Types of bells in the tradition of the Orthodox Church

Date: July 22, 2023

The bell is one of the main elements of orthodox worship and for this reason it has long been called the "Voice of God". It is meant to invite believers to the service, to express the triumph of the Church and her divine service, and also to inform who is absent at that moment of important parts of the service, calling them to pray.

A bell is defined as a percussion musical instrument. However, the sound of the bell in the church has such a rich timbral color that it is very difficult to distinguish the main tone. In addition, the tone of the bell may change during the ringing process. Two bells of the same size and weight will sound similar, but the nuances of their timbres will still be different.

This makes the traditional bell of the Orthodox church different from that of Western Europe. While the latter is based on the melodic and harmony of music, time and rhythm are at the heart of the Orthodox tradition. Its melody is determined by the harmonious combination of the tonal components of each bell that participates in the execution of the melody. This melody is full of improvisation and is determined by the sense of rhythm, the knowledge of the scale and the performing technique of the bell ringer. The Orthodox bell wants to convey peace and joy, deep sorrow and triumph of the spiritual content of service in the church.

The bells on the bell tower of the Orthodox church can be divided into three groups: large, medium and small.

The great bells are also called Evangelists. There may be several in the selection, usually from one to two, but also more. The festive bell is rung on Easter holidays as well as on other particularly solemn occasions. This is the heaviest bell. Sunday is the second largest and is used in Sunday services and major holidays. On ordinary days, not holidays, the bell is used while reading the Gospel.

These bells set the rhythm and give strength and majesty with their low timbre.

The central bells do not have a specific function, their tone of voice is higher than that of the Evangelists and there may be any number, but at least two. The well-chosen chimes allow you to create melodious rhythmic accompaniments to the main musical model. The more the bells, the greater the chances of varying the melodies and, consequently, the ringing.

The small bells have the highest tone among all the bronzes of the bell tower. Their number is traditionally from two to four, they sound the shortest durations and in them is concentrated all the brightness and energy of the festive bell. The rhythmic scheme they play is varied, with many spectacular accents. They often form the so-called trills that saturate the bell with colored shades.

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