:"Romanos" redirects here. See
Romanusfor the Latin form of the same name, or Romanos, Spainfor the municipality in Spain."Infobox Saint
name= Saint Romanos
feast_day= October 1 (October 14 N.S.)
Eastern Orthodox Church
caption=Icon of Romanus the Melodist (1649)
titles= The Melodist
attributes=Young man vested as a deacon, standing on a raised platform in the middle of a church, holding a scroll with his
Kontakionof the Nativity written on it. He is surrounded by the Patriarch, the Emperor, and members of the congregation. His icon is often a combined with that of the The Protection of the Mother of God, which falls on the same day.
Sometimes he is depicted as a deacon holding a censer in his right hand and a small model of a church in his left.
Romanos (or Romanus), also known as Saint Romanos the Melodist or Roman the Hymnographer, was one of the greatest of Greek
hymnographers, called "the Pindarof rhythmic poetry". He flourished during the sixth century, which is considered to be the " Golden Age" of Byzantine hymnography.
The main source of information about the life of Romanos comes from the
Menaionfor October. Beyond this, his name is mentioned by only two other ancient sources. One in the eighth-century poet St. Germanos, and once in the Souda (s. v. "anaklomenon"), where he is called "Romanos the melodist". From this scanty evidence we learn that he was born to a Jewish family in either Emesa(modern-day Homs) or Damascusin Syria. He was baptized as a young boy (though whether or not his parents also converted is uncertain). Having moved to Berytus (Beirut), he was ordained a deaconin the Church of the Resurrection there.
He later moved to
Constantinopleduring the reign of the emperor Anastasius—on the question whether Anastasius I (491-518) or Anastasius II (713-716) is meant, the renowed byzantinologist, Prof. Karl Krumbacherfavours the earlier date. [Krumbacher, "Gesch. d. byz. Literatur", (Munich, 1897), pp. 312-18.] There he served as sacristanin the "Great Church" ( Hagia Sophia), residing to the end of his life at the Monastery of Kyros, where he was buried along with his disciple St. Ananias.
If those scholars who believe that he lived during the reign of the earlier Anastasius are correct, then he may have continued writing during the reign of Emperor
Justinian(527-65), who was himself a hymn-writer; this would make him a contemporary of two other famous Byzantine hymnographers, Anastasiosand Kyriakos.
According to legend, Romanus was not at first considered to be either a talented reader or singer. He was, however, loved by the
Patriarch of Constantinoplebecause of his great humility. Once, around the year 518, while serving in the Church of the Panagia at Blachernae, during the All-Night Vigilfor the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, he was assigned to read the kathismaverses from the Psalter. He read so poorly that another reader had to take his place. Some of the lesser clergy ridiculed Romanus for this, and being humilitated he sat down in one of the choir stalls. Overcome by weariness and sorrow, he soon fell asleep. As he slept, the Theotokos(Mother of God) appeared to him with a scroll in her hand. She commanded him to eat the scroll, and as soon as he did so, he awoke. He immediately received a blessing from the Patriarch, mounted the ambo(pulpit), and chanted extemporaneously his famous Kontakion of the Nativity, "Today the Virgin gives birth to Him Who is above all being…." The emperor, the patriarch, the clergy, and the entire congregation were amazed at both the profound theology of the hymn and Romanos' clear, sonorous voice as he sang. According to tradition, this was the very first kontakion ever sung. The Greek word "kontakion" (κοντάκιον) refers to the shaft on which a scroll is wound, hence the significance of the Theotokos' command for him to swallow a scroll, indicating that his compositions were by divine inspiration. The scene of Romanos's first performance is often shown in the lower register of Pokrovicons (example above). [Neil K. Moran; [http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3dcUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA128&dq=pokrov+icon&lr=&sig=ACfU3U1N6OmsFbF6o5ogi4_a8vX4AJEBCA#PPA126,M1 "Singers in Late Byzantine and Slavonic Painting"] ] , p.126ff, BRILL, 1986, ISBN 9004078096]
Romanos wrote in an Atticized literary
koine— i.e., he had a popular, but elevated style— and abundant Semiticisms support the view that he was of Jewish origin. Arresting imagery, sharp metaphors and similes, bold comparisons, antitheses, coining of successful maxims, and vivid dramatization characterize his style.
