Friday, September 8, 2017

The Bells of Kremlin

       Though the tower of Ivan Veliki is the finest belfry in Russia, it has no special beauty, but being two hundred and sixty-nine feet high, towers finely above all the other buildings of the Kremlin in the distant views. Halfway up is a gallery, whence the sovereigns from Boris to Peter the Great used to harangue the people. The exquisite bells are only heard in perfection on Easter Eve at midnight. On the preceding Sunday (Palm Sunday) the people have resorted in crowds to the Kremlin to buy branches, artificial flowers, and boughs with waxen fruits to hang before their icons. On Holy Thursday the Metropolitan has washed the feet of twelve men, representing the Apostles, in the cathedral, using the dialogue recorded in John xii. Then at midnight on Easter Eve the great bell sounds, followed by every other bell in Moscow; the whole city blazes into light; the tower of Ivan Veliki is illuminated from its foundation to the cross on its summit. The square below is filled with a motley throng, and around the churches are piles of Easter cakes, each with a taper stuck in it, waiting for a blessing. The interior of the Church of the Rest of the Virgin is thronged by a vast multitude bearing waxed tapers. The Metropolitan and his clergy, in robes blazing with gold and precious stones, have made the external circuit of the church three times, and then, through the great doors, have advanced towards the throne between myriads of lights. No words can describe the colors, the blaze, the roar of the universal chant. Descending from the throne, the Metropolitan has incensed the clergy and the people, and the clergy have incensed the Metropolitan, whilst the spectators have bowed and crossed themselves incessantly. After a service of two hours the Metropolitan has advanced, holding a cross which the people have thronged to kiss. He has then retired to sanctuary, whence, as Ivan Veliki begins to toll, followed by a peal from a thousand bells announcing the stroke of midnight, he emerges in a plain purple robe, and announces, "Christos voscres!" Christ is risen. Then kisses of love are universally exchanged, and, most remarkable of all the Metropolitan, on his hands and knees, crawls around the church kissing the icons on the walls, the altars, and the tombs, and, through their then opened sepulchers, the incorruptible bodies of the saints. After this no meetings take place without the salutation "Christos voscres," and the answer, "Vo istine voscres " (He is risen). Augustus J. G. C. Hare

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