Irmologion (Greek: εἱρμολόγιον (heirmologion)) is a liturgical book of the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite, and it contains texts for liturgical singing in Church.[1] Specifically, it contains irmoi (introductory hymns) for the various canons which are chanted at Matins and other services. The word derives from the words εἱρμός (heirmos) meaning "link" i.e. an introductory stanza and λογεύω (logeuō) meaning "to collect".

The Melodic Irmos and the Odes of the Canon

An important portion of Matins and other services in the Orthodox Church is the Canon, a long liturgical poem divided into nine Odes. Each Ode begins with a hymn called an Irmos. Many of the Odes also end with a type of Irmos called a Katabasia. The majority of a canon (the troparia) is performed by a reader, but the irmosi and katabasiae are chanted by the choir. Since the liturgical books containing the entire text of the canons can be expensive (especially in the days when books were copied by hand), and yet enough copies of the parts which are sung must be provided for the singers, the Irmologion was developed as an anthology containing only those parts of the canons which are chanted by the choir. Following the development of the Irmologion, the service books which provide the text for the canons would often not print the entire text of the irmosi and katabasiae, but only the first few words, making the Irmologion indispensable for the chanting of the services.

Composition of an Irmologion

Within the Irmologion, the irmoi are arranged according to the eight tones of Byzantine chant.

The Irmologion also contains the following:


The Irmologion was first compiled in Greek from a number of irmoi in the 10th century in Byzantium. A full version of the Russian Irmologion, in Church Slavonic includes about 1050 irmoi. 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 groups, which continue to use the older Znamenny or neumes) although elsewhere, Byzantine musical notation is nearly universally used.


Chant Books

Middle Byzantine Notation (13th-19th century)

Chrysanthine Notation (since 1814)

See also

External links

  • Selections from the Irmologion (in English)
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