He is said to have composed more than 1,000
hymns or "kontakia" celebrating various festivals of the ecclesiastical year, the lives of the saints and other sacred subjects, some 60 to 80 of which survive (though not all those attributed to him may be genuine).
Today, usually only the first
stropheof each kontakion is chanted during the divine services, the full hymn having been replaced by the canon. A full kontakion was a poetic sermoncomposed of from 18 to 30 verses or "ikoi", each with a refrain, and united by an acrostic. When it was sung to an original melody, it was called an "idiomelon". Originally, Saint Romanos' works were known simply as " psalms", " odes", or " poems". It was only in the ninth century that the term kontakion came into use.
Among his known works are kontakia on:
*The Nativity of Christ
Martyrdom of St Stephen
*The Death of a
*The Last Judgment
* [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ephrem/kontakion_49.htm The Prodigal Son]
* [http://www.monachos.net/library/Romanos_the_Melodist%2C_Kontakion_on_the_Raising_of_Lazarus The Raising of Lazarus] (for
Lazarus Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday)
* [http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ephrem/kontak16.htm Adam's Lament] (for
*The Treachery of
His Kontakion of the Nativity is still considered to be his masterpiece, and up until the twelfth century, it was sung every year at the imperial banquet on that feast by the joint choirs of Hagia Sophia and of the
Church of the Holy Apostlesin Constantinople. Most of the poem takes the form of a dialogue between the Mother of God and the Magi, whose visit to the newborn Christ Childis celebrated in the Byzantine rite on 25th of December, rather than on the 6th of January, when Western Christians celebrate the visit (in the Orthodox Church, January 6, the Feast of the Theophany, celebrates the Baptism of Christ).
Of his other Kontakia, one of the most well-known is the hymn, "My soul, my souls, why sleepest thou..." which is chanted as part of the service of the "Great Canon" of St. Andrew of Crete on the fifth Thursday of
Romanus is one of many persons who have been credited with composing the famous
AkathistHymn to the Theotokos which is chanted so often as a devotion by Orthodox Christians.
Prof Krumbacher published in Munich several previously unpublished chants of Romanos and other hymnographers, from manuscripts discovered in the library of the Monastery of St John the Theologian in
Patmos. There exists in the library of Moscowa Greek manuscriptwhich contains kontakia and oikoi for the whole year, but does not include all compositions of Romanos.
Professor Krumbacher says of his work, "In poetic talent, fire of inspiration, depth of feeling, and elevation of language, he far surpasses all the other melodes. The literary history of the future will perhaps acclaim Romanos for the greatest ecclesiastical poet of all ages."
:"For further information, see the Attributes section of the infobox at the top of this page."
Although in more recent icons Saint Romanos is depicted standing on the ambo (directly in front of the
iconostasis) and wearing a deacon's sticharion, the famous Russian church musicologist, Johann von Gardner, points out that in the oldest icons he is portrayed wearing the shorter red tunicof a singer and standing on a raised platform in the middle of the church.
Russian Orthodox Church, Saint Romanos is the patron saintof church singers.
J. B. Pitra, "Analecta Sacra", i. (1876), containing 29 poems, and "Sanctus Romanus Veterum Melodorum Princeps" (1888), with three additional hymns from the Monastery at Patmos. See also Pitra's "Hymnographie de l'église grecque" (1867)
Karl Krumbacher, "Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur" (Munich, 1897)
*—"Studien zu Romanos" (Munich, 1899)
*—"Umarbeitungen bei Romanos" (Munich, 1899)
* "Penguin Dictionary of Saints"
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13154a.htm Romanos the Melodist] article from the "
* [http://www.roca.org/OA/135/135f.htm St. Romanos] (
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia)
* [http://www.orthodox.net/gleanings/kontakia_of_romanos.html The Kontakia of Romanos] 71 selections
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