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Irmologion, (Melchite Use). Depicted are Irmos 705-709 (Syriac Sertâ book script. 11th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai.

Irmologion (Greek: εἱρμολόγιον heirmologion) is a liturgical book of the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, and it contains texts for liturgical singing in Church.[1] Specifically, it contains irmoi (introductory hymns) for the various canons which are chanted at Matins and other services. The word derives from the words εἱρμός heirmos meaning "link", i.e., an introductory stanza, and λογεύω logeuō, meaning "to collect".

The melodic irmos and the Odes of the Canon[edit]

An important portion of Matins and other services in the Orthodox Church is the Canon, a long liturgical poem divided into nine Odes. Each Ode begins with a hymn called an irmos.[2] Many of the Odes also end with a type of irmos called a Katabasia.[3] The majority of a canon (the troparia) is performed by a reader, but the irmoi and katabasiae are chanted by the choir. Since the liturgical books containing the entire text of the canons can be expensive (especially in the days when books were copied by hand), and yet enough copies of the parts which are sung must be provided for the singers, the Irmologion was developed as an anthology containing only those parts of the canons which are chanted by the choir. Following the development of the Irmologion, the service books which provide the text for the canons would often not print the entire text of the irmosi and katabasiae, but only the first few words, making the Irmologion indispensable for the chanting of the services.

Since the Byzantine period, there already developed a soloistic kalophonic way to perform just one ode. The printed edition of the kalophonic irmologion (1835) is dominated by Ottoman composers like Petros Bereketis, Chrysaphes the Younger, Germanos of New Patras, and Balasios, when this genre became very popular.[4]

Composition of an Irmologion[edit]

Within the Irmologion, the irmoi are either arranged according to the eight tones of Byzantine chant or according to the odes of the canon.[5]

The Irmologion might also contain sometimes the following hymns of the Psalterion and the Octoechos:


The oldest manuscripts which contained canons, were tropologia which are composed according to a calendaric order. There were also types like the Georgian Iadgari[6] and the Armenian Šaraknoc'. The book Irmologion was created later as a notated chant book by the reformers at the Stoudios Monastery, although not all Irmologia have musical notation.[7] Concerning the traditional repertoire of these books, a Studites edition can be distinguished from the one at Sinai.[8] The earliest notated Irmologion can be dated back the 10th century in Byzantium. A full version of the Russian Irmologion, in Church Slavonic includes about 1050 irmoi. Earlier examples provided only the written text; later, the "hooks" and "banners" of Znamenny Chant were added above the text. The first printed edition of a notated Irmologion in Russia,the Irmologiy notnago peniya, using neumes (square notes) on a staff, was published in 1772. Today, most Russian Irmologia are printed using modern musical notation (with the exception of some Old Believer communities, which continue to use the older znamenny or neumes[9]) although elsewhere, Byzantine musical notation is nearly universally used.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "These Truths We Hold - The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teachings". Compiled and Edited by A Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery. Copyright 1986 by the St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania 18459.
  2. ^ Simon Harris (2004).
  3. ^ See the current edition of Petros Peloponnesios' Katavasies (GB-Lbl Ms. Add.16971) by Chourmouzios (1825) which is also used in other Orthodox traditions and their editions.
  4. ^ See also the 18th-century manuscript of an Irmologion kalophonikon in Athens (MIET, Historical and Palaeographical Archive, Ms. Pezarou 15).
  5. ^ Peter Jeffery (2001), Harris (2004).
  6. ^ The Iadgari has survived as the oldes tropologion (Frøyshov 2012), while there are only fragments of Greek tropologia (Troelsgård 2009).
  7. ^ Gerda Wolfram (2003), Enrica Follieri (1961).
  8. ^ Only later Irmologia like the one in Lesvos (Leimonos Monastery, Ms. 262) combined both redactions in a diplomatic way during the 14th century (Martani 2013).
  9. ^ See the Rozniki Irmolog at the National Library of Petrozavodsk.

Chant books[edit]

Tropologia (6th-12th century)[edit]

Middle Byzantine and znamenny notation (13th–19th century)[edit]

Without notation (10th-18th century)[edit]

Chrysanthine notation (since 1814)[edit]


  • Christians, Dagmar, ed. (2001). Die Notation von Stichera und Kanones im Gottesdienstmenäum für den Monat Dezember nach der Hs. GIM Sin. 162: Verzeichnis der Musterstrophen und ihrer Neumenstruktur. Patristica Slavica 9. Wiesbaden: Westdt. Verl. ISBN 3-531-05129-6. 


  • Frøyshov, Stig Simeon R. (2012). "The Georgian Witness to the Jerusalem Liturgy: New Sources and Studies". In Bert Groen, Stefanos Alexopoulos, Steven Hawkes-Teeples (eds.). Inquiries into Eastern Christian Worship: Selected Papers of the Second International Congressof the Society of Oriental Liturgy (Rome, 17–21 September 2008). Eastern Christian Studies 12. Leuven, Paris, Walpole: Peeters. pp. 227–267. 
  • Harris, Simon (2004). "The 'Kanon' and the Heirmologion". Music & Letters 85: 175–197. JSTOR 3526092. 
  • Jeffery, Peter (2001). "The Earliest Oktōēchoi: The Role of Jerusalem and Palestine in the Beginnings of Modal Ordering". The Study of Medieval Chant: Paths and Bridges, East and West; In Honor of Kenneth Levy. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press. pp. 147–209. ISBN 0-85115-800-5. 
  • Martani, Sandra (2013). "Koukouzeles' Heirmologia: The Manuscripts St Petersburg 121 and Sinai gr. 1256". In Gerda Wolfram, C Troelsgård (eds.). Tradition and Innovation in Late Byzantine and Postbyzantine Liturgical Chant II: Proceedings of the Congress held at Hernen Castle, the Netherlands, 30 October - 3 November 2008. Eastern Christian Studies 17. Leuven, Paris, Walpole: Peeters. pp. 135–150. ISBN 9042920157. 
  • Troelsgård, Christian (2009). "A New Source for the Early Octoechos? Papyrus Vindobonensis G 19.934 and its musical implications" (PDF). Proceedings of the 1st International Conference of the ASBMH. 1st International Conference of the ASBMH, 2007: Byzantine Musical Culture. Pittsburgh. pp. 668–679. 
  • Wolfram, Gerda (2003). "Der Beitrag des Theodoros Studites zur byzantinischen Hymnographie". Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 53: 117–125. doi:10.1553/joeb53s117. 

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