Hi there folks!

We’re sorry for the delay on getting posts the final couple of days out: what a whirlwind this has all been! But be sure you don’t miss out on these last updates: the last days were among the most unique and awe inspiring of the trip!

So on day 11 we had travelled to Pechory after an adventurous ride. At Pechory, our contact Elena made us discover the seemingly enchanted monastery in the dying light of day. She and father Alexei, the head bell ringer, had even let us go up the roof of the building to see the bells up close, which was normally a great privilege. We even were able to participate a little in the evening service and watch the team of ringers ring at dusk. What wonders awaited us during our new day in Pechory?

We enter the heart of the monastery.

 

We were to meet with Elena at 9am at the entrance of the monastery. Unfortunately we were unable to find an open breakfast place before then; luckily Peter, Alex and I we were all easy travelers! We watched the regular stream of pilgrims walk in and out of the monastery while the bells of the nearby tower were tolling. When Elena joined us, we went to watch the Pechory bell ringers ring their bells again, roped off from the crowd of onlookers.

The ringers work from the ground or the adjacent building

Then Elena and her sister opened the way to the monastery’s secret gardens. Enclosed by monastic buildings, yet meandering off beyond line of sight with abrupt slopes, it offered panoramas on the whole monastery.

A view from the garden

With its apple grove, small churches and emptiness save a couple of tamed deer scampering away, it was almost magical. We also learned that the garden is directly above a miraculous cave where many of the priests have been buried for centuries.

The belfry can be seen through the garden foliage

On our way out to get tea, we stopped by the entrance door to this cave, which was inside a small room sheltering relics, and tried the holy water of the monastery.

Soon after noon, an important procession of the icon of Mary started and lasted for several hours. Except during three long readings that were to halt the procession, the bells of Pechory tolled during the entire time, and we were there to watch it. I was actually impressed at how effective ringing the same peal for whole half hour chunks could be! Listeners and ringers alike are in a sort of trance.

A ringer during the procession

We were able to observe the ringers close up as they rang and switched each other out. The bell setup is very unique, the ringers being in a building separate from the bellfry and even the ground. Sometimes an occasional priest would come to ring the bells instead.

This priest had not rung in three years, we were told; he was great!

Finally, the ringers at times let us try some of the bell ringing!

Alex tries ringing the biggest bell with the help of a bell ringer as Elena takes a picture

In particular we tried (with the ringer’s help) the melody bells and (the really cool part) large bells that were rung by rocking the bell with a rope in a very specific manner. This is one the only bell sets in Russia to be rung in this manner.

Ringers and their children from inside: melody bell ropes on the left, trill bell wires on the right

We returned to our hotel, the “pilgrim’s lodge,” where Elena and her bell ringer friend Dimitri had a last surprise in store for us: a little church nearby with bells installed by Father Roman himself!

The brand new church church near the pilgrim lodge

The church was in construction, so we could admire some half finished frescoes in the lower level. Plus after some waiting, we were given the permission to ring in the bell tower itself. Peter, Alex and I practiced our peals for the festival in Latvia, then Elena and Dimitri demonstrated their expertise at the Pechory peal even on a different setup.

Some of the bells arranged by Father Roman

It was time to go, and we waved goodby to Elena and Dimitri as Mikhail drove us away to St Petersburg through forests of red pine and birch. We finally arrived after a long drive, without forgetting to take the unmissable selfie with our driver.

 

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