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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. Also, the 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.


Harvard and Danilov Monastery
officially announce feasibility study

harvard gazette

December 11, 2003

Lowell House bells

The status of the Lowell House tower bells, which originally hung in a Moscow monastery, is being looked at by a joint committee from Harvard and Russia. (Harvard Gazette photo)

Lowell House bells re-examined

On Dec. 4-8, 2003, representatives of Harvard University and members of a Russian delegation headed by the Father Superior of the Moscow St. Daniel Monastery met to discuss the future of the bells from the monastery that have hung in the Lowell House bell tower at Harvard University since 1930 when they were sold by the Soviet government. The Russian delegation acknowledged Harvard's legal ownership of the bells and expressed its gratitude for the preservation of these bells. The discussions were cordial and constructive.

Both sides acknowledge that the bells are cherished by the students and faculty of Lowell House and play an important part in the life of Harvard University. We also acknowledge that the bells are part of Russia's spiritual and cultural heritage and have a deep spiritual significance for the monks, priests, and parishioners of the Danilov Monastery and the Russian government and its people.

The parties have agreed, therefore, that it is necessary and timely to settle the question of the return of these bells to the Danilov Monastery. The first step in this process will be to conduct an architectural and structural study to determine the feasibility and projected construction cost of removing and replacing the bells. This study will be undertaken at Harvard's expense. Upon completion of this analysis and a favorable assessment of the possibility of going forward with this project, the two parties will resume discussion. Further costs such as construction, transportation, and bell-replacement would be borne by the Russian side.

The parties enjoyed the chance to meet, to get to know each other, and to discuss this important matter. We look forward to continued cooperation and fruitful discussion.

Members of the Russian Delegation:

  • Archimandrite Aleksey, Father Superior, Danilov Monastery
  • Hierodeacon Roman, Chief Bellringer, Danilov Monastery
  • Marina N. Belogubova, Director, Department of Public and Religious Relations, Office of the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation to the Central Federal District of Russia
  • Father Alexander Abramov, Representative of the Moscow Patriarchate in New York
  • Aleksy Rogov, Vice Consul for Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of the Russian Federation

Representatives of Harvard University:

  • Alan J. Stone, Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs
  • Benedict Gross, Dean of Harvard College
  • Frank Conners, Office of the General Counsel
  • Diana L. Eck, Master of Lowell House

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