Irmologion, (Melchite Use). Depicted are Irmos 705-709 (Syriac Sertâ book script. 11th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai. Now part of the Schoyen Collection, MS 577.

Irmologion (Greek: εἱρμολόγιον heirmologion) is a liturgical book of the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite. It contains irmoi for the various canons which are chanted during the morning service. The book Irmologion derives from εἱρμός heirmos meaning "link". The irmos is a melodic model which preceded the composition of the odes. Hence, λογεύω logeuō means "to collect", because within the irmologic repertoire there are more canons (or akrosticha) than irmoi.

The melodic irmos and the odes of the canon and its use during the morning service

An important portion of Matins and other services in the Orthodox Church is the canon, a long liturgical poem divided into nine odes.[1] Each ode is made according to a certain irmos, and it is followed by troparia.[2] Sometimes a certain longer irmoi are sung which are called katabasiai because of their descending melos.[3] The troparia sung with the canon are performed out of a textbook (Reader,[4] Menaion) according to avtomela, but the irmoi and katabasiae are chanted by the choir according to irmoi. Since the Irmologion was invented as a chant book provided with musical notation, it only contained the smaller number of heirmoi with those texts which identified them. The other canons and akrosticha were usually collected in a separated text book, and the incipit of a certain heirmos or, in case of troparia the avtomela, indicated the melody which had to be applied for the recitation of the hymns.

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 era composers like Petros Bereketis, Chrysaphes the Younger, Germanos of New Patras, and Balasios, when this genre became very popular.[5]

Composition of the Irmologion and of the Orthros Anthology

Within the Irmologion, the new chant book of the Stoudites' reform, the irmoi are usually arranged according to the eight tones of Byzantine chant either according to the odes (order of the odes, OdO, divided into eight parts according to the echoi, but within each echos all odes are ordered beginning with all first odes of each canon, all second or third odes etc.) or according to the canon (canon order, KaO, divided into eight parts according to the echoi, but the odes within each echos are organised according the canon of each heirmos).[6] The calendaric canon order is more common in Old Church Slavonic manuscripts, although there are Oktoich books which do not only contain the hymns of the Irmologion (similar to the composition of the older tropologia which persisted until the 12th century).[7] The Byzantine repertoire of irmoi which was conservated by the first translations into Old Church Slavonic in Ohrid, has been reduced between the 12th and the 13th centuries.[8]

Today the Irmologion is often replaced by another chant book which is called "Anthology of the Orthros" (Ἀνθολογία τοῦ Ὄρθρου or Псалтикиина Утренна) which replaced the earlier Akolouthiai used since the 14th century.[9] Some of these Anthologies do also contain the odes of the canon, but also many other hymns of the Psalterion (especially the more elaborated compositions the Polyeleos psalms) and of the book Octoechos which are sung during the morning service (Orthros, Utrenna).

These additional hymns sung during Orthros are:


The oldest manuscripts which contained canons, were tropologia which are composed according to a calendaric order. There were also types like the Georgian Iadgari[10] 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.[11] Concerning the traditional repertoire of these books, a Studites edition can be distinguished from the one at Sinai.[12] The earliest notated Irmologion can be dated back to the 10th century in Byzantium. A full version of the Russian Irmologion, in Church Slavonic includes about 1050 irmoi.[13] 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 neumes[14]), although elsewhere, Byzantine musical notation is nearly universally used.

See also


  1. The irmos is a melodic model which was used for the composition of the odes. As homiletic poetry it refers thematically to the biblical odes, with exception of the second ode which is no longer sung today. According to medieval Irmologia this second ode was only sung during Lenten tide.
  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. For instance, "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.
  5. See also the 18th-century manuscript of an Irmologion kalophonikon in Athens (MIET, Historical and Palaeographical Archive, Ms. Pezarou 15).
  6. Peter Jeffery (2001), Harris (2004).
  7. Jørgen Raasted (1972).
  8. Jørgen Raasted (1969).
  9. Todorov's Bulgarian edition (1992) includes a Bulgarian version of Petros Peloponnesios' Katavasies in calendaric order, the troparia have to be sung from a textbook Miney, while other Anthologies (Phokaeos 1978, Sarafov 1912) have to be used in combination with an Irmologion (Chourmouzios 1825).
  10. The Iadgari has survived as the oldes tropologion (Frøyshov 2012), while there are only fragments of Greek tropologia (Troelsgård 2009).
  11. Gerda Wolfram (2003), Enrica Follieri (1961).
  12. 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).
  13. The Russian translation into Old Church Slavonic (Školnik 1994) can be distinct from the earlier one at Ohrid, that the latter tried not to change the irmoi, but thus, a litterate translation of the hymns was not possible (Dagmar 2001).
  14. See the Rozniki Irmolog at the National Library of Petrozavodsk.

Chant books

Tropologia (6th to 12th centuries)

Old Byzantine notation (10th to 13th centuries)

Middle Byzantine and znamenny notation (13th to 19th centuries)

Without notation (10th to 18th centuries)

Chrysanthine notation (since 1814)



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