John Kukuzelis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
St John Kukuzelis depicted on a 15th-century musical codex at the Great Lavra Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece.

Saint John Kukuzelis or Kukuzel (Albanian: Jan Kukuzeli; Bulgarian: Свети Йоан Кукузел, Sveti Yoan Kukuzel; Greek: Άγιος Ιωάννης Κουκουζέλης, Hagios Ioannis Koukouzelis, Macedonian: Свети Јован Кукузел) (c. 1280 – 1360) was a medieval Byzantine Orthodox Christian composer, singer and reformer of Orthodox Church music.

Early life[edit]

Regarding his life and work, we have only accidental evidence.[1] Kukuzelis was born in Durazzo in the Angevin Kingdom of Albania[2] in the late 13th century to a Bulgarian mother,[3][4][5][6] his father dying at an early age.[7] Most scholars including David Marshall Lang state simply that he was of Bulgarian origin,[5][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] while Robert Elsie generalizes him as being of Macedonian Slav descent.[16]

Choir chanter[edit]

Kukuzelis received his education at the Constantinople court vocal school and established himself as one of the leading authorities in his field during the time. A favourite of the Byzantine emperor and a principal choir chanter, he moved to Mount Athos and led a monastic way of life in the Great Lavra. Because of his singing abilities, he was called Angel-voiced.[9]

Kukuzelis introduced the melodious (callophone) style and repertoire and created the Late Byzantine system of notation named after him. About 90 of his works in all church styles have survived until today, possibly the most famous one being the Polieleion of the Bulgarian Woman dedicated to his mother that, according to some researchers, contains elements of traditional Bulgarian mourning songs.[4][9] He was also the author of a new type of vocal collections and of the Hyronomic vocal exercise that offered 60 designations of vocal signs that marked melodic formulae key to the composing.

Sainthood and legacy[edit]

Kukuzelis is regarded as the most influential figure in the music of his period. He was later recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church, his feast day being on 1 October.[17]

A musical school in his native Durrës bears his name.[18] Kukuzelis' last name is allegedly derived from the Greek word for broad beans (κουκιά, koukia) and a Slavic word for cabbage (зеле, zele).[5][7]

Kukuzel Cove in Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after Kukuzelis, using the Slavic form of his name.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Randel, Don Michael (1999). Don Michael Randel, ed. The Harvard concise dictionary of music and musicians (2nd ed.). Harvard University Press. p. 355. ISBN 978-0-674-00084-1. 
  3. ^ Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), "Koukouzeles, John", Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, p. 1155, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6, There is evidence... that his mother was Bulgarian. 
  4. ^ a b "725 години от рождението на Йоан Кукузел", Ruse Library website.
  5. ^ a b c "Св. Йоан Кукузел — тропар, кондак и житие",
  6. ^ Maguire, Robert A.; Alan Timberlake (1998). American contributions to the Twelfth International Congress of Slavists. Slavica. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-89357-274-7. For instance, the famous reformer of Byzantine music, loan Kukuzel (ca. 1302-ca. 1360), not only used his musical composition "Polieleos of a Bulgarian Woman" melodic elements from his mother's laments... 
  7. ^ a b c "St. John Kukuzelis", Orthodox America.
  8. ^ Dujcev, Ivan. Medioevo bizantino-slavo, vol. II. Ed. di Storia e Letteratura. p. 222. 
  9. ^ a b c Бакалов, Георги; Милен Куманов (2003). "Йоан Кукузел (ок. 1280-1360)". Електронно издание "История на България" (in Bulgarian). София: Труд, Сирма. ISBN 954528613X. 
  10. ^ Lang, David Marshall (1976). The Bulgarians: from pagan times to the Ottoman conquest. Westview Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-89158-530-5. John Kukuzel, the eminent Bulgarian/born reformer of Byzantine music. 
  11. ^ Hakubutsukan, Kodai Oriento (1979). Bulletin of the Ancient Orient Museum. Tokyo: Ancient Orient Museum. p. 10. OCLC 474813627. An exceptional role for the performing of the Byzantine and Bulgarian church music played the Bulgarian from Drac (Durazzo in Albania) Ioan Kukuzel 
  12. ^ Bulgarian-Macedonian folk music, University of California Press, Boris Kremenliev, 1952, p. 12.
  13. ^ The A to Z of Bulgaria, Raymond Detrez, Scarecrow Press, 2010, ISBN 0810872021, p. 487.
  14. ^ Great Soviet encyclopedia, volume 13, Aleksandr Mikhaĭlovich Prokhorov, Macmillan, 1982, p. 551.
  15. ^ History of Russian church music, 988-1917, Nicholas P. Brill, Brill, 1980, pp. 11-12.
  16. ^ A Dictionary of Albanian Religion, Mythology, and Folk Culture, by Robert Elsie pg 138
  17. ^ Great Synaxaristes: (Greek) Ὁ Ὅσιος Ἰωάννης ὁ ψάλτης ὁ καλούμενος Κουκουζέλης. 1 Οκτωβρίου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
  18. ^

External links[edit]