Byzantine Stichic Hymnography

This international workshop draws together scholars of Byzantine poetry and hymnography, as well as music and liturgy, in order to explore the liturgical kata stichon hymn, a poetic form that has been almost neglected by scholarship.


November 28, 2019

  • 14:30-15:00: Coffee/tea and welcome
  • Chair, sessions 1-3: Thomas Arentzen
  • 15:00-16.00: Session 1: Stig Frøyshov, University of Oslo. “In search of fifth-century contexts for kata stichon hymnography in Constantinople”. Read abstract (Word)
  • 16:00-17:00: Session 2: Francesco D’Aiuto, Tor Vergata University of Rome. “Metre and/or ‘genre’? Byzantine ‘kata stichon’ hymnography in the wider context of late-antique to medieval versification”. Read abstract (Word)
  • 17:00-17:30: Coffee/tea, refreshments
  • 17:30-18:30: Session 3: Paraskevi Toma, University of Münster. Edition of newly discovered Greek kata stichon hymns. Read abstract (Word)

November 29, 2019

  • Chair, sessions 4-6: Alexander Lingas
  • 9:00-10:00: Session 4: Enrique Santos Marinas, Complutense University of Madrid, "Preliminary study for the critical edition of the newly discovered Slavonic translation of five kata stichon hymns". 
  • 10:00-11:00: Session 5: Emanuele Zimbardi, Sapienza University of Rome. “Syriac influence on Byzantine metrics: State of the art and new perspectives". Read abstract (Word)
  • 11:00-11:30: Coffee/tea, refreshments
  • 11:30-12:30 Session 6: Gregory Tucker, University of Regensburg, ”Festal kata stichon hymns & the troparia of the Great Church”. Read abstract (Word)
  • 12:30-14:00: Lunch
  • Chair, sessions 7-9: Gregory Tucker
  • 14:00-15:00 Session 7: Antonia Giannouli, Cyprus University of Technology. “‘Stichism’ in the kanones: the case of Andrew of Crete”. Read abstract (Word)
  • 15:00-16:00 Session 8: Damaskinos Olkinuora, University of Eastern Finland. “The liturgical place and function of kata stichon hymns”. Read abstract (Word)
  • 16:00-16:30: Coffee/tea, refreshments
  • 16:30-17:30 Session 9: Alexander Lingas, Capella Romana. ”Notated and oral traditions for kata stichon hymns”. Read abstract (Word)
  • 17:30-18:30 Session 10: General discussion, led by Thomas Arentzen, University of Uppsala

Conveners: Stig Frøyshov and Thomas Arentzen, Research group 'Eastern Christian Daily Office'

About the workshop

Religious poetry played a prominent part in Byzantine culture and contributed to the shaping of the Christian worldview. Gradually the Byzantine rite developed a rich thesaurus of hymns for various occasions. They told stories, taught doctrine, and shaped emotions.

Like many other forms of poetry, the new Christian hymns that appeared – kanons, stichera, and kontakia – were divided into the sort of rhythmic or metrical units which we usually call strophes or stanzas. But poets could also compose non-strophic or stichic pieces of poetry, where verse follows verse without any grouping into stanzas. This is, for instance, how the Homeric epics are structured. Even ecclesiastical hymns could, in fact, be composed in running verses rather than grouped into stanzas. It is true that such stichic hymns never entered into the liturgical books of the Byzantine rite to any considerable degree, but this does not mean that poets did not compose them. Stichic hymnography often goes under the designation “kata stichon”. Distinct from the strophic hymn forms, stichic hymnography or kata stichon is formed by a succession of verses that tend to be equal in length and meter, and usually also in stress. One stichic hymn in the present Byzantine rite is  Ἡ ἀσώματος φύσις, τὰ Χερουβείμ, “The bodiless nature, the cherubim”, which is sung during the service of Great Compline; one may find other stichic hymns as well, like some Megalynaria in the current-day Orthros service. Digging through manuscripts, however, reveals other kata stichon hymns no longer in use. Stichic hymnography seems datable from the fifth century to Late Byzantine and even Post-Byzantine times, covering both regular, nocturnal worship and feasts.

Although notable exceptions exist, stichic hymnography has drawn little scholarly attention, and many fundamental questions remain unsolved: Which exactly are the kata stichon hymns, and can we date them more accurately? Can any pre-Byzantine literary strands - Greek or Syriac - be traces in these verses? Do they make up a separate genre, and do they originate in a particular geographic area or milieu? What topics or theological themes do they share? For which liturgical rite were they composed - for the rite of Hagia Sophia, of other public churches, or of monastic circles? Is there a continuous line of kata stichon hymnography from Late Antiquity until modern times? 


Published Oct. 24, 2019 5:05 PM - Last modified Oct. 8, 2021 12:31 PM