Seattletimes.com, Monday, April 24, 2000, 12:00 a.m.
Seattle hears sound of old Russia; bells custom-made
for Orthodox cathedral
by Frank Vinluan
Yesterday, a sound rarely heard since the Russian Revolution rang
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Rev. Vadim Pogrebniak, dean of St. Spiridon Cathedral, 1310
Harrison St., introduced a rare set of four Russian bells during
Palm Sunday services. (The Orthodox Church in America celebrates
Easter a week later than most Christian churches.) The Russian bells
are one of an estimated six sets in North America.
"Here in America, you just don't come across Russian bells," said
Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco has Russian bells dating
to 1867, the oldest such bells in the United States. Alexander II,
czar of Russia from 1855 to 1881, donated sets of bells to Eastern
Orthodox churches around the world.
But few remain from that donation. The 1917 revolution that brought
communists to power also silenced the peals of Russian bells in
Orthodox cathedrals. In their zeal to stamp out religion, the communists
closed many churches. They also melted down the silver and bronze
bells, and forbade the casting of new bells.
St. Spiridon's bells came from Pyatkov, a foundry in the Ural Mountains.
One of Russia's top foundries until the rise of communism, Pyatkov
has resumed bell-casting only in the past few years, said the Rev.
Michael Dunbar, assistant director of St. Spiridon Cathedral.
"For 70 years under the communists, they couldn't cast bells,"
Dunbar said. "It was a lost art that's been rediscovered."
St. Spiridon's congregation might not have heard the bells were
it not for Sharrie Shade of Seattle, who donated them in memory
of her late husband, Gregory Shade, a parishioner who died in July.
An inscription on the largest bell reads, "The Lord is my strength
and my song. He has become my salvation." Engraving on that bell
also depicts St. Gregory the Theologian, Gregory Shade's patron
The $7,500 set of bells was ordered in January and arrived last
week. Weighing 350 pounds, the set will be hung in the cathedral's
tower, where it will be used during religious services in concert
with or perhaps in place of the brass bells now used. Pogrebniak
said he will research how the bells should be rung during services.
Russian bells sound better because their silver and bronze alloy
produces a crisper sound than brass does, Pogrebniak said.
Also, Russian bells do not swing like many brass bells. Hanging
the bells, then ringing them with a clapper results in a sound that
rings longer, Pogrebniak said.
That sound was not lost on parishioners at yesterday's service.
"It's so touching," said Marina Dietsch. "Every time it rings,
it's in his (Gregory Shade) memory."
Copyright © 2000 The Seattle Times Company
Back to news index