This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
Great Bell of Moscow. From Dr. Clarke's Travels.- "The great bell of Moscow, known to be the largest ever founded, is in a deep pit in the midst of the Kremlin. The history of its fall is a fable; and as writers are accustomed to copy each other, the story continues to be propagated. The fact is, the bell remains in the place where it was originally cast. It never was suspended; the Russians might as well attempt to suspend a first-rate line-of-battle ship, with all her guns and stores. A fire took place in the Kremlin; the flames caught the building erected over the pit where the bell yet remains; in consequence of this, the bell became hot, and water being thrown to extinguish the fire, fell upon the bell, causing the fracture which has taken place. The bell reaches from the bottom of the cave to the roof. The en trance is by a trap-door, placed even with the surface of the earth. We found the steps very dangerous; some were wanting, and others broken. In consequence of this, I had a severe fall down the whole extent of the first flight, and a narrow escape for my life, in not having my skull fractured upon the bell. After this accident, a sentinel was placed at the trap-door, to prevent people becoming victims to their curiosity. He might have been as well employed in mending the ladders, as in waiting all day to say they were broken. The bell is truly a mountain of metal. It is said to contain a very large proportion of gold and silver. While it was in fusion, the nobles and the people cast in, as votive offerings, their plate and money: I endeavoured in vain to assay a small part: the natives regard it with superstitious veneration, and they would not allow even a grain to be filed off. At the same time, it may be said, the compound has a white shining appearance, unlike bell-metal in general; and, perhaps, its silvery aspect has strengthened, if not excited, a conjecture respecting the costliness of its constituents.
The Great Bell Of Moscow
"On festival days, peasants visit the bell as they would resort to a church; considering it an act of devotion, and crossing themselves as they descend and ascena the steps. The bottom of the pit is covered with water, mud, and large pieces of timber; these, added to the darkness, render it always an unpleasant and unwholesome place; in addition to the danger arising from the ladders leading to the bottom. I went frequently there, in order to ascertain the dimensions of the bell with exactness. To my great surprise, during one of those visits, half a dozen Russian officers, whom I found in the pit, agreed to assist me in the admeasurement. It so nearly agreed with the account published by Jonas Hanway, that the difference is not worth notice This is somewhat remarkable, considering the difficulty of exactly measuring what is partly buried in the earth, and the circumference of which is not entire. No one, I believe, has yet ascertained the size of the base; this would afford still greater dimensions than those we obtained; but it is entirely buried. About ten persons were present when I measured the part exposed to observation. We applied a strong cord close to the metal, in all parts of its periphery, and round he lower part, where it touches the ground, taking care at the same time not to stretch the cord. From the piece of the bell broken off, it was ascertained that we had thus measured within two feet of its lower extremity. The circumference obtained was sixty-seven feet four inches; allowing a diameter of twenty-two feet five inches, and one-third We then took the perpendicular height from the top, and found it to correspond exactly with the statement made by Hanway; namely, twenty-one feet four inches and a half. In the stoutest part, that in which it should have received the blow of the hammer, its thickness equalled twenty-three inches. We were able to ascertain this, by placing our hands under water, where the fracture has taken place; this is above seven feet high from the lip of the bell. The weight of this enormous mass of metal has been computed to be 443.772 cwt. which, if valued at three shillings a pound, amounts to £66,565 16s. lying unemployed, and of no use to any one.
It was founded, according to Augustine, in 1653, during the reign of Alexis. (See Voyage de, Moscow, page 117.} The Russians and people of Moscow maintain, that it was cast during the reign of their empress Anne, probably from the female figure represented. Augustine proves that it is larger than the famous bell of Erford, and even than that of Pekin.