By Alex Rodriguez Suarez | Independent scholar
Its height measures approximately 46 cm and its diameter is 54 cm. The crown, the top section designed to hang the bell, is made of six handles. It is missing the clapper. The bell does not have any decoration, but it presents a Church Slavonic inscription in relief, distributed in four lines that occupies a large part of its main body.
(Incomplete transcription, because of the location of the bell, between two walls, the inscription cannot be seen entirely) +СЪ КИМВАЛ СЪТВОРИ СМѣ …NЇЕ АРХЇЕП(И)СКОПЬ(Ъ) АНАСТАС КРИМКОВИИ· / МИТРОПОЛИТ СOYЧАВСКЇИ И ДАДЕ И ВЪ СТѢИ ГОРѢ АѲO … СTѢИ МОНАС · / ТИРЬ ДОХИАР ИДЕЖИ ЕСТ(Ъ) ХРAM АРХЇСТРАТИГА МИХАИЛА ГАВРИИЛА · / · В ЛТО · ЗРКВ · МЦА ЮН КA. The end of the inscription is marked with a symbol.
Translation: This cymbal was made by the humble Archbishop Anastasius Krimkovin, Metropolitan of Suceava, and was given to the Monastery of Dochiariou on the Holy Mountain Athos, where there is a church of the chief commanders Michael and Gabriel in the year 7122, month of July, 21.
Anastasie Crimca, metropolitan of Suceava (1608–17/1619–29), was an author and illuminator. He copied several manuscripts, some of which include portraits. Among the individuals that he depicted are his parents, Constantin Movilă or himself. In 1609, he founded Dragomirna Monastery (modern Romania), where he was later buried. The bell is dated following the Byzantine calendar, that is, since the creation of the world. The inscription refers to the instrument as a cymbal, the term used in other inscriptions on Moldavian bells dated to the 16th and 17th centuries. A bell casting workshop discovered in Suceava suggests that perhaps this example, too, was produced in the former capital of Moldavia. Although the inscription informs us that Crimca made the bell, what is meant is that he ordered it and paid for it. The bell was cast in July 1614 and so it must have arrived at Dochiariou at some point after this date.
The bell is not included in modern scholarship devoted to bells cast in the north-Danubian principalities and so it constitutes a new sample of bell casting manufacture in Moldavia in this period. It shares features with other Moldavian bells; for example, the inscription occupies the main body of the object. This detail makes bells rather distinctive, since such metal instruments normally show the inscription in the shape of an encircling band around the bottom and/or the top. Also, the name of the bell founder (master) is not mentioned. Indeed, Moldavian bells remained anonymous until the 18th century. Their inscriptions usually name only the donor. The earlier reported bells cast in Moldavia are dated to the second half of the 15th century; they were donated by Stephan III (r. 1457–1504). Nevertheless, bell ringing was surely employed before. Currently, the oldest bell in the Romanian principalities dates to 1385 and is found in Cotmeana Monastery (established by Radu I [r. 1377–1383]), in Wallachia. Therefore, church bells were employed in the Danubian principalities since at least the 14th century, and probably earlier.
Anastasie Crimca ordered the bell as a gift to Dochiariou Monastery on Mount Athos. The patronage of Moldavia and Wallachia toward Mount Athos is well known; for example, the construction and decoration of the katholikon of Dochiariou was financed by the Moldavian leader Alexander IV Lăpușneanu (r. 1552–61/1564–68). To date, however, bells had not been listed among the objects donated to Athonite monasteries. It is unknown whether in this early period other Romanian bells were sent to Mount Athos or if Crimca’s was a unique instance. Moreover, the bell demonstrates that Romanian donors were not reduced to the rulers and their families. Individuals from the higher clergy, like the metropolitan of Suceava, also made donations to Mount Athos, especially from the 16th century onward. Hence, the bell at Dochiariou Monastery sheds further light on the relations between Moldavia and the Athonite community during the long period of Ottoman rule.
Bell ringing was strictly forbidden in territories ruled directly by the Ottoman Empire until the mid-19th century. As a result, any bell casting manufacture that existed before the Ottoman conquest vanished. Because of their privileged status, Athonite monasteries were permitted to use bell ringing during most of the Ottoman period. At the moment the bell of Anastasie Crimca is the oldest reported bell on Mount Athos. It allowed the monks of Dochiariou to regulate their everyday life and religious calendar. To do so, the Athonite community employed both semantra and bells. The semantron was the traditional instrument of the Byzantine Church; it usually was an elongated piece of wood that was hit with a mallet to call the faithful to worship. Since the production of bells was not available near Mount Athos, monks had to import the objects from far away. For this reason, the gift of Archbishop Anastasie was special.
