The post-Byzantine psaltic origin of the recent Serbian church chant

  • Vesna Sara Peno
Keywords: Serbia, post-Byzantine chant, manuscript, church chant


During the difficult years in an enslaved Serbia under Turkish rule, there were no favourable circumstances for the development of the psaltic art, and neither can one talk about any centre of psaltic art, something that might have been for the Serbs what the Great Church of Constantinople was for the Greeks. Church music was learnt only orally, and one can speak hardly at all about musical training during this period. On account of the lack of musical MSS, we cannot be sure which genre of ecclesiastical melody the Serbians brought with them to the cities of Sremski Karlovci, Szentendre, Komoran etc., or to the newly founded monasteries of Fruška Gora, which under the new circumstances would become centres for a renaissance of Serbian spirituality. The opinions of the first scholars of Serbian church music disagree when it comes to the origins of ecclesiastical melody before and just after the period of the great migrations. The majority of them, correctly, supported the idea that church music before the 18th century derived from the Byzantine tradition, with certain special characteristics deriving from the use of the Church Slavonic language. There existed also, nevertheless, the baseless opinion that before the uprooting there was a special Serbian melodic tradition, which one might have heard in Serbian churches and monasteries, since the so called Srbulje – liturgical books written in an older Serbian form of the Church Slavonic language – were used. However, later, and rather more analytical, studies of later Serbian church music proved its close relationship with the melodic tradition that was recorded using the New Method, something that confirms precisely the present author’s opinion that we are dealing with a unified Orthodox psaltic tradition. The indisputable contribution of Greek teachers to the formation of Serbian psaltic music is confirmed by the surviving information concerning the first organized schools of Byzantine music, as well as from the Greek musical codices preserved in several places in Serbia, which were, as I shall demonstrate, certainly also used on the analogia by Serbian psaltai.

Peer-reviewed Articles
Nov 19, 2019
How to Cite
Peno, Vesna Sara. 2019. “The Post-Byzantine Psaltic Origin of the Recent Serbian Church Chant”. Journal of the International Society for Orthodox Music 1 (November), 43-57.