Building a destination: Work continues on Russian bell tower
By Kris Leonhardt
STEVENS POINT – Work is moving forward on the Russian bell installation in the Cultural Commons in Pfiffner Pioneer Park. The bell, a gift from Rostov Veliky former mayor Konstantin Shevkoplyas and Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza, is planned for installation late this spring.
Wiza said that plans for the bell originated during reciprocal visits with Stevens Point Russian sister city, Rostov Veliky representatives.
“Our sister city, Rostov Veliky is known for its beautiful bell tower in their Kremlin,” explained Wiza. “There are recordings of them playing and there are almost none like it in the world. Mayor (at the time) Konstantin Shevkoplyas and I met here in the U.S. while a group from Rostov was visiting and I believe that was where the idea was first discussed. The following year, when we visited Rostov, the Mayor and I firmed up the decision to have a commemorative bell cast in Yaroslavl (where the foundry is) to solidify our friendships, not only the two mayors, but all of our communities.”
The two mayors began collaborations on a bell tower.
“They agreed that they would both contribute to a bell, to be designed and forged in Rostov Veliky’s capitol city of Yaroslval, Russia, and then shipped to Stevens Point,” recalled Cultural Commons President and Russian Sister City Project Co-chair Susan Zach.
The bell arrived in Stevens Point in May 2019 and has been kept in a wooden crate, as the framework is prepared to exhibit the bell.
“The bell weighs about 700 pounds,” Zach added. “Because it contains a very intricate design, it was decided that a roof structure was needed to protect it. Aaron Kadoch, architect, designed the roof to imitate the line of the arch in the bell tower in Rostov Veliky. The city has built the framework, and Ellis Stone will be installing the wooden beam and stainless steel roof.”
The bell will serve as a “visual symbol” a friendship that has been in place since 1983.
The bell is significant to Rostov Veliky, which is located 130 miles northeast of Moscow.
“(The city) was founded over 1,255 years ago,” Zach stated. “The bells and towers in Rostov Veliky are within the Kremlin or the old walled section of the city dating from the 17th century. Fifteen bells, of varying shapes, weights and tones, and each with its own name, are rung on special occasions in the city. The bell tower is widely regarded as a symbol of old Russian.”
“The bell symbolizes our friendships,” said Wiza, “reminding us that even though we are half a world apart, the connection remains. We have come to understand that our different cultures are not so different. Our people are the same caring, compassionate people regardless of where they live. We have the same concerns, the same wishes, the same dreams. The bell represents that connection, that bond, that reminder that our friends across the ocean are always there, too.”
While no official date is set for the installation, organizers are hoping for late spring. Wiza said that plans are being made for an event to commemorate the installation, which Rostov Veliky former mayor Konstantin Shevkoplyas may attend.
For more on the Cultural Commons, visit http://www.spculturalcommons.com.