From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Cherubikon (Greek: χερουβικόν), Cherubic Hymn (χερουβικὸς ὕμνος) or Chant (Old Church Sl. Херȣвімскаѧ пҍснь), is the troparion normally sung at the Great Entrance during the Byzantine liturgy. The hymn is sung in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Orthodox priest and deacons praying the Cherubic Hymn at the beginning of the Great Entrance.


The hymn symbolically incorporates those present at the liturgy into the presence of the angels gathered around God's throne.[1] It concerns the very heart of the Divine Liturgy—the Anaphora, the earliest part which can be traced back to Saint Basil and to John Chrysostom's redaction of Basil's liturgical text.

Exegetic tradition[edit]

The trisagion or thrice-holy hymn which was mentioned by John Chrysostom, could only refer to the Sanctus of the Anaphora taken from the Old Testament, from the book of the prophet Isaiah in particular (6:1-3):

[1] And it came to pass in the year in which king Ozias died, that I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, and the house was full of his glory. [2] And seraphs stood round about him, each one had six wings, and with two they covered their face, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. [3] And one cried to the other, and they said "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! The whole earth is full of His glory!"

In a homily John Chrysostom interpreted Isaiah and the chant of the divine liturgy as an analogue act which connected the community with the eternal angelic choirs:

While the legions of angels praise above, down the human congregations sing the very same hymn. Above the seraphim jubilate the thrice-holy hymn, from deep down the human crowd raise with the same hymn into a solemn communion of the heavenly with the earthly spheres—a eucharist, one cheerfullness, one acclaim.

The reform of the 6th century[edit]

The liturgical concept already existed by the end of the 4th century. 200 years later, the Great Entrance as a simple ritual act was needed for a procession with the Gifts and simultaneous prayers behind the choir screen. It had to bridge the long way between prothesis and the altar which had been separated by changes in sacred architecture under Emperor Justin II. The cherubikon was divided into several parts. The first is sung by the congregation before the celebrant begins his prayers, there were one or two simultaneous parts, and they all followed like a gradual ascent in different steps within the Great Entrance:


Οἱ τὰ Χερουβεὶμ μυστικῶς εἰκονίζοντες,
καὶ τῇ ζωοποιῷ Τριάδι τὸν Τρισάγιον ὕμνον προσάδοντες,
πᾶσαν τὴν βιοτικὴν ἀποθώμεθα μέριμναν.
Ὡς τὸν Βασιλέα τῶν ὅλων ὑποδεξόμενοι,
ταῖς ἀγγελικαῖς ἀοράτως δορυφορούμενον τάξεσιν.
Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα, Ἀλληλούϊα.

The troparion begins as a solemn hymn, and during the 6th century "trisagion hymnon" could also refer to the troparion or refrain of the third antiphon, sung at the beginning of the catechumenoi part. Today it is sung as an own ordinary mass chant after the Small Entrance. Both chants, the trisagion as well as the cherubikon, have the Sanctus as main point of reference.


The cherubikon was added as a troparion to the Divine Liturgy by the Emperor Justin II (565 - 578), when a separation of the rooms, where the gifts were prepared and consecrated, made it necessary, that the eucharist part, also known as the part of the baptised during which the others had been excluded, started with a procession (similar to the procession accompanied by the chant genre offertory in traditions of Western plainchant).[7] This procession was known as the "Great Entrance", because the celebrants had to enter the choir by the choir screen, later replaced by the iconostasis.

The anti-cherubika[edit]

The cherubikon belongs to the ordinary mass chant, because it has to be sung during the year cycle, however, it was sometimes substituted by other troparia, the so-called "anti-cherouvika". On Holy Thursday, for example, the cherubikon was, and still is, replaced by the troparion "At your mystical supper" (Τοῦ δείπνου σου τοῦ μυστικοῦ), while during the Liturgy of the Presanctified the troparion "Now the powers of the heavens" (Νῦν αἱ δυνάμεις τῶν οὐρανῶν) was sung, and the celebration of Prote Anastasis (Holy Saturday) uses the troparion from the Liturgy of St. James, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" (Σιγησάτω πᾶσα σὰρξ βροτεία). The latter troparion is also used occasionally at the consecration of a church.[8]

Latin cherubikon (early 11th century) added to a 10th-century anthology dedicated to Boethius (London, British Library, Ms. Harley 3095, fol. 111v).