It is worth noting that during the 17th and 18th centuries Athonite monasteries mainly relied on Venetian founders to obtain bells. Both Wallachia and Moldavia were vassal states of the Ottoman sultan at that time. Their political status allowed them, together with the Republic of Ragusa, to ring church bells freely. As a consequence, bell casting continued in these regions. We can only wonder whether the bell of Anastasie Crimca was requested by the monastic community of Docheiariou or the metropolitan was aware that bells were scarce in the Ottoman Empire and so the monks would appreciate his special gift.
No comprehensive study on the bells of Mount Athos has been undertaken yet, but so far the bell of Anastasie Crimca is the only Moldavian bell on the Holy Mountain to have been identified and studied. Other Romanian bells reached Mount Athos; they date to the second half of the 19th century and after, but they likely follow in a longer tradition of such gifts and commissions. For instance, a bell cast in Bucharest in 1861 was ordered by a monk from Iviron Monastery. It is worth noting that around this time bell casting was introduced on Mount Athos. In 1883, Athelstan Riley visited the Holy Mountain and saw bell founders based in Karyes. They cast several bells found in Athonite monasteries. Particularly significant is the work of Ioannis Nikolaou, whose earlier reported bell on Mount Athos was cast in 1862.
Nonetheless, bells also continued to be imported from abroad, particularly from Russia. In the early 20th century, the skete of Saint John the Forerunner, one of the two Romanian foundations on the Holy Mountain, received bells donated by Romanians. For example, a bell cast in Bucharest in 1911 was given by Canuta Ionescu, the mayor of Urlați, a town located to the north of the Romanian capital. Even in 2017, the skete obtained bells cast in Vâlcea County, in the central-south area of Romania.
Chiaburu, Elena. “Despre clopotele și clopotarii din Țara Moldovei (până la 1859).” Tyragetia 9, no. 2 (2015): 29–50.
A more recent study focusing on the bells of Moldavia, also covering the long chronology between the Middle Ages and the mid-19th century. It builds on the study by Constantine A. Stoide.
Rodriguez Suarez, Alex. “Bell ringing on Mount Athos during the Ottoman period, II: Bells.” Deltion of the Christian Archaeological Society 42 (2021): 387–414.
The work presents forty bells preserved on Mount Athos and dated to the Ottoman period, between the 17th and the early 20th century. Bell no. 1 is the object donated by Anastasie Crimca.
Theoktistoy Monaxoy Docheiaritoy. “Sympleromatika stoixeia gia tis sxeseis tes Ieras Mones Docheiarioy me tis paradoynavies perioxes, basismena se ektos toy Roymanikoy arxeioy ellenikes peges” [Additional data on the relations of the Holy Monastery of Docheiariou with the Danubian regions, based on Greek sources outside the Romanian archive], in E Iera Mone Docheiarioy ste Roumania. Ti lene ta eggrafa (The Holy Monastery of Docheiariou. What do the documents say?), Florin Marinescu (Mount Athos: Holy Monastery of Docheiariou, 2009): 461–506.
This annex may be the first publication to provide information about the bell donated by Anastasie Crimca. It is mainly reduced to a Greek translation of the Church Slavonic inscription on the object.
Turdeanu, Émile. “Le métropolite Anastase Crimca et son œuvre littéraire et artistique (1608–1629).” Revue des Études Slaves 29 (1952): 58–65.
The author examines the life and work of Anastasie Crimca, metropolitan of Suceava and donor of the bell. It mainly deals with his literary and artistic activities.
Stoide, Constantin A. “Despre clopote și clopotari în Țările Române sec. XIV - XIX.” Glasul Bisericii 30, nos. 7–8 (1971): 705–728; Glasul Bisericii 30, nos. 9–10 (1971): 887–911.
This publication, divided in two parts, still is the main study about bells in Wallachia and Moldavia. It covers a long chronology, from the Middle Ages until the 19th century, and includes many inscriptions found on bells and pictures of some objects.