The Official Bell-Ringers' Typikon of the Russian Orthodox Church
The Patriarchate of Moscow, with the cooperation of the Moscow Bell Center and Pyatkov & Co., has issued a standard Typikon for Church Bell Ringing which is intended to serve as a basis for the ongoing resurrection of the Orthodox bell tradition in Russia.
The value of such a guide will be immediately obvious, but some background might be useful:
As is well known, Orthodoxy's most highly developed bell tradition was actually almost entirely lost under Communism, and where it did survive, it had to get by on very limited means few ringers, and even fewer bells. In a few cases, local traditions had been written down. Thus we have, for example, the Bell-Ringers' Ustav of Optina Monastery, published by A. Nikanorov, and other such documentation. In a very few areas notably in Pskov and some others some continuity of living practice survived. And we have one or two live recordings like the archival footage of bell-ringing at Great Rostov that we have included on our video.
However, much of the Russian bell tradition was oral and folkloric, and what written typika there were, existed only in handwritten and rather colloquial form. This was true, for example, even at Optina. Moreover, apart from the invaluable work of Fr. Aristarkh Israilev and Konstantin Saradjev at the beginning of the 20th century, no one ever attempted to collect, collate, and compare such typika even from throughout Russia, much less from throughout the Orthodox world. Bells were just such a part of the fabric of Orthodox life that one hardly thought to study them across the whole culture!
Today, however, although bell-towers are coming back to life, the continuous network of bell-ringing that characterized pre-Revolutionary Russia is hardly even conceivable to us. Moreover, in new countries like America, this culture never existed in the first place, so we really have little idea what to do with the bells we have.
Therefore, this 80-page booklet, a distillation of all that is known of Russia's vast and reviving culture of local and universal bell traditions, is indispensible, especially in America where we have almost no other guidance. It sets forth the basic principles as well as the rules for all occasions during the church year. It also contains wise instruction on safety and on the care of bells. A future edition will contain the complete service of ordination of a bell ringer, and it presently contains a service of consecration of a bell which differs in interesting ways from the one provided elsewhere on this site, taken from our standard Book of Needs and augmented from other sources. And finally, it contains a list of over 150 titles of books and other materials, of great interest to the serious student of this aspect of the Orthodox liturgical tradition.
Our understanding is that this booklet is a preliminary edition, which is to be revised and corrected in the light of the experience of actual zvonars, and with further input from local traditions, in a definitive edition to be published a couple of years hence.
Therefore, although we are translating the current edition as need arises and as time permits, we have not thought it wise to publish a complete English version just yet. In fact we hope to produce an annotated edition, supplemented, for example, with the aforementioned ustav of Optina Monastery and others, to provide a glimpse of the range and flexibility of the tradition from the outset, and to dispel any tendency to treat any particular as the Only and Final Word. For our church bell music is perforce somewhat flexible, and must be so, given the often wide differences between sets of bells. But we do not deem it advisable to do this until the final version of the new, standard Typikon is available.
Meanwhile, however, our clients and others who are striving to bring their bell-ringing into line with the fullness of Tradition have immediate needs. Thus we are providing an interim translation, in piecemeal fashion which we will update from time to time with new material. You can download the current version as a .pdf file, but be sure also to subscribe to our newletter for notice of updates.
We are also making the current Russian version available in our secure shopping facility (the price is a modest $10, which includes importation, handling, and shipping).