The Latin cherubikon of the "Missa greca"[edit]

In the history of Byzantine music manuscripts the cherubikon appears quite late in liturgical manuscripts with musical notation, not before the late 12th century, while the earliest sources are of Carolingian origin—sacramentaries with a so-called "Missa greca" like a Hadrianum probably written at or for the liturgical use at a Stift of canonesses (Essen near Aachen).[9] The transliterated cherubikon in the center like the main parts of the Missa greca were notated with paleofrankish neumes between the text lines. Paleofrankish neumes are adiastematic and no manuscripts with the Latin cherubikon have survived in diastematic neumes. Nevertheless, it is supposed to be a melos of an E mode like the earliest Byzantine cherubika which have the main intonation of echos plagios deuteros.[10]

In this particular copy of the Hadrianum the "Missa greca" was obviously intended for Pentecost, because the cherubikon was classified as offertory and followed by the Greek Sanctus, the convention of the divine liturgy, and finally by the communio "Factus est repente", the proper chant of Pentecost. Other manuscripts belonged to the Abbey Saint-Denis, where the Missa greca was celebrated during Pentecost and in honour of the patron within the festal week (octave) dedicated to him.[11] Sacramentaries without musical notation transliterated the Greek text of the cherubikon into Latin characters, while the books of Saint-Denis with musical notation translated the text of the troparion into Latin. Only the Hadrianum of Essen or Korvey provided the Greek text with notation and served obviously to prepare cantors who did not know Greek very well.

The cherubikon asmatikon[edit]

In the tradition of the cathedral rite of the Hagia Sophia, there was only one melody in the E mode (echos plagios devteros, echos devteros), which has survived in the Asmatika (choir books) and, in a complete form, as "cherouvikon asmatikon" in the books Akolouthiai of the 14th and 15th century.

Beginning of the cherubikon asmatikon in echos plagios devteros with medial enechema Νεανες of echos devteros,
Akolouthiai manuscript about 1400 (A-Wn Theol. gr. 185, f. 255v)

In this later elaboration, the domestikos, leader of the right choir, sings an intonation, and the right choir performs the beginning until μυστικῶς. Then the domestikos intervenes with a kalopismos over the last syllable το—το and a teretismos (τε—ρι—ρεμ). The choir concludes the kolon with the last word εἰκονίζοντες. The left choir is replaced by a soloist, called "Monophonaris" (μονοφωνάρις), presumably the lampadarios or leader of the left choir. He sings the rest of the text from an ambo. Then the allelouia (ἀλληλούϊα) is performed with a long final teretismos by the choir and the domestikos.

The cherubikon of the earlier asmatika of the 13th century only contains the parts of the choir and the domestikos, these versions are not identical, but composed realizations, sometimes even the name of the cantor was indicated.[12] Only one manuscript, a 14th-century anthology of the asma, has survived in the collection of the Archimandritate Santissimo Salvatore of Messina (University Library, Ms. gr. 161) with the part of the psaltikon. It provides a performance of the monophonaris together with acclamations or antiphona in honour of the Sicilian King Frederick II and can be dated back to his time.[13]

Manuel Chrysaphes' cherubikon in the papadic echos protos, transcribed according to Panagiotes the New Chrysaphes (London, British Library, Ms. Harley 5544, fol. 131v)

The cherubikon palatinon[edit]

Another shorter version, composed in the echos plagios devteros without any teretismoi, inserted sections with abstract syllables, was still performed during celebrations of the imperial court of Constantinople by the choir during the 14th century.[14] A longer elaboration of the cherubikon palatinon attributed to "John Koukouzeles" was transcribed and printed in the chant books used by protopsaltes today.[15]

Papadic cherubikon cycles[edit]

Today the common practice is to perform the cherubikon according the echos of the week (octoechos). One of the earliest sources with an octoechos cycle is an Akolouthiai manuscript by Manuel Chrysaphes (Mount Athos, Mone Iveron, Ms. 1120) written in 1458. He had composed and written down an own cycle of 8 cherubika in the papadic melos of the octoechos.[16]

Until today the protopsaltes at the Patriarchate of Constantinople are expected to contribute their own realization of the papadic cycles.[17] Because the length of the cherubikon was originally adapted to the ritual procession, the transcriptions of the print editions according to the New Method distinct between three cycles. A short one for the week days (since the divine liturgy became a daily service), a longer one for Sundays, and an elaborated one for festival occasions, when a bishop or abbot joined the procession.


