The bell tower of the Cathedral of St. Sophia is near the wall of the Kremlin on the side of the Volkhov river, at a certain distance from the cathedral. It is an architectural monument of the Kremlin and one of the most ancient surviving stone bell towers in Russia.
The exact time of construction of the bell tower is not known but it was erected much later than the Cathedral of St. Sophia, which was built in 1050. The bell tower was first mentioned in a chronicle of 1437 where it is recorded that a stone bell tower collapsed together with an eroded city wall during an overflow of the Volkhov river. According to tree-ring analysis of the foundation of the bell tower near the city wall, it was built about that time. But surely it does not mean that for 4 centuries the cathedral had no bells. Moreover, the citizens of Novgorod attached great importance to their bells.
According to a chronicle of 1066, Novgorod was attacked by the troops of Polotsk prince Vseslav and the bells of the Cathedral of St. Sophia were among his trophies. Before 15 century Novgorod hadn’t its own smelters so at first they used small bells brought from the other countries and then bells cast locally by foreign smelters.
The most ancient surviving Novgorod bell was brought in the city by St. Anthony of Rome in 1106. Now you can see that bell at the Novgorod Museum. In Novgorod the first bell was cast by an Italian master in 1342. Russian masters began to cast bells there only in 16 century.
In front of the bell tower one can see several bells: The Godunov’s bell of the Holy Spirit Convent (80 poods or 1344 kg) cast by the order of Boris Godunov in 1589; The All-day church-going bell of the bell tower of the St. Sophia Cathedral (300 poods or over 5 tonnes) cast by local smelters in 1677; And the biggest Sunday bell of the bell tower of the St. Sophia Cathedral (590 poods or about 10 tonnes) cast by Valdai smelters in 1839.
One can ascend onto this bell tower. From it one can have wonderful views of the Cathedral of St. Sophia and the Volkhov river. The bell tower is closely attached to the city wall and from there one can have a walk on the wall along the river.