First bells were cast in the West during the middle of the IX century in the Italian province of Campania. As soon as the technology of bell casting was mastered a Venetian nobleman dispatched a gift to the Byzantine Emperor Michael consisting of 12 bells for the church of Hagia Sophia (the Holy Wisdom of God) in Constantinople. From then on bells have been ringing throughout the lands of the Orthodox Christian world. After the Grand Schism the very form of bells being cast in the East and the West had began to differ. This state of affairs had initiated significant differences as far as the basic bell tone was concerned.
Early Christians did not use any instruments to invite the faithful to church services. Being faced with persecution from the authorities they had to hide and conceal rather than advertise their activities.
Later on the monks of the East had started to employ different means for calling each other and the faithful to church services. They mostly used a wooden percussion instrument called talanton or simatron. Mount Sinai monks communicated with each other and made calls for church services by blowing trumpets. Palestine monastic communities introduced a custom whereby the monks were called to service by knocks of wooden hammers on their cell doors. Female monastic communities often used different forms of rattles, percussion instruments, and horns for the same purpose.
Once bells were introduced to and accepted by the Byzantine Empire, bell towers began to be erected so that bells could be heard at greater distances. For many centuries Serbs used bells not only to call the faithful to church services but also to communicate news of important events: wars, coming of the enemy, fires, and nearly all significant community events – these being both joyous and sorrowful. However, their main purpose was to call the faithful to church services and communal prayer. Ottoman Turks prohibited the use of church bells during their lengthy occupation of Serbian lands. Some bells were taken down by Serbian people themselves and hidden by being buried in the ground, but some were confiscated by the conqueror, melted down and recast as cannon.
The sound of bells became, as far as Serbs and many other Orthodox Christians were concerned, the sound of freedom. Bells came to be heard again only after Serbian lands were liberated from Turkish rule. In addition to bells, wooden percussion instruments (talanton) are still used for calling the faithful to church services, especially so during the last days of the Great Lent.