Please have a look on the discussion of the videos made by a performance of Capella romana in a virtual reconstruction of the Constantinopolitan Hagia Sophia.

There have been numerous studies of the rite which belongs to this cathedral, and the very unspecific name "Byzantine rite" had been often used for this very particular rite. One of the most remarkable studies is certainly that by Oliver Strunk, because it revealed, that the turn to a mixed rite and the reform by the school of the maistores like Ioannes Glykys and Ioannes Koukouzeles as a synthesis of the former cathedral rite with the notation of the Stoudites reform had been never accepted in other corners of the Byzantine Empire like for instance the Hagia Sophia of Thessaloniki, where the former tradition had been continued until the Turkish conquest in 1430.

Neil Moran contributed to the earlier tradition by treating a rather unpopular aspect, the role of Eunochs as castrato singers during the celebrations of the cathedral rite. I studied myself the cherouvika in the Italian choir books (asmatika) and found out, that the celebrations of the Greek rite in Norman and Svevian Italy had a certain orientation to contemporary Constantinople, but they still used the old books (asmatikon and kontakarion), and not the "order of services" (Gr. τάξις τῶν ἀκολουθίων), the book of Ioannes Koukouzeles' reform. Nevertheless, they integrated certain elements of the kalophonic style, but never expanded the cherouvika in such a way as we find it transcribed as "cherouvikon asmatikon". Nevertheless, the Constantinopolitan sources are very important, because they combine 3 different books: the typikon, the asmatikon, and the psaltikon.

Please listen to Konstantinos Terzopoulos' paper which was dedicated to Konstantinos Byzantios' studies of the cathedral rite after the reform, a Phanariot who systematically refused Chrysanthine notation and continued to write manuscripts in Late Byzantine notation. His typikon had also be translated into Bulgarian by Neofit of Rila, an important protagonist of the Bulgarian Orthodox continuation of monodic chant. During his presentation Konstantinos Terzopoulos showed an Akolouthiai manuscripts (Athens, National Library of Greece (EBE), Ms. gr. 2406) which transcribed the cherouvikon asmatikon as an echos devteros, while the Italian asmatika, whose notators already used the notation of the Stoudites reform, use a main intonation of plagios devteros. This is probably an indication that the diatonic plagios devteros had presumably been intoned on a rather high pitch, because its ambitus ranges far under its finalis down to Γ (here understood as a Guidonian letter which had been probably intoned in parallage as a plagios protos). Please note that the Hagiopolites mentions that devteros melodies tend to use the plagios as finalis.

So far, I never met singers who are able to perform such a long piece than the elaborated or calophonic version of the cherouvikon asmatikon which contains several pages of teretismata and nenanismata of the domestikos (the choir leaders), while large part of the text had been performed by a soloist (monophonares, probably the lampadarios) from the height of the Ambo. The cherouvikon performed by Capella romana uses the oldest source of the Papadic cherouvikon, which replaced the cherouvikon asmatikon by an abridged version to be performed in the echos of the week according to the Hagiopolite oktoechos cycle. The akolouthiai of 1458, which has been preserved as Ms. 1120 of the library of the Iviron Monastery on Mount Athos, has not the cherouvikon asmatikon, but an oktoechos cycle made of the old model by Manouel Chrysaphes, a Lampadarios and famous composer of Constantinople. In the video of Capella romana you can listen to the echos prôtos version, as it has been reconstructed by Ioannis Arvanitis.


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  • Dear Neil Moran,

    Donatella Bucca who has studied your contributions about Messina Gr. 161 carefully, dates this manuscript to the first half of the 14th century (it also contains compositions by Ioannes Koukouzeles). The notation style is 13th century like the date of the earliest Asmatika, which have survived in Italy. This means "conservative" like it is expected concerning the Byzantine "periphery". Nevertheless, the monastic notation of the Stoudios Monastery and not the one of the Hagia Sophia books.

    You dated its content back to the time of Federico Secondo, so it is probably a later copy of an older asmatikon of the 13th century. It was certainly a period, when scribal activities had remarkably increased and when the trend has been established to a stronger orientation towards Constantinople which did not exist in such a degree until the 11th century, when the Italobyzantine culture was rather anachoretic than monastic, and quite unique in comparison with other local traditions of the Byzantine Empire. As far as you and Donatella have analyzed the content, the book fits to the later more representative liturgy of the Archimandritate SS. Salvatore which had its own cathedral and was the richest landowner of the island, thanks to Ruggero Secondo.

