Monastery Mourns Loss of Bells

The return of the Lowell House bells would be a welcome replacement, Father Roman says. Unlike the current Danilov bells, the Lowell bells were created by the same bell maker to be used together.

“It’s a pity that they’re all from different places and they don’t ring well together,” he says of the current assembly.

Bell Tower to Ivory Tower

The monastery’s campaign to bring their bells home began in 1984 when a U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R. first informed the archimandrite of the bells whereabouts.

Last spring, Father Roman and other monks sent two letters to University President Lawrence H. Summers to introduce the idea of returning the bells.


According to the monastery’s administrator, Father Innokentiy Okhovoy, Summers sent them a reply in May saying that he would be willing to further discuss the bells with the monks.

The monks say the archimandrite—the assistant to the patriarch, the highest position in the Russian Orthodox Church—may make a special trip to Harvard to speak with Summers in October.

In an interview last week, Summers said he would be willing to talk to a representative from the monastery, but thought the cost of removing the bells would make a transfer difficult.

The Danilov monks say they understand Harvard may not be willing to part with the bells—and legally has no obligation to give them back.

But the return of the bells, they say, would complete the monastery’s restoration from its days as a Soviet prison and signify the end of a long and winding journey.

“It’s a living connection with our past and with a monastery that existed long, long ago,” Father Innokentiy says. “For some time the life of the monastery was broken and the bells are a link to the old Orthodox tradition.”

“It’s God’s will that the bells survived,” Father Roman says.

Father Innokentiy says he knew it would be almost impossible for Harvard to return the bells to the monastery for the anniversary year.

But now there is a committee from the monastery working towards the return of the bells and both Father Roman and Father Innokentiy say they are hopeful that Harvard will help.

“It was not fair to take the bells out of the monastery in the first place,” Father Innokentiy says. “But it wasn’t Harvard’s fault. It is Harvard’s right to say how it will be done because they legally received the bells.”

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