Alex Rodriguez Suarez is an independent researcher based in Barcelona. He received his PhD in Byzantine history from King’s College London (2014). Since then he has conducted research in Turkey (ANAMED, AKMED), Bulgaria (CAS Sofia), Italy (Centro Vittore Branca), Greece (American School of Classical Studies at Athens), Lebanon (Orient-Institut Beirut) and Israel/Palestine (W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research). Moreover, he has been a summer fellow at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Washington DC). His latest projects have focused on the religious soundscape of the Christian communities of Southeastern Europe and the Middle East, mainly the use of church bells. Among his other research interests are cultural exchange and iconography.
Inscribing Orthodoxy: Church bells in Moldavia and Wallachia
The church bells of Moldavia and Wallachia have been the object of some scholarly research, mainly the work of Constantin A. Stoide in the early 1970s and, more recently, that of Elena Chiaburu. Their studies contain important information about the bells dated to the Middle Ages and the period of Ottoman domination and which are still preserved in the two regions. For instance, they published the inscriptions found on the bells. Nonetheless, the artefacts have not been studied in relation to the church bells found on the other side of the Danube, those employed by Byzantines, Serbs and Bulgarians. While the number of bells preserved to the south of the Danube -excluding the artefacts on Mount Athos- is not large, such a comparative study promises to uncover significant results. The Romanian Principalities and the Medieval States of Serbia and Bulgaria were part of the Orthodox Church and so they shared many traditions and aspects of material culture inherited from the Byzantine Empire. In this paper I will compare the inscriptions found in Wallachian and Moldavian bells with those on bells located to the south of the Danube. These inscriptions, which were written in either Greek or Church Slavonic, share certain details. I will argue that bells produced for patrons in Moldavia and Wallachia were inscribed following an Orthodox/Eastern model that emphasised the name of the donor over that of the founder. On the other hand, the artist signature usually appears in bells cast in Western Europe, some of which also found their way to the Balkans, for example, Montenegro. The aim of the paper is to draw attention to the fact that church bells manufactured in Orthodox territories received inscriptions -and decorative details, for instance, religious figures- that followed Orthodox models and so they are different from the artefacts cast in Western Europe. Hence, even though church bells in both East and West were rung for religious purposes, the region where they were cast had an impact on the way they were inscribed.