    My own studies of the Asmatika in Grottaferrata led me to the conclusion, that the 13th century version is quite similar to a contemporary Athonite one (I am not sure that it was really Constantinopolitan, but the portions choir were very small, just the beginning and the end, while the rest was not sung by a choir, but by a soloist who must have replaced the left choir. It was written in the Psaltikon, although the cherouvikon has not survived in the psaltica and kontakaria of the Grottaferrata collection). We find the same disposition in the later books Akolouthiai, see also the description of the cherouvikon EBE 2458. The longest part has the domestikos, who sings all the kratemata, while there is another soloist, who replaces the left choir and sings the largest part of the textfrom the ambo.

    Then there is another asmatikon (Grottaferrata, Γ.γ.VII) which has a later appendix with a cherouvikon (dating to the late 14th or early 15th century). The choir has one more verse, still similar to the Akolouthiai, but also nenanismata with ϊ τα as word syllables, obviously sung by the domestikos. But unlike the 13th century asmatika, the beginning is rather pneumatic than melismatic and without a change to a slow tempo (ἄργ[on]). I guess that this abridgement was rather pragmatic in comparison with the very excessive elaborations of the "cherouvikon asmatikon" of the contemporary mixed rite at the Constantinopolitan Hagia Sophia.

    In this comparison, the version in Messina 161 is something which is neither Grottaferrata nor the monastic cathedral rite according 13th century manuscripts. Do you think, that this is closer to the former cathedral rite? So how was it transferred to Italy after the conquest of Constantinople and the decline of its cathedral rite? And how many choirs do you assume for the performance of this version?

    I just inserted folio 73 from Donatella's catalogue, it has plenty intonations of the domestikos? or lampadarios?. I apologize that they are hardly visible:


  • Musicologie Medievale 

    Dear Oliver Gerlach,

    Re: your response -  March 11, 2013

    Thank you for your informative response.  I apologize for the my belated reply.  A collegue of mine went to the Weidner Library at Harvard to see if he could examine an uncatalogued copy of the Bucca catalogue but he was not successful. 

    I feel, first of all, that your list of sources for ‘Reconstructions of the Byzantine Cathedral Rite’ omits two studies which are of central importance.  The first is the study Die Entzifferung der Kondakarien-Notation in Musik der Ostens (v. 3 , 1965, 7-71 and v. 4, 1967, 12-44) by Constantin Floros.  Prof. Floros concluded:

    Our preceding statements on the techniques of notation should have sufficed to have brought the proof that the melodies of the Old Slavic and Middle Byzantine asmatikon not only go back to a common Paleobyzantine model, but also that they exhibit the same structure.  Furthermore the two repertoires correspond extensively right into small details, even if admittedly occasionally discerpances between the versions are evident.  As paradoxical as it might sound, so there can be no doubt concerning the palaeographical findings, that even in the 13th century on Mt. Athos, in the cathedrals and monasteries of Russia as well as in the Basilian monasteries of South Italy and Sicily, from whence most of the Greek manuscripts in question originated, the chants of the asmaikon were sung essentially in accordance with the same melodies (Origins of Russian Music, p. 238). 

    Since this publication with its 60 tables and transcriptions of the hypakoe of the Oktoechos in all 8 modes appeared in German in the 1960’s and was translated into English in 2009, one really has to wonder when there are researchers such as Olga Grinchenko at Oxford who states in an article on Slavonic Kontakaria and their Byzantine prototypes that her “paper deals with a particular type of the Early Slavonic liturgical manuscripts – Kontakaria, dated from the 11th–13th century … The manuscripts contain an undeciphered musical notation (  In another paper by the same Oxford scholar on Calendrical features of the Byzantine Pasltika and Asmatika and their transmission into Slavonic liturgical books the author writes: “Among them there are six Slavonic Kontakaria dated from the late eleventh to thirteenth centuries. … The hymns are notated with a special type of medieval musical signs – neumes – which still remain undeciphered” (Inter-cultural Transmission of Intellectual Traditions in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period / Warsaw, 27th-29th September 2012).  Gregory Myers in a paper published in Bulgarian Musicology (vol. XXXVI/2012/no. 3-4) finds the study by Floros to be “exhaustive and exhausting” and outdated ("long-outmoded").  Nevertheless all his basic ideas and methods are taken from Floros’s study without stating this specifically.  He claims that all of his alleged "identifications" are based on the Teaching Song of Kukuzeles - a table of tone figures that Floros extensively studied and published in the early sixties.  He refers  to some of these figures as strangismata and gronthismata.  These characters however do not even appear in the Teaching Song of Kukuzeles but only in the table of neumes in Codex Lavra gamma 67, a table that contains the signs of the Chartres notation which Floros examined in detail in his three-volume Universale Neumenkunde (Kassel, 1970).  To determine the extent his dependence on Floros, one needs only compare Myers’ "transcriptions" in the article with pp. 265-268 of The Origins of Russian Music.  Although Gregor Hanke devotes the greater part of his disseration to the “sung” liturgy and “der liturgiegeschichtliche Kontext des Asmatikos”, the studies by Floros are not mentioned. 

