Ringing of bells makes always the feeling of magic strength, wizardry and mystery. This impression is made not so much by clam as by clash of bells. The chronicle of Vologda of the 16th century tells about one mysterious occurrence, when bells droned suddenly by themselves. This narration about spontaneous clash of bells without any accompanying peal calls up associations with the legend about bells of Kitezh. Thanks to prayers of St. Febronia Great Kitezh became invisible, only bells of Kitezh could be heard, but they were invisible too. The Tatars, who came to occupy the town, heard this clash, Grishka Kuterma who betrayed his nationals heard it too. Afterwards he asked captured Febronia to close his ears with a cap, just not to hear the clash, which woke up tortures of conscience.
Bells, which played a certain role in Russian history, have given occasion to many beautiful legends. The Russians sympathize with weak and oppressed creatures, who were punished, being unguilty. There is a story about a bell of Uglitch, which was whipped and exiled to the town of Siberia Tobolsk. People said, that its peal had had healing properties, cured sick children and grown-ups. The legend says, that the bell was wonder-working: “ Almost every day people could hear the muffled tone of the bell, that was a peasant, who climbed up the belfry and washed the tongue of the bell, ringing it several times, after that he carried the water in birch bark containers to heal children’s diseases with it.” The bell was exiled and punished with birches, because it announced the death of tsarevitch Dimitry (1593). Ringing bells of Valdai are world-known. Another beautiful legend tells about their origin. It says, that they were made of the Assembly bell of Novgorod. Of course the legend is current in Valdai.
After the occupation of independent Novgorod Ivan the 3d directed to take the bell down from the St. Sophia Cathedral and to send it to Moscow; he done that, because he wanted the bell to ring in unison with all Russian bells and not to herald the settlements of freemen and outlaws. But the bell did not reach Moscow. On one of abrupt slopes of Valdai’s rocks the sledge, which carried the bell, overturned and frightened horses bolted. The huge bell fell from the cart and broke up. Mysterious strength turned the fragments into small bells, which appeared miraculously. Local residents picked them carefully up and began to cast similar bells to praise the settlements of freemen and outlaws.
There are other versions of the legend. For example one of them says, that Valdai’s blacksmiths just picked up the splinters of the Assembly bell and founded their first bells of them. Other versions of the legend tell about quite concrete personages-a blacksmith Thomas and a wanderer John : “The Assembly bell fell down from the rock and was broken. Thomas put a handful of the fragments together and founded an inexpressible resounding bell. The wanderer John asked him for the bell, put it on his neck, mounted his staff and flew round Russia, heralding Novgorod’s settlements of freemen and outlaws and praising the masters of Valdai.”
Bells are well-known not only in Christendom. There were many legends in the Orient, which were connected with bells. For example there is a popular belief in Turkey, that peal disturbs souls of the dead, which soar in the air. After the capture and plunder of Constantinople 1452 the Turks annihilated almost all bells of Byzantine because of religious conflicts with the exception of single bells, which were in remote monasteries of Palestine and Syria.