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Byzantine Empire Hymns

The Ecclesiastical Music within Orthodoxy is called the Byzantine Music. It received this name because it was developed and formed during the Byzantine years, primarily in Byzantium. This rich music was also conveyed in stages to the other regions of the Eastern and the Western World. Byzantine Music was created by enlightened composers. Our Ecclesiastical History calls them Melodists, Composers and Hymnographers.

A hymn is a religious poem intended to be sung. During the 5th century, Romanos the Melodist wrote approximately 1000 hymns. His hymns are characterized by their extreme length and dramatic nature, and antiphonal singing and dialogue combine to tell specific Bible stories. Romanos was among the first Greek poets to use stress accents to achieve rhythm, rather than the short and long syllables characteristic of classical Greek poetry.

byzantine-empire-hymns

The Byzantine hymn, of which there were three types, was the greatest contribution of this culture. The troparion, a hymn, was inserted between the verses of the Psalms, and eventually the troparia overshadowed the Psalms. The origin of the kontakion, a hymn important in the 6th and 9th cent., is ascribed to Romanus, active during the reign of Anastasius I; it consisted of 18 or 24 strophes all in similar meter, with a contrasting introductory strophe. The subject matter was usually biblical. Often an acrostic is formed by the first letter of each stanza.

He Cometh At Midnight The Bridegroom Service of Great & Holy Monday. This recording of the Bridegroom Service (Vespers and Matins) of Holy Monday includes all the hymns and is based on previously unpublished medieval compositions, and chanted antiphonally in Greek and English by two choirs. The digipak includes extensive liner notes booklet in English with hymn text in both English and Greek.

Theodosia, a devout abbess of a convent near the Imperial city of Constantinople, also lived during the ninth century. She is known for her composition of Kanons, a poetical form comprising nine odes and found in the Byzantine Morning Office known as Orthros. Another ninth-century composer is Thekla, who was also probably an abbess of a convent near Constantinople. Thekla has been described as a self-confident woman, proud not only of herself, but also of her sex.

Although Greek music was predominant, it was not the only form in use. In Egypt, there was a decidedly different form, as was the case in other parts of the Empire. However, most of the Empire used Greek as its common language, and the Byzantine music became almost universal throughout the Church.



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