    In any case your conclusions about the asmatika (“My own studies of the Asmatika in Grottaferrata led me to the conclusion …”) seem to have been preceded by Floros by about 50 years. 

    The second study which have been neglected is the brilliant investigation on Gli Asmata nella musica bizantina in Bolletino della Badia Greca di Grottaferrata (v. 13, 1959, 45-50, 127-145 and 14, 1960, 145-178).  In this study he compiled a detailed Indice comparato of the repertoire of the Asma in the manuscripts Messan. gr. 161, Crypt. Γ. γ. VII, Crypt. Γ. γ. VI and Crypt. Γ. γ. IV.  According to Di Salvo, Greek theoretical sources classify the music for the liturgy into either one of two classes: the repertory of the Hagiopolities or the repertory of the Asma.  Padre Bartolomeo Di Salvo was the first to develop a definition of the repertory of the Asma based on the music manuscripts.  The main source for the repertory is represented by the codex Messanensis gr. 161.  With respect to the date of the ms. Messina gr. 161 he describes it as E’ un membranaceo di cm. 19 x 14,5 del sec. XIII.  Ha 89 folgi; la calligrafia molto chiaroscurata è nel complesso bella, anche se talvola lascia perplessi sull littura de qualche signo.  Il repertoirio dell’ Asma inizia al f. 20.  Lorenzo Tardo wrote an article on Un manoscritto καλοφωνικόν del sec. XIII nella collezione melurgica Bizantina délia Biblioteca Universitaria di Messina (Εἰς μνήμην Σπυρίδωνος Λάμπρου, Athens, 1935). 

    You write that “Donatella Bucca who has studied your contributions about Messina Gr. 161 carefully, dates this manuscript to the first half of the 14th century (it also contains compositions by Ioannes Koukouzeles”.  A search of the internet for the catalogue by Donatella Bucca under “” did not turn up any matches so that it seems that the study not yet generally available.  Examining the “folio 73 from Donatella’s catalogue” included in your reply I could not identify any references to Kukuzeles.  Di Salvo describes f. 73 as the conclusion of Πασαν την βιωτηκην from the Cherubikon and the beginning of Τάξεσιν, αλληλούϊα.  He then adds: “L’inno cherubico è di modo II pl.; il Κράτημα, invece, è di modo IV pl.  Notiamo qui il punto in cui l’inno viene interrotto per consentire la cerimonia del grand introito.  Tale punto di interuzione non corrisponde alla paratica odierna nè a qualla che troviamo comune nei Χερουβικα dell’epoca cucuzelica.”  Di Salvo also expressed his opinion on the relationship of the repertory of the Asma to the reforms of Kukuzeles (BBGG 13, 138-139):

    L’esame del contenuto dei manoscritti da noi reportati nell’indice e la loro disposizione messa in comparizione con il repertoirio dell raccolta tanto comune nell’epoca cucuzelica (dal sec. XIV) denominata dagli studiosi Παπαδικη – Papadike, mostra l’intima loro relazione, si da poter concludere sulla derivazione di quest’ultima dal repertorio dell’Asma e giudicare della stile di gran parte del repertoirio di essa

    Thank you for including the reproduction of folio 73 in your reply but it is transcribed in the second volume of my dissertation on pages 123-125. 

