The New Year's eve chiming

The Spasskaya Tower chiming clock in Moscow Kremlin is one of the New Year symbols in Russia. We are so accustomed to it that we rarely recall when this tradition appeared and what the word “chimes” means. It is written in the Ushakov Explanatory Dictionary that the chimes are “tower or wall clocks with music”. It is interesting that the word "chimes", having the French origin, is not used in the European languages in this sense. In English and Italian, the musical mechanism in the clock is called “carillon”, and in German - “Glockenspiel”, which means a set of tuned bells. Hence, what is the origin of the word chimes?

The name comes from the French fast dance “danse courante”, literally - “the running dance”. Over time, simple melodies performed on bells were called chimes. Today this word in Russian means not only a musical mechanism, but also a clock in which such a mechanism is mounted.

The Spasskaya Tower chimes are well known in Russia, although they are not the only ones. For example, in St. Petersburg, the main clock is the Peter and Paul Fortress chimes. Brothers Johann and Nikolay Butenop created the Moscow chimes in the middle of the 19th century. Nowadays the fragments of the chorus “Glorify” from the opera A Life for the Tsar by Mikhail Glinka and the anthem of Russia are performed while the clock chiming.

In our time, the chiming of the main clock is more likely symbolic or entertaining, although it had a practical purpose before. The chimes made it possible to determine the time at night or in the dark when there was no light and the dial was not visible. The chiming mechanism strike the hours and quarters every 15 minutes. For example, at 5.30 o’clock, the bells beat out time twice (each beat marks one quarter of an hour) and then five beats sound, which corresponds to the number hours.

Great variety of clocks with chimes are stored in the Museum Collection. On the eve of the New Year and the Kremlin clock festive chiming, we invite you to acquaint with our musical selection.

The chiming of the clocks created in the period from the 16th up to the second half of the 19th centuries in France, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany and Holland are presented in our musical selection.