There are seven bronze bells in the south entrance to the nave of Saint Spiridon in Seattle’s Cascade neighborhood, and one more in the bell tower.

Share story

There’s far more to bell-ringing than knowing the ropes.

There’s individual style married with religious intent.

John Cox, with Saint Spiridon Orthodox Cathedral, says there’s a bell-ringer in California known as the Miles Davis of ringers.

Cox says his approach is more like Viktor Kotelnikov of Moscow with “a measured, steady beat, with improvisation. It’s like playing an instrument.”

“They only tell you when to ring the bells — not how.”

There are seven bronze bells in the south entrance to the nave of Saint Spiridon in Seattle’s Cascade neighborhood, and one more in the bell tower.

The bells are rung Saturdays at 6:25 p.m., five minutes before services start, and on Sundays at 9:25 a.m., five minutes before the divine liturgy.

They also were rung “just for fun” earlier this month during the church’s annual bazaar.

The ringing is usually a sign that something sacred is going on, a call to worship.

At Easter it’s a festive ring. There’s also a funeral toll for when the deceased is being carried out of the cathedral.

There are soprano, alto and bass bells. They come from an old-time Russian foundry, the Pyatkov Company, which has been making them since the 1750s.

Cox says the largest bell in the tower is a “bringer of good news.”

In small villages where the church was at the center, even if people were “out on the farm, cutting wheat, they could hear the 12 measured strikes. It’s always closely entwined in the fabric of society.”

Bell-ringer and parishioner Cox “heard the claim it keeps the dust off the icons in church.”

It doesn’t.

But, he was blessed by Archbishop Benjamin in 2011 and says he’s the first official tonsured bell-ringer in the United States since the Russian Revolution.

If they’re short a bell ringer, he’ll place a rope around his foot and send the sounds resonating out over the neighborhood.

Cox says, “it’s a very fulfilling spiritual experience.”