Bells were first used in churches around the second half of the sixth century, first in Italy then in France. In 865 AD, the Venetian Prince Patrice sent twelve brass bells, made in the village of Campania, to Constantinople, as a gift to the Greek King Michael (842-867).
It was then that the practice of using bells in a church was introduced to Byzantium. King Michael built a tower for the bells near the Saint Sophia Church, and, ever since, bells have been used in various Orthodox Church services especially during the Holy Liturgy. The bells of Saint Sava Church are located in the western cupola.
The resonant sound of pealing bells has a great meaning for Eastern Orthodox Christians. They are the strongest voice carriers summoning all Christians to the House of God. Church bells can be compared to the silver trumpets in the Old Testament which announced the beginning of a feast, a new moon, or a period for fasting (Numbers 10:8-10). Thus, the bells announce the beginning of worship and its most meaningful parts to the faithful so that even those Christians who are not present are reminded of the service.
Church bells represent gladness – the joy of the faithful because of the Resurrection of Christ, or of a special happy occasion in the family or community life. The solemn sepulchral toll of a single bell comforts the family and relatives who are mourning the loss of a departed loved one. The Orthodox Christian, upon hearing the bells ring, makes the sign of the Holy Cross upon himself and by doing so, intensifies his prayers.