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The Cherubikon (Greek: χερουβικόν), Cherubic Hymn (χερουβικὸς ὕμνος) or Cherubim Chant (Old Church Sl. Херувімскаѧ пҍснь), is the troparion normally sung at the Great Entrance during the Byzantine liturgy.

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.



The cherubikon was added as a troparion to the Divine Liturgy under 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.[2] This procession was known as the Great Entrance, because the celebrants had to enter the choir by the altar screen, later replaced by the iconostasis. The chant genre offertorium in traditions of Western plainchant was basically a copy of the Byzantine custom, but there it was a proper mass chant which changed regularly.

Although its liturgical concept already existed by the end of the 4th century, the cherubikon itself was created 200 years later. The Great Entrance as a ritual act was needed for a procession with the Gifts, coming from outside the church, while simultaneous prayers were celebrated behind the Constantinopolitan altar screen. As processional troparion the cherubikon had to bridge the long way between prothesis, a room outside the apsis, and the sanctuary which had been separated by changes in sacred architecture under Emperor Justin II. The cherubikon was divided into several parts.[3] The first part 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. Verses 2-5 were sung by a soloist called monophonaris from the ambo. The conclusion with the last words of verse 5 and the allelouiarion were sung by the choir in dialogue with the domestikos and the monophonaris.

Today the separation of the prothesis is part of the early history of the Constantinopolitan rite (akolouthia asmatike). With respect to the Constantinopolitan customs there are many different local customs in Orthodox communities all over the world, there are urban and monastic choir traditions in different languages into which the cherubikon was translated.

Exegetic tradition of Isaiah[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 in general (neither the cherubikon nor the trisagion existed in his time) as an analogue act which connected the community with the eternal angelic choirs:

On high, the armies of angels give glory; below, men, standing in church forming a choir, emulate the same doxologies. Above, the Seraphim declaim the thrice-holy hymn; below, the multitude of men sends up the same. A common festival of the heavenly and the earthly is celebrated together; one Eucharist, one exultation, one joyful choir.

Text of the troparion[edit]

Concerning the text of the processional troparion which was ascribed to Justin II, it is not entirely clear, whether "thrice-holy hymn" did refer to the Sanctus of the Anaphora or to another hymn of the 5th century known as the trisagion in Constantinople, but also in other liturgical traditions like the Gallican and Milanese rite. Concerning the old custom of Constantinople the trisagion was used as a troparion of the third antiphonon at the beginning of the divine liturgy as well as of hesperinos, while there were liturgical customs in Spain and France, where the trisagion replaced the great doxology during the Holy Mass on lesser feasts.[6]

The troparion of the great entrance (at the beginning of the second part of the divine liturgy which excluded the catechumens) was also the prototype of the genre offertorium in Western plainchant, although its text only appears in the particular custom of the Missa graeca celebrated on Pentecost and during the patronal feast of the Royal Abbey of Saint Denis, after the latter's vita became associated with Pseudo-Dionysios Areopagites. According to the local bilingual custom the hymn was sung in transliterated Greek and in Latin translation.

In the current traditions of Orthodox chant, its Greek text is not only sung in older translations such as the one in Old Church Slavonic or in Georgian, but also in Romanian and other modern languages.


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.

Carolingian transliteration

I ta cherubin mysticos Iconizontes
ke ti zopion triadi ton trisagyon ymnon prophagentes
passa nin biotikin apothometa merinnan·
Os ton basileon ton olon Ipodoxomeni
tes angelikes aoraton doriforumenon taxasin

Carolingian translation

Qui Cherubim mystice imitamur et vivificae Trinitatis ter sanctum hymnus offerimus, omnem nunc mundanam deponamus sollicitudinem sicuti regem omnium suscepturi cui ab angelicis invisibiliter ministratur ordinibus, alleluia.

English translation

We who mystically represent the Cherubim,
and who sing to the Life-Giving Trinity the thrice-holy hymn,
let us now lay aside all earthly cares
that we may receive the King of all,
escorted invisibly by the angelic orders.


