The heirmos of the ninth ode as a replacement for Axion estin

A new kind of composition during the 19th century?


  • Michael Stroumpakis


It is known from Typikon that during the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom served on the Feasts of the Lord and of the Mother of God, a special hymn (the heirmos) is chanted instead of the usual hymn to the Mother of God, Axion estin. The heirmos replacing Axion estin depicts the festive spirit of the day. The heirmos comes from the 9th ode of the canon of the feast day. In particular, it comes from the group of heirmoi that are chanted as katavasia on the day of the feast.

In the Heirmologion of Katavasiai composed by Peter the Peloponesean, transcribed into the “New Method” of notation by Chourmouzios Chartophylax and published in 1825 in Constantinople,8 one may see a number of heirmoi placed at the end of the slow heirmologion after the exaposteilarion, and entitled as follows: “Katavasiai chanted instead of Axion estin on all Feasts of the Lord and of the Mother of God. Embellishment by Chourmouzios Chartophylax.” Τhe exposition of the heirmos is based not exclusively on the modes but according to the beginning and progress of the Ecclesiastical Year, with the first feast being that of the Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross.

Τhe questions raised by the integration of the above-mentioned separate part in the Heirmologion of Peter the Peloponnesian are many and interesting, given the fact that the manuscript tradition of the Heirmologion by Peter is given with no special for the Heirmoi of the 9th Ode replacing Axion estin. When does the practice of chanting a special heirmos appear for the ninth ode? Did it appear before the change of notation, or does is it a phenomenon of the period of the New Method, after 1814? What was the role of Chourmouzios Chartophylax in the formation and the expansion of this phenomenon? Which are the elements of embellishment by Chourmouzios Chartophylax? Is there any morphological relationship between the embellished heirmoi composed by Chourmouzios and the heirmoi of the Kalophonic Heirmologion? Might one speak of some kind of development in melopoeia during 19th century as a consequence of the change of the notation? Was there an acceptance of this kind of melopoeia for the embellished heirmoi for the ninth Ode? What is their status in the worship nowadays?

Conference Papers



How to Cite

Stroumpakis, Michael. 2020. “The Heirmos of the Ninth Ode As a Replacement for Axion Estin: A New Kind of Composition During the 19th Century?”. Journal of the International Society for Orthodox Music 3 (January):264-84.