The Manuscripts of Byzantine Music at Mount Sinai

The Manuscripts of Byzantine Music at Mount Sinai by Dimitrios K. Balageorgos Athens The Sinai library The hidden “in the deep desert” monastery of Si...
Author: Lillian Berry
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The Manuscripts of Byzantine Music at Mount Sinai by Dimitrios K. Balageorgos Athens The Sinai library The hidden “in the deep desert” monastery of Sinai is not just the eternal residence of the ascetics and centre of pilgrimage of Christians to commemorate the great miracles that took place there; the influx of a great number of pious people, dedicated to worshipping God through prayer and study, from every corner of the Christian world to Sinai for many centuries, resulted in the accumulation of many books at the monastery and the impressive enrichment of its library. Therefore, the Sinai monastery has come to be regarded as a great intellectual centre that accommodates, since its foundation, one of the richest and most important libraries, which is an invaluable treasure for the whole intellectual world. The first core of books of the Sinai library was created when the monastery was founded by Justinian. His work was continued by other emperors and officials of the Byzantine empire, as well as many other foreign kings and rulers and many others. Another determining factor for the enrichment of the library was the contribution of Sinai monks who copied and produced a prolific number of manuscripts at the organized bibliographic workshop of the monastery – which housed experienced copyists and bookbinders- with a varied content in many languages, in order to cover the operational and intellectual needs of the monks. The monastery’s library is one of the most important libraries in the world, in terms of number of books and content as well as in terms of age and, therefore of palaeographic value. A very big number of manuscripts (approximately 4,700) is housed in it, “which save an impressive variety of the types and forms of Greek writing” and printed editions of liturgical and other useful books (approximately 13,000), that feature in their pages the brainchildren of educated men, from the invention of printing to our present day. It is natural that, in this intellectual castle, the monastery of the Sinai land, there are manuscripts that are listed among the most important and beautiful books that have ever been written, with some of them dating as far back as the 4th century AD. These intellectual and cultural treasures include the history of the Greek writing (evolution, types, formation of letters), contribute to the solution of many historical, philological and palaeographic issues.

Descriptive Catalogues of the Sinai manuscript The history of the patient and laborious tracking and research of the rich files of the Sinai monastery for the cataloguing and publication of the descriptive catalogues of all manuscript codices and printed books, has been completed as these lines are being written, three hundred years later. Within this time period, several scientists as well as quite a few Sinai monks have been working enthusiastically, with acute spirit, and have completed descriptive catalogues of the Sinai codices. Unfortunately, some of them are not complete, some others are yet to be published while there are some that we know they exist but they have not been found as yet in the monastery’s archives. The author continues to describe all relevant catalogues of the collections of St Catherine’s Monastery in more detail. The collection of manuscripts of the Psaltic Art The holy monastery of Sinai houses to the present day one of the richest and most important libraries in the world. To cover the liturgical needs, both the liturgical books with their various content and the musical books were necessary for the psaltis on Sinai. The monastery of St. Catherine’s collection of manuscripts of the Psaltic Art, that is of Byzantine and post-Byzantine compositions, is among the greatest collections of musical manuscripts that exist in monastery or public libraries, by featuring more than 350 codices (new finds included). Checking the published catalogues – general and specific ones – does not shed light on the material offered by the musical manuscripts at the monastery on Sinai. Independent gathering of musical material is nonexistent, the manuscripts of the Psaltic Art are mostly mentioned as “musical” or “psaltic” books and the musical manuscripts are presented along with other manuscripts of various content; it is a presentation that, the reader can easily realize, is not exemplary and does not facilitate the knowledge and study of a very rich musical material; instead, it serves to solve very few, mostly palaeographic matters, leaving a shadow of ignorance or confusion on many musicological issues. The musicological exposition that follows concerns only the 124 musical codices of the important Sinai collection that are described in the published volume of Sinai Chant codices. Genre-related and chronological categorization of manuscripts The names of the musical books which include the various psaltic materials that covers the tradition and preferences of each era, had always reflected their content as this is defined by the three types of composition, the Sticherarion, Eirmologion and Papadike. The three basic psaltic books that include the compositions of these types, that is the Sticherarion, Eirmologion

