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For whom the bells definitely did NOT toll!

Posted by MrNatch3L on Monday, October 8, 2007

We had an interesting thing happen in the neighborhood this past Saturday morning.

First you have to understand that Saturday is my hard-working, exhausted wife's day to sleep in. Me being pretty much the house husband these days, I try to bring her coffee in bed somewhere around 10 am if she's not up by then. So just about that time last Saturday I delivered her cafe creme and my latte to the bedroom where she had flipped on the TV as was looking for a newscast a the top of the hour.

Next you must understand that there are quite a few churches in our immediate vicinity on St. Petersburg's Vassilievsky Island. The one we know best because we pass it all the time on the way to the market is a Russian Orthodox church, no more than 2 blocks from us as the crow flies (more about crows later). We are pretty used to hearing the bells from that one. They have a pretty good set, and the young priest who is the ringer is also a jazz musician (my wife's newspaper did an article on him). We can always tell when it's him, and when he gets excited and starts improvising near the end. There is a long tradition of bell-ringing in the Orthodox church. I can only describe the style as sounding sort of like trying to imitate the jing-a-ling-a-ling of sleigh bells with a lot of much bigger bells. Only there are definite patterns and themes in there, though not really any melody you can recognize. We hear the bells from this Orthodox church clearly from our bedroom window when it's open in good weather, and we're very accustomed to them.

Well this past Saturday, just at 10:00, we heard a bell. Nothing strange in that. Except what a bell! I mean, a big, deep-throated, almost Big Ben sort of monster bell! We kind of looked at each other and said, wow, the church must have got themselves a new bell - we never heard that one before! Then on the heels of the first one comes another resonant, deep-toned BOONNNGG followed at maybe 3 second intervals by 8 more. Ten o'clock - but the Orthodox church never rings the hours! What's going on? But wait, it gets more interesting!

By about bong number three we noticed that the dark, lowering, rain-threatening sky was filled with literally hundreds and hundreds of crows, screaming their heads off, wheeling hither and thither all around over the rooftops of our back courtyard (we're on the 5th floor). I mean it was like something right out of Alfred Hitchcock! The crows here stay around all winter, so it wasn't like they were flocking to fly south like American crows. And there were also hordes of pigeons whirling through the skies round and round like they'd gone nuts. All this activity upset the family of big sea gulls that live on a rooftop over across the courtyard and they started shreiking as only sea gulls can!

Can you imagine the scene? Low, roiling dark clouds, and against them, a cloud of probably a thousand frantically wheeling birds of several kinds, with the crows and gulls shrieking like banshees, and every few seconds the air punctuated with the throbbing of the deep BONNNNGGGG! of some huge monster of a bell! I can't see the Last Trump beating that scene by all that much.

Well after ten strokes of the monster bell there was nothing but the wheeling, shrieking birds for a few minutes. Then began the chiming of smaller, but still far from hand-size bells. This began to coalesce into a tune, which after one phrase I recognized: none other than Martin Luther's "Eine mächtige Festung ist unser Gott". I remarked to Diana - "those don't sound like Orthodox bells, those sound like Protestant bells". We wondered if the Orthodox church had got a guest bell ringer or something, except these bells sounded like they could be out of Westminster Abbey or somewhere. They didn't have at all the same sound as the Russian bells I have heard.


2 comments on “For whom the bells definitely did NOT toll!”

twayneking Says:
Wednesday, October 10, 2007 @6:04:59 PM

Pray they don't get started on Dueling Bell-jos.

Talk about apocalyptic...

Tom King

mrphysics55 Says:
Monday, October 15, 2007 @9:38:47 PM

Now that's something to CROW about! Thanks for that, Eddie Bham Alabammy

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