Profession of a church bell ringer has existed for a thousand years, though today it is quite rare. When we think about it we often imagine a white-bearded old man in a long robe, but how do modern bell ringers really look? Let us check this out.
Meet Alexey, he works as a system administrator in a company in Almaty, Kazakhstan. He spends his working days at a computer, but at the same time he has another profession – he’s a bell ringer at Ascension Cathedral in Almaty. In the morning, prior to his working day, he comes to the belfry of the church and gives a signal for a morning prayer.
People have come for holy water on the day of Epithany.
Steep stairs leading to the belfry.
First of all, Alexey should check the condition of the bells, ropes and fasteners. If necessary, he lubricates them, tightens the clamps, makes minor repairs.
Bell ringers should have a good sense of rhythm and coordination of movements.
Ringing may be different depending on an event. It may be calm, quiet or joyful. The bell ringer should convey a certain mood.
The biggest bell – blessed messanger – rings on Sundays and holidays. Ringing has certain canons but still it leaves space for creativity. For 80% it can be improvization.
The clock is necessary not to miss the time of a service. Besides, there is a loudspeaker here that enables others to hear what happens inside the church.
On holidays forty rings inform about the beginning of a service.
Clapper is one of the main elements of the bell, it is put in motion by a metal chain.
Big bells whose weight is up to two tons are controlled by a pedal. The weight of the bell – blessed messenger in Ascension Church is 1680 kg, but thanks to the compound lever the load on a foot amounts to five kilograms only.
Some bells are as heavy as ten tons. The biggest one, according to Alexey, weighs 72 tons. Two bell ringers have to rock its clapper for five minutes to calm it.
The bell ringer has a special string of beads with forty knots. It helps to count a number of strikes. Besides, in order to time the ringing (seven minutes) he reads a prayer to himself.
On the bell is an image of Saint martyr Pimen who was a bishop in the hardest times of the October revoluton and the Civil War.
After the bell messenger ringing, it is time for change ringing where practically all the bells are used. Combination of sounds produced by big and small bells creates a bright holiday melody which is heard far around. Such ringing may revive spirits of people passing by.
The main melody of change ringing is created by small bells.
Views from the belfry.
Bell ringers use earplugs so as not to become deaf.
Ringing lasts for fifteen minutes.
Alexey will repeat it in the end of service too. Meanwhile he has rest in a small room under the belfry.
Bell ringers usually believe in God, some of them start believing only when they come to a church though. This way or another they need to know a prayer well to do their job. In many churches bell ringers are volunteers, but here, in the church of Almaty they are on the staff.