  1. ^ Parry (1999), p. 117.
  2. ^ Classical Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. "Isaiah 6". (in Greek). Library of the Church of Greece. 
  3. ^ PG 56 (1862), col. 97.
  4. ^ Carolingian sacramentary of the 10th century (Düsseldorf, Ms. D2, f. 203v).
  5. ^ Raya (1958), p. 82.
  6. ^ Soroka (1999), p. 96.
  7. ^ F. E. Brightman, Liturgies Eastern and Western (Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 532.
  8. ^ Parry (1999), p. 117.
  9. ^ Düsseldorf, Ms. D2, f. 203v. "Hadrianum" is called the sacramentary which was sent by Pope Adrian I, after Charlemagne asked for the one of Gregory the Great.
  10. ^ The cherubikon according to the version of manuscript British Library Ms. Harley 3095 has been reconstructed by Oliver Gerlach (2009, pp. 432-434).
  11. ^ Michel Huglo (1966) described the different sources of the cherubikon with musical notation, a Greek mass was held for Saint Denis at the abbey of Paris, the Carolingian mausoleum. Since the patron became identified with the church father Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the time of Abbot Hilduin, when Byzantine legacies had been received to improve the diplomatic relationship between Louis the Pious and Michael II, a Greek mass was held to honour the patron. The services were supposed to be celebrated in Greek and Latin.
  12. ^ See the transcriptions by Neil Moran (1975).
  13. ^ Moran (1979).
  14. ^ Athens, Εθνική Βιβλιοθήκη της Ελλάδος, Ms. 2458, ff. 165v-166r [nearly one page] (Akolouthiai written in 1336).
  15. ^ A Greek (Kyriazides 1896, pp. 278-287) and a Bulgarian Anthology (Sarafov 1912, pp. 203-210).
  16. ^ Cappela Romana (1 February 2013) under direction of Alexander Lingas sings Manuel Chrysaphes' echos protos version with its teretismoi based on a transcription of Iveron 1120 by Ioannis Arvanitis and in the simulated acoustic environment of the Hagia Sophia.
  17. ^ A huge collection had been published by Neoklis Levkopoulos at Psaltologion (2010).




  • John Chrysostom (1862). Migne, Jacques-Paul, ed. "Ἔπαινος τῶν ἀπαντησάντων ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ, καὶ περὶ εὐταξίας ἐν ταῖς δοξολογίαις. Καὶ εἰς τὸ, «Εἶδον τὸν Κύριον καθήμενον ἐπὶ θρόνου ὑψηλοῦ καὶ ἐπηρμένου»" [Homilia in laudem eorum, qui comparuerunt in ecclesia, quaeque moderatio sit servanda in divinibus laudibus. Item in illud, vidi dominum sedentem in solio excelso (a) (Isai. 6,1)]. Patrologia graeco-latina 56: col. 97–107. 
  • Kyriazides, Agathangelos (1896). Ἓν ἄνθος τῆς καθ' ἡμᾶς ἐκκλησιαστικῆς μουσικῆς περιέχον τὴν ἀκολουθίαν τοῦ Ἐσπερινοῦ, τοῦ Ὅρθρου καὶ τῆς Λειτουργίας μετὰ καλλοφωνικῶν Εἱρμῶν μελοποιηθὲν παρὰ διαφόρων ἀρχαίων καὶ νεωτέρων Μουσικοδιδασκάλων. Istanbul: Alexandros Nomismatides. 
  • Levkopoulos, Neoklis, ed. (2010). "Cherouvikarion of Psaltologion". Thessaloniki. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  • Sarafov, Petĕr V. (1912). Рѫководство за практическото и теоретическо изучване на восточната църковна музика [includes an Anthology of Byzantine composers, a Vozkresnik, and an Anthology for Utrenna and the Divine Liturgies]. Sofia: Peter Gluškov. 


  • Gerlach, Oliver (2009). Im Labyrinth des Oktōīchos – Über die Rekonstruktion mittelalterlicher Improvisationspraktiken in liturgischer Musik 2. Berlin: Ison. ISBN 9783000323065. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  • Huglo, Michel (1966). Westrup, Jacques, ed. "Les chants de la Missa greca de Saint-Denis". Essays presented to Egon Wellesz (Oxford: Clarendon): 74–83. 
  • Moran, Neil K. (1975). The Ordinary chants of the Byzantine Mass. Hamburger Beiträge zur Musikwissenschaft 2. Hamburg: Verlag der Musikalienhandlung K. D. Wagner. pp. 86–140. ISBN 9783921029268. 
  • Moran, Neil K. (1979). "The Musical 'Gestaltung' of the Great Entrance Ceremony in the 12th century in accordance with the Rite of Hagia Sophia". Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 28: 167–193. 
  • Parry, Ken; David Melling, eds. (1999). The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity. Malden, MA.: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-23203-6. 
  • Raya, Joseph (1958). Byzantine Liturgy. Tournai, Belgium: Societe Saint Jean l'Evangelist, Desclee & Cie. 
  • Soroka, Rev. L. (1999). Orthodox Prayer Book. South Canaan, Pennsylvania 18459 U.S.A.: St. Tikhon's Seminary Press. ISBN 1-878997-34-3. 

External links[edit]