and Papadike, follow the classification of the types of Byzantine and postByzantine composition. The development of Psaltic Art, the new musical processing, the tendencies of each time period, the great number of composers, the facilitation of the psaltis – so that they will chant from complete but not bulky books- have created new musical books as to the content or the type of composition, which came from the extraction or selection of their material. So, from the three basic codices came the Anthology or Sticherarion Anthology, the Εκλογη of Sticherarion, the Triodion-Pentekostarion, the Doxastarion or, more correctly, Doxastikarion, the Anastasimatarion, οι Μεγαλες Ωρες, the Doxastarion of aposticha. A full presentation of the shaping, tradition, onomatology and division of the musical codices can be found in the general introduction of volume A of the Kalophonikon Eirmologion, Prologarion, Anthology, Kontakarion or Oikimatarion, Akathist Hymn, Kratimatarion, Kalophonikon Sticherarion or Mathimatarion, Anthologion of Mathimatarion, the Complete Works by Petros Bereketis and Anastasios Rapsaniotis. (see Gr. T. Stathis, “The Manuscripts of Byzantine Music – Mount Athos”, Athens 1975, pp.30-43). The Sinai collection of Byzantine musical manuscripts is rich with all the above types of musical books. Several mixed codices also belong to it, that is codices which include two and three, sometimes even more books, bound with the same binding and which are known by the names, EirmologionAnthology, Sticherarion-Anthology,Anastasimatarion-Anthology-Mathimatarion of Sticherarion, Anastasimatarion-Anthology, Eirmologion-Anastasimatarion-Anthology, Eirmologion-Kontakarion-Sticherarion. In particular, the Psaltic codices of the monastery on Sinai that are described in the present volume, according to content and composing type, are: STICHERARIA EIRMOLOGIA PAPADIKES ANTHOLOGIES ANASTASIMATARIA TRIODIA-PENTIKOSTARIA PENTECOSTARION ΜΗΝΑΙΑ OCTOECHOS STICHERARIA OF MENOLOGION STICHERARION OF MENOLOGION-TRIODION TRIODION-ANTHOLOGY OF STICHERARION ANTHOLOGION OF STICHERARION ANTHOLOGION OF STICHERARION-MATHEMATARION STICHERARION OF TRIODION-PENTECOSTARION-ANTHOLOGY ANASTASIMA-ANTHOLOGIES MATHEMATARIA


The collection of Sinai musical manuscripts is rich in all types of musical books, as is understood by the aforementioned classification according to content. All of them cover a period of a thousand years of written ecclesiastic musical tradition. Many of these – especially the Sticheraria – as well as a few Eirmologia, Psaltika and Papadikes- belong to the first and classical Byzantine centuries (11th- mid 15th centuries). The Kalophonika Sticheraria, Kontakaria, Kratimataria and a few Anthologies come from the 15th and 16th centuries. The other manuscripts are the product of hard and tireless work of good and experienced codicographers and musicians of the more recent period of the Psaltic Art, of the 17th and 18th centuries. The detailed study of the musical manuscripts of Sinai through a thorough examination and description of their material, revealed a big number of bibliographers, while it also contributed to attributing the copying of certain codices to a particular writer – by identification. An important number of codicographers of psaltic books was thus revealed, calligraphers or not, with a major or minor musical activity, who I will go on to present. The careful writing style, the artistic epititla and initial capital letters, the decoration, the very artistic colourful miniatures, the included compositions and various notes as well as the exquisite bindings of his manuscripts, render them cultural elements of high artistic value, original bearers of tradition, and works that save the historical knowledge of the musical content of the Byzantine period. Cataloguing – cataloguing plan We worked on two scientific missions of many days each, for the systematic and analytical cataloguing of the music manuscripts of the monastery on Sinai. Cataloguing began in July 2004. The checks and supplementation of the descriptions, however, continued the following year, again in July. The descriptions were drawn on the spot, because it would have otherwise been impossible to count the unnumbered sheets of the codices, to check the

notebooks, to conclude on the gaps and missing sheets, to pinpoint the watermarks by checking the sheets of each codex, to record all bibliographical elements (dimensions, sheets, dating) and all palaeographic information (binding, comments on the quality and the colour of the paper, characteristics and style of writing, ink, decorations, condition of codex, etc). To draw the present catalogue, we followed the cataloguing plan that has been established by professor Gr. Th. Stathis for the manuscripts of the monasteries on Mount Athos; this plan consists of three parts27. In the first one, the basic bibliographical characteristics of the codex are recorded (γνωριστικοι numbers, title, dating, writing material, dimensions, number of sheets, name of writer, semiography), while in the second there is a detailed description of the codex’s content, and the third part includes the codexrelated, historical-philological and artistic elements of the codex. At the end of the catalogue, and with a view to its most efficient use, there is a series of photographic specimens as well as the necessary indexes of composers, poets, codicographers, historic people and places, and a descriptive table of the manuscripts.

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