St. Nikola, as the Russians call him, is one of the most significant saints celebrated in Russia. In fact, St. Nikola ‘s Feast Day ranks second to that of Easter, and his icon is often hung near Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Stories of St. Nikola were introduced to Russia by Vladimir the Great when he brought Christianity to Russia. Since then, St. Nikola occupies an important place in the Russian heart.
Since I’m writing a blog about the Community of Jesus Bell Tower, you may wonder how the bells and St. Nicholas relate. Very closely in fact.
During the rule of Soviet Russia, Christmas was banned, as were many other things religion based. They also banned St. Nikola day, and they made New Year’s Day the big celebratory day. The tradition of Grandfather Christmas replaced St. Nikola. During the Soviet Union Regime ringing of bells was not possible. Stalin needed metal to build trucks and automobiles. As churches closed across the country, he confiscated all bells and melted them down for metal. Russians loved their church bells, and this was just one of the many hardships they endured. The ringing of bells not only signaled the start of services, but they also held spiritual meaning. The Russian people call them singing icons.
Just imagine their happiness when once again, bells rang out across the land! A story is told that when a hand bell group filled a performance hall with their music, the crowd echoed the joyful sound with deafening shouts of “Kolokol, Kolokol”, the Russian word for bell.
So it only seems fitting that our tower honored Saint Nicholas, Russia’s patron saint, with the joyful ringing of one of Russia’s prized religious treasures, the Kolokol.