რომელნი ქერუბიმთა საიდუმლოსა ვემსგავსებით,
და ცხოველსმყოფელისა სამებისა, სამგზის წმიდასა გალობასა შენდა შევწირავთ,
ყოველივე აწ სოფლისა დაუტეოთ ზრუნვა.[9]
და ვითარცა მეუფისა ყოველთასა,
შემწყნარებელსა ანგელოსთაებრ უხილავად, ძღვნის შემწირველთა წესთასა.
ალილუია, ალილუია, ალილუია.[10]

Transliterated Georgian

romelni qerubimta saidumlosa vemsgavsebit,
da tskhovelsmq'opelisa samebisa, samgzis ts'midasa galobasa shenda shevts'iravt,
q'ovelive ats' soplisa daut'eot zrunva.
da vitartsa meupisa q'oveltasa,
shemts'q'narebelsa angelostaebr ukhilavad, dzghvnis shemts'irvelta ts'estasa.
aliluia, aliluia, aliluia

Church Slavonic

Иже херувимы тайно образующе,
и Животворящей Троицѣ трисвятую пѣснь припѣвающе,
Всякое нынѣ житейское отложимъ попеченіе.
Яко да Царя всѣхъ подъимемъ,
ангельскими невидимо дориносима чинми.


Noi, care pe heruvimi cu taină închipuim,
Şi făcătoarei de viaţă Treimi întreit-sfântă cântare aducem,
Toată grija cea lumească să o lepădăm.[12]
Ca pe Împăratul tuturor, să primim,
Pe Cel înconjurat în chip nevăzut de cetele îngereşti.
Aliluia, aliluia, aliluia.[13]


우리가 헤루빔을 신비로이 모본하여
생명을 주시는 삼위께 삼성송을 찬송하며
세상의 온갖 걱정을 이제 물리칠지어다.
천사단에 에워싸여 보이지 않는 호위를 받으시는
만유의 왕을 영접하기 위함이니라.
알릴루이야. 알릴루이야. 알릴루이야.

The anti-cherubika[edit]

The cherubikon belongs to the ordinary mass chant of the divine liturgy ascribed to John Chrysostom, because it has to be sung during the year cycle, however, it is sometimes substituted by other troparia, the so-called "anti-cherouvika", when other formularies of the divine liturgy are celebrated. On Holy Thursday, for example, the cherubikon was, and still is, replaced by the troparion "At your mystical supper" (Τοῦ δείπνου σου τοῦ μυστικοῦ) according to the liturgy of Saint Basil, 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.[1]

The notated chant sources[edit]

Due to the destruction of Byzantine music manuscripts, especially after 1204, when Western crusaders expelled the traditional cathedral rite from Constantinople, the chant of the cherubikon appears quite late in the musical notation of the monastic reformers, within liturgical manuscripts not before the late 12th century. This explains the paradox, why the earliest notated sources which have survived until now, are of Carolingian origin. They document the Latin reception of the cherubikon, where it is regarded as the earliest prototype of the mass chant genre offertorium, although there is no real procession of the gifts.

Latin cherubikon (early 11th century) added to a 10th-century anthology dedicated to Boethius (GB-Lbl Ms. Harley 3095, f. 111v).

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

The oldest source survived is a sacramentary ("Hadrianum") with the so-called "Missa greca" which was written at or for the liturgical use at a Stift of canonesses (Essen near Aachen).[14] 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.[15]

In this particular copy of the Hadrianum the "Missa greca" was obviously intended as proper mass chant for Pentecost, because the cherubikon was classified as offertorium 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.[16] 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.[17]

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.[18] Only one manuscript, a 14th-century anthology of the asma, has survived in the collection of the Archimandritate Santissimo Salvatore of Messina (I-ME Cod. mess. 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.[19]

Manuel Chrysaphes' cherubikon in the papadic echos protos, transcribed according to Panagiotes the New Chrysaphes (GB-Lbl Ms. Harley 5544, f. 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.[20] A longer elaboration of the cherubikon palatinon attributed to "John Koukouzeles" was transcribed and printed in the chant books used by protopsaltes today.[21]

Papadic cherubikon cycles[edit]

Today the common practice is to perform the cherubikon according to the echos of the week (octoechos). One of the earliest sources with an octoechos cycle is an Akolouthiai manuscript by Manuel Chrysaphes (GR-AOi Ms. 1120) written in 1458. He had composed and written down an own cycle of 8 cherubika in the papadic melos of the octoechos.[22]

