The oldest church bells in the north-western city of Veliky Novgorod are "moving house". On Tuesday morning 11 bells from the Church of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin of the Antoniev Monastery began to be transported to the Sophia Belfry of the Novgorod Kremlin, where a Novgorod museum of church bells is being set up. The oldest of the bells, kept in the Antoniev Monastery, was cast in 1536 and the "youngest" dates from the 16th century. The weight of the lightest is more than 100 kilogrammes, while the heaviest tips the scale at about 500 kilogrammes. Larisa Bannikova, deputy curator of the Novgorod state museum preserve, said that the valuable cargo is inside the church and so a building crane is ruled out. It is planned that the bells will be pulled on an improvised sled to the exit from the church. Then they will be gently reloaded onto trucks. Bannikova said that the Novgorod Kremlin will also host the famed 700-kilogramme "plague bell" from the belfry of the Znamensky Cathedral. This bell was moulded in the days of Ivan the Terrible, in the 15th century, and got its name from one of the worst medieval plague epidemics that claimed roughly 86 per cent of the Veliky Novgorod population. It was the survivors who "clubbed together" to have a special bell cast. The "plague bell", as planned by Novgorod local lore specialists, will grace the future bells museum.
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