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A sticheron (Greek: στιχηρὸν "set in verses"; plural: stichera Greek: στιχηρά) is a particular hymn genre, which has to be sung during the morning (Orthros) and evening service (Hesperinos) of the Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.

Stichera are usually sung in alternation with psalm verses or other scriptural verses. These verses are known as stichoi (sing: stichos), but sticheraric poetry usually follows the hexameter and is collected in an own book called sticherarion (Greek: στιχηράριον). A sticherarion is a book containing the stichera for the morning and evening services throughout the year, but chant compositions in the sticheraric melos can also found in other liturgical books like the Octoechos or the Anastasimatarion, or in the Anthology for the Divine Liturgy.

The Sticheraric Melos and the Troparion

In the current traditions of Orthodox Chant, the sticherarion as a hymn book was also used to call a chant genre sticheraric melos, which is defined by its tempo and its melodic formulas according to the eight modes of the Octoechos. Despite of the fact, that the hymns of the sticherarion have to be sung in the same melos, there is no direct relation with the poetic hymn genre, because its musical definition rather follows the practice of psalmody. Today the sticheraric melos as opposed to the troparic melos are two different cycles of the Octoechos.

In the past they had been closer related by the practice of psalmody, and a troparion which is nothing else than a refrain sung with psalmody, might become a more elaborated chant from a musical point of view, so that it is sung thrice without the psalm verses, but with the small doxology. The troparion in its melodic form tends to move towards the sticheraric or even papadic melos, and this way, it becomes an own chant genre by itself.[1]

The Sticheron and its Musical Settings

Christian Troelsgård described the sticheron quite similar to the troparion, only that a sticheron as an intercalation of psalmody, has been longer as a poem than a troparion, thus it had been chanted without repetitions of its text, but in sections. There had been a lot of stichera, but the book sticherarion was a rather dislocated collection of stichera from different local traditions and their singer-poets. It was obviously not used on a pulpit during celebrations, but rather an exercise book with various examples which could be studied for own compositions with similar accentuation patterns.[2]

Concerning this paradigmatic use of notation the musical setting of a sticheron, the sticherarion had been mainly a collection of idiomela which had to be understood as individual compositions for a certain sticheron poem, although the melodic patterns could be rather classified according to one of the eight or ten liturgical modes (echos or glas).[3] The reference to the Hagiopolitan Octoechos is given by the modal signatures, especially the medial signatures written within notation, so the book sticherarion constituted the synthetic role of its notation (Byzantine round notation), which integrated signs taken from different chant books during the 13th century.[4] But there was as well the practice of using certain stichera as models (avtomela) to compose other poems (prosomoia), similar to the heirmologion. This classification became even more complex by the translation of the hymn books into Slavonic, which forced the kanonarches, responsible for the preparation of the services, to adapt the music of a certain avtomelon to the translated prosomoia and the prosody of the Slavonic language.

Since John Koukouzeles who revised the sticheraria, there was development from the traditional sticheron, sung by a whole congregation or community, to a rather representative and elaborated performance by a soloist.[5] Manuel Chrysaphes regarded John Koukouzeles as the inventor of the "embellished sticheron" (sticheron kalophonikon), but he emphasized that he always followed step by step the model, as it has been written down in sticherarion. Especially in the kalophonic genre, a systematic collection of compositions by Constantinopolitan maistores, made after the menaion of sticherarion, could already grow, as one part of the sticherarion kalophonikon, to a volume about 1900 pages, an expansion in chant which could be hardly performed during celebrations of any cathedral of the Empire.[6]

History of the Notated Chant Book Sticherarion

During the reform of the 18th century the book sticherarion had been replaced by the doxastarion, called after the main genre of the former book, the Doxastikon: the sticheron which was introduced by both or one of the two stichoi of Δόξα πατρὶ, but it followed the same composition. The doxastarion which had been recomposed the traditional melodies of the sticherarion, was supposed to abridge the traditional melos, as it had been delivered by 17th-century composers like Panagiotes the New Chrysaphes and Germanos of New Patras. They had grown very long, obviously under influence of the kalophonic method to do the thesis of the sticheraric melos. Between the 1820 and 1841, the abridged doxastarion had been published in 3 versions: the "Doxastarion syntomon" of Petros Peloponnesios (1820), the "Doxastarion argon" of Iakovos the Protoposaltes (1836), and the "Doxastarion argosyntomon" of Konstantinos the Protopsaltes (1841).

Often the medieval sticherarion, if it already excluded the book Octoechos, had been divided into three books: the menaion, the pentekostarion, and the triodion.[7] The book sticherarion which still contained the book octoechos, was created during the Studites reform, which defined the gospel lectures and hymns connected with them.[8] The oldest copies can be dated back to the 10th and 11th centuries, and like the heirmologion the sticherarion was the one of the first hymn books, which was entirely provided with musical notation (Palaeo Byzantine neumes).[9] But the complete form still appeared in the time of the 14th-century reform, which had been notated in Middle Byzantine neumes.[10]

Cycles of the Book Sticherarion

Stichera are commonly written in cycles, on particular themes, and for use in particular liturgical contexts.

Examples of liturgical books containing stichera include:

  • Menaion (hymns to particular saints commemorated according to the calendar day of the year)
  • Triodion (hymns chanted during Great Lent)
  • Pentecostarion (hymns chanted during the Paschal Season)
  • Octoechos (hymns for each day of the week, set to the eight tones). Using one tone each week, the entire cycle takes two months to complete, but this part of the sticherarion became soon an own book.

Cycles of the Book Octoechos

Examples of different liturgical contexts where stichera are commonly used include:

  • Hesperinos (the evening office of the Canonical Hours)
    • Vesper psalm Κύριε ἐκέκραξα, Господи возвахъ к'тебе ("Lord, I Have Cried", Ps. 140.1)
    • The Litiy (procession on Sundays and feast days)
    • The aposticha

Types of Stichera

  • A sticheron that follows the words, "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit" is called a Doxastichon.
  • A sticheron that is dedicated to the Theotokos is called a Theotokion. Theotokia normally follow the words, "Both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages amen." The Theotokion that comes at the end of Κύριε ἐκέκραξα or Господи, воззвахъ к'тєбѣ ("Lord, I Have Cried", Ps 140.1) at Vespers on Saturday night, Friday night and the eves of most Feast Days is called a Dogmatikon, because it deals with the dogma of the Incarnation.
  • The Aposticha are a type of stichera which differ from the norm in that they precede their stichos (psalm verse) rather than follow.

See also



Palaeo Byzantine Notation (10th-13th century)

Middle Byzantine Notation (13th-19th century)

Chrysanthine Notation (since 1814)


External links

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