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Prof. Luis Campos and the Russian Bells

Departmental News

Posted: Oct 04, 2018 - 12:00am

Prof. Luis Campos has recently returned from Moscow, where he participated in a ceremony and festival celebrating the tenth anniversary of the return and repatriation of a priceless set of sacred bells. Weighing nearly 27 tons in total, these bells were rescued in 1930 from Stalin’s anti-religious campaigns, and were given to Harvard University by a wealthy alumnus. There they hung in the tower of a student residence hall, and became a unique feature of undergraduate life, ringing for football games, formal dinners, theater productions, and significant events in university and American life.  In 2003, following the restoration of religion in Russia, negotiations resumed to have the bells returned to Danilov Monastery, which is now the seat of the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The exchange of the old bells for newly cast ones was itself a feat of international diplomacy involving technologically-savvy monks, fabulously wealthy oligarchs, and a happenstance group of students, as well as Prof. Campos. The bells finally returned home in 2008.


In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the bells’ return, Prof. Campos was invited to deliver public lectures on the bells’ remarkable history, to participate in a bellringing festival organized for the occasion, and to join the Father-superior of the monastery in a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening an exhibition of Prof. Campos’ photos (some of these were previously published in Vozvrashchenie Danilovskikh Kolokolov (Exchange of the Danilov Bells), by the St. Daniel’s Monastery Press. Prof. Campos was also interviewed by Russian media and appeared in a recent television news report available here: (story begins at 46:30, his appearance at 47:28.)


Prof. Campos is writing a history of the fascinating and tumultuous life of the bells—and those who cared from them—over nearly eighty years, during their time of exile from their once and present home. Based on work conducted in a dozen archives over ten years, he is currently editing the book manuscript down to size for publication. It was following his first encounter with the bells in 1996, wanting to know more about their history, that Prof. Campos first encountered the joys of using primary sources and consulting archives. Indeed, it was his involvement with the history of these bells that first kindled his interests in becoming a historian!