinks the Lowell ringers do a good job even without training from the expert monks.
“You practice in your dreams, just dream about bells,” she said.
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