    My disseration also includes a transcription of the Cherubikon in Grottaferrata, Γ.γ.VII.  You say, however, that “the beginning is rather pneumatic than melismatic and without a change to a slow tempo (ἄργ[on])” and then conclude that the manuscript should be dated to the late 14th or early 15th century.  In my dissertation I noted that the second section of this Cherubikon is in a purely kalophonic style.  I list on pages 190-120 a series of formulae of the Γ.γ.VII  version which appear in the chant Πλρωθητω and the kalphonic Hagios.  Πλρωθητω begins with exactly the same melody in the codices Crypt. Γ. γ. IV, Crypt. Γ. γ. VII and Messina gr. 161.  I do not think that the melodic variations would justify a dating in the early 15th century.        

    With respect to your statement about not having met singers who were able to perform pieces such as “the elaborated or calophonic version of the cherouvikon asmatikon which contains several pages of teretismata and nenanismata”, may I direct you to the article by Nanna Schiødt From Byzantium to Italy. Castrato singers from the 4th to the 20th centuries in: Psaltike: neue Studien zur byzantinischen Musik : Festschrift für Gerda Wolfram (2011).   She discusses the book by Martin Haböck on Die Kastraten und ihre Gesangskunst and gives an example of a vocal exercise by Cafarelli.  She commented “these exercises have been used for generations, and presumeably also in the Byzantine “conservatoires” as the same techniques have been used to perform both in East and West”.   She began her research after concluding that the range of certain hymns was too high for a man’s voice to sing.  The range of the Akathisos hymn for example corresponds to the range of castrati arias of the Baroque period. 

    The answer to your question “So how was it transferred to Italy after the conquest of Constantinople and the decline of its cathedral rite?” is not difficult.  After the conquest of 1204 the Latin rite was introduced into the Hagia Sophia.  The expelled castrati singers received however a warm welcome in the Regnum Siciliae.  The influx produced a relatively brief “starburst” over Messina.  The proximity of the cultural heterodoxy of Rome allowed the repertory of the Asma a somewhat longer period of ebullience in Grottaferrata. 

    Finally, you are to be commended for promoting the discussion of the Byzantine Cathedral Rite. 



  • This is very interesting. So they were a kind of war prisoners?

    I just said that the manuscript 161 has compositions ascribed to John Koukouzeles, but this is no evidence that he added something to the cherouvikon asmatikon. Donatella Bucca made no objections against your datation of the cherouvikon.

    I agree with your opinion that the late Italian cherouvikon in the later appendix of Γ.γ. VII integrated elements of kalophonia, but if we look at the beginning, it is evident that they needed to shorten it in other parts in order to win time for a kallopismos before the alleluia. This is very different from the cherouvikon asmatikon as we can find it in the Akolouthiai and in the 13th-century Asmatika.

    The reason why I did not quote the studies of the Kievan reception, is not only that I am not an expert there, but I also think, that it is worth an own discussion (and there especially the studies of our Russian and Ukrainian colleagues have to be quoted). Hence, I decided to discuss here the sources which transcribe the cathedral rite into Round notation.

  • Maybe I should also say something about my publication. I simply followed Oliver Strunk's assumption that the Asmatika Γ.γ. I and Γ.γ. VII of the Grottaferrata collection were copies from Asmatika of Messina. Donatella Bucca is not so sure about it, and today I am also not very convinced concerning this orgin. Maybe these had been once books to celebrate the choral or secular rite at Grottaferrata during more important feast, when the Abbey expected guests, or they had been used in other northern places of Southern Italy like Apulia.

    Concerning the Athonite version of the Great Lavra, Γ 3, Γ.γ. I (or cod. cr. 156) seems to be very close, but the Italian version has composed melismas which are rather symmetric:

    9126742101?profile=originalΓ.γ. VII was written about the same time, but the cherouvikon was added in a later appendix. It is quite a different hand concerning the notation, but also in its realization. There is a huge contrast between the main echos (plagios devteros) and a phthora nana which is resolved conventionally into the echos plagios tetartos during the kalopismos, from there the melos find its way back to the plagios devteros as (diatonic) mesos tetartos. This might be regarded as an influence of the Messina version in Ms. 161, but the kalopismos is definitely an own composition different from the one in 161.

    I am not sure that this late datation (early 15th century) is correct (it was Jacques Handschin's not mine, who probably relied on Bartolomeo Di Salvo), but it is definitely later than the composition in 161. Here you found a very clear indication, because the cherouvikon is interrupted by acclamations addressed to Ruggero Secondo, which clearly point to the royal foundation of the Archimandritate SS. Salvatore and its early liturgy celebrated in the cathedral. Of course, Donatella Bucca had to refer your studies, while discussing the research made about this manuscript. But there is no doubt that there is a pragmatic variety in Italian sources, also in comparison with Constantinopolitan versions.