Until the present day the protopsaltes at the Patriarchate of Constantinople are expected to contribute their own realization of the papadic cycles.[23] 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. ^ a b Parry (1999), p. 117.
  2. ^ Brightman (1896, p. 532, n. 9).
  3. ^ For a detailed list of all simultaneous ritual acts and the particular celebration at the Hagia Sophia cathedral see Moran (1979, 175-177).
  4. ^ Classical Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. "Isaiah 6". (in Greek). Library of the Church of Greece.
  5. ^ PG 56 (1862), col. 97.
  6. ^ See the evidence in a homiletic explanation of the Old Gallican Liturgy by Pseudo-Germanus (1998).
  7. ^ Transliteration according to the Carolingian sacramentary of the 10th century (D-DÜl Ms. D2, f. 203v). About the particular orthography of the Latin transliteration and different medieval text versions of the Greek cherubikon (Wanek 2017, 97; Moran 1979, 172-173).
  8. ^ Raya (1958, p. 82).
  9. ^ See the transcription of the cherubikon sung according to the tradition of the Gelati monastery: "Georgian cherubikon (school of Gelati Monastery)". Ensemble Shavnabada. According to the school of Vasili and Polievktos Karbelashvili (John Graham about the transcription movement): "First part of the cherubikon (Karbelashvili school)". Anchiskhati Church Choir. A third version with a female Ensemble: "Georgian cherubikon in sada kilo ("plane manner") in the traditional sixth mode (plagios devteros)".
  10. ^ Second part of the cherubikon sung according to the tradition of the Gelati monastery: "Second part of the Georgian cherubikon (school of Gelati Monastery)". Anchiskhati Church Choir. Another tradition: "Second part of the Georgian cherubikon (school of Karbelashvili)". Anchiskhati Church Choir.
  11. ^ Soroka (1999), p. 96. Examples of the Bulgarian tradition are the Cheruvimskaya Pesn sung by the Patriarch Neofit (monodic tradition) and the so-called "Bělgarskiy Razpev", closely related to Ukrainian and Russian traditions (Starosimonovskiy Rozpev, Obihodniy Rozpev, or several arrangements by more or less known composers of the 19th and 20th centuries etc.).
  12. ^ "Heruvicul (glas I)". Mănăstirea Cămârzani.
  13. ^ "Ca per Împăratul (glas I)". Cathedral of the Patriarchate Bucharest: Gabriel Bogdan.
  14. ^ D-DÜl 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.
  15. ^ The cherubikon according to the version of manuscript British Library Ms. Harley 3095 has been reconstructed by Oliver Gerlach (2009, pp. 432-434). A reconstruction of the melody in Ms. D2 (D-DÜl) was done by Marcel Pérès in collaboration with the Orthodox protopsaltes Lycourgos Angelopoulos.
  16. ^ 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, see the Ordo officii of Saint-Denis (F-Pn lat. 976, f. 137) and the Greek Lectionary (F-Pn gr. 375, ff. 153r-154r, 194v).
  17. ^ Konstantinos Terzopoulos (2009) confronted the editions which Konstantinos Byzantios (ca. 1777–1862) and Neofit Rilski both published of the typikon of Constantinople, with sources of the mixed rite during the Palaiologan dynasty. One of the manuscripts he used to illustrate is an Akolouthiai of the 15th century with the cherubikon asmatikon (GR-An Ms. 2406).
  18. ^ See the transcriptions by Neil Moran (1975).
  19. ^ Moran (1979).
  20. ^ GR-An Ms. 2458, ff. 165v-166r [nearly one page] (Akolouthiai written in 1336).
  21. ^ A Greek (Kyriazides 1896, pp. 278-287) and a Bulgarian Anthology (Sarafov 1912, pp. 203-210).
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Listen to Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas (1961) who sings his own version of the cherubikon for the echos plagios devteros. A huge collection of realisations from different periods had been published by Neoklis Levkopoulos at Psaltologion (2010).




  • Brightman, Frank Edward (1896). Liturgies, Eastern and Western, being the texts original or translated of the principal liturgies of the church. 1: Eastern Liturgies. Oxford: Clarendon.
  • 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.
  • Pseudo-Germain (1998). "Expositio Antiquae Liturgiae Gallicanae". In James W. McKinnon, William Oliver Strunk, Leo Treitler (eds.). The Early Christian Period and the Latin Middle Ages. Source readings in music history. 1 (Rev. ed.). New York: Norton. pp. 164–171. ISBN 0393966941.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Raya, Joseph (1958). Byzantine Liturgy. Tournai, Belgium: Societe Saint Jean l'Evangelist, Desclee & Cie.
  • Sarafov, Petĕr V. (1912). Рѫководство за практическото и теоретическо изучване на восточната църковна музика ["Manual for the practical and theoretical study of the oriental church music", includes an Anthology of Ioan Kukuzel's compositions, Doxastika of the Miney by Iakovos and Konstantinos the Protopsaltes, a Voskresnik, and Anthologies for Utrenna and the Divine Liturgies]. Sofia: Peter Gluškov.
  • 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]

Georgian Chant[edit]

Old Slavonic Cherubim Chant[edit]

Papadic Cherubika[edit]