    The Papadic tradition of singing the cherouvikon according to the echos of the week, which starts with Iviron 1120 and which is still the practice today (also in Istanbul), has not very much in common with the cherouvikon asmatikon of the earlier Akolouthiai.

    As I said, I do not know singers today who are able to perform the devteros prototype according to their kalophonic elaboration, but the Italian sources show rather modest realizations, whether they had be performed by Eunochs or not (quite likely as far as the Sicilian court had been involved). The ambitus on the other hand says not very much. In such elaborated chant it is certainly very wide, so whoever is singing it, has to adapt it according to the own register. This was simply an important aspect of parallage. It does not make any sense to refer here to modern voice register distinctions, Byzantine chant involved in kalophonia was rather the "diminuzioni sulla viola bastarda" to say it with a special term used by the diminution schools of the Baroque Period.

  • I have to correct my last response: Ruggero Secondo was the son of the Norman founder of SS. Salvatore, the Count Ruggero Primo. He added further donations and asked a Greek abbot for a typikon who invented the centralized Archimandritate administration. The Svevian Federico Secondo who resided at the Court of Palermo from 1220 and who was addressed in Messina 161 (not Ruggero Secondo), lived some generations later, and the earliest asmatika (in Round notation) date to his time, when the Constantinopolitan cathedral rite had already been expelled by Western crusaders. This old tradition had never been continued at Constantinople, because the reform by Ioannis Glykys and Koukouzelis established a new mixed rite and emphasized the new (Studite) medium of an oktoechos notation (known as Byzantine Round notation). Hence, I am not sure that it is right to assume a common origin in Palaio Byzantine notation as Neil Moran does. In any case this is still an open question in current research.

    The cherouvikon is supposed to be a poem of Emperor Justinus II or a composition of his time, which had been introduced, because a change in sacred architecture required a procession to carry the consecration bread to the altar behind the choir screen (hence, it corresponds to the Western offertorium). I reconstructed its melody on the base of the earliest notated sources, which are Paleofrankish, Central French and St. Gall neumes around the Missa greca at Saint Denis Abbey and Korvey (a village near Aachen), dating to the 10th and 11th century.

    The establishment of the Constantinopolitan cathedral rite at the cathedral of SS. Salvatore di Messina was obviously a result of a cultural exchange, which followed the crusade of 1201 (a crusade, by the way, which Federico joined very late and after a long period of hesitation).

  • Some remarks about Neil Moran's transcription of cod. crypt. Γ.γ. VII, because it is quite different from mine.  The main problem is that the whole composition is in the lowest register, the lowest I have found so far.  Quite the opposite as he wrote here, while he was arguing for a performance by castrato singers.  This would mean that they had intoned the plagios devteros on a considerably high pitch.

    Nevertheless, it is possible to argue that there is probably an older layer connected with a performance by a castrato domestikos in the late appendix of the Asmatikon Γ.γ. VII.  Both mine as well as Neil Moran's transcriptions try to cope with the very low register in the last kalophonic section.  I interpreted an ison as an oligon in the first melisma on Τὸν τρισάγιον ὕμνον, so that the cadence at "hymnon" arrives at the kyrios devteros b natural and the kalopismos at the finalis of plagios devteros E.  Neil Moran just interpreted the pnevma chamile (χαμιλή) as a vareia (βαρεῖα) in order to avoid the low register which is already very present at the beginning (ii:131) (please compare the facsimile in Abb. 240):


    Probably there had been an older castrato version which terminated on the higher octave of the finalis, but the scribe of this late version attached to the asmatikon changed here to the low register, because the soloist could not cope with a range, if the melody would continue to raise.  You will read about my solution in my next book publication.

    I can recommend in any case Neil Moran's transcription in the second volume of his doctoral thesis (ii:86-140). For the asmatikon there is a synoptic transcription, not only Grottaferrata Γ.γ. I and Great Lavra Γ 3, but also the asmatika Ms. 1293 and 1257 of Lavra St Catherine on Mount Sinai.  The part of the monophonaris on the ambo who replaced the left choir, is transcribed according to Gr. 161 of Messina (ii:108-128).

    Oliver Gerlach: Im Labyrinth des Oktōīchos - Das Labyrinth im einstimmigen Gesang (4) Das Cherouvik…
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