Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza
Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza
Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza
Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza

Supraśl Irmologion 1598-1601

Irmologion of Suprasl is a manuscript written in 1598-1601 in the Suprasl Orthodox Monastery. The research has shown that there have been several authors. However, on the front page of the manuscript appears only one name of Bogdan Onisimowicz, ”a singer originated from Pinsk” - as he called himself.

As a result of a unique location, the Monastery was a place where elements of Eastern and Western traditions were meeting. The Suprasl Abbey has created its own school of liturgical chant, presented on the pages of Irmologion in the form of records, for instance: „chant of Suprasl Monastery” or „Monastery’s chant”, etc. The high level of a musical artistry in the 16th century has been vivid among choir members, where despite the monks; „self-employed musicians” were chosen and paid by the monastic patron. After their death, the names were written down in the he names were written down in the „Pomiannik” and remembered during the Divine Liturgy. Thanks to the mentioned above aspect the Monastery’s choir soon became a professional ensemble, known outside the Monastery’s walls. In 1543 the Grand Duke of Lithuania, later king of Poland, Sigmund August came to Suprasl „to see the church and hear the chant”.

The melodies written on 576 pages compose a unique, living proof of the rich melodic traditions of the the 16th century Orthodox world. We can find there znamenny, mirski, Greek, Constantinopolitan, Bulgarian, monastic and Suprasl chants.

Suprasl Irmologion is the oldest known relic of the Old Russian music literature written in the Western linear system. The Irmologion’s colouring consists of five, raspberry-colour miniatures, some Balkan aspects, ornaments, initials and different decorations which evidence very high artistic level of the authors.

The manuscript contains the whole annual liturgical cycle.

Supraśl Irmologion was not entirety written by the hand of Bogdan Onisimowicz. Many of the melodies, especially Bulgarian and Constantinopolitan, were created by different, unfortunately anonymous authors.

The Irmologion is not the only book written in Suprasl Orthodox Monastery, however the most interesting and rich. For more than 100 years these melodies accompanied daily Monastery’s services. Unfortunately, Brest Union complicated this dynamic development and new Western melodies entered the Suprasl Monastery. In 1630 Bogdan Onisimowicz leaved the Suprasl Abbey, because of ktitor (patron) Krzysztof Chodkiewicz, who expelled Onisimowicz for defending one of the monks. There is no further information on Bogdan Onisimowicz. Most probably at the same time Suprasl Irmologion disappeared from the Abbey. On the page 585 we can find 17th century annotation „Caves of Saint Anthony” from Kievo-Pecherska Abbey (slavonic Lavra). This annotation proves that the manuscript was in the Abbey for the last centuries. The significance of the Kievo-Pechersk Abbey for the Orthodoxy in Ruthenia was enormous. In 1718 the manuscript was moved to the Kievo- Pecherska Abbey’s library and museum. Afterwards, there is no mention of Suprasl Irmologion. Only in 1907 A. Preobrażenskij mentions the mention, however the manuscript disappears for the several dozen. In 1970 Professor Anatolij Konotop finds the Suprasl Irmologion in the archives of the Manuscripts Department in the Library of Science Academy of Ukraine. Since that time, the melodies written in manuscript are having their renaissance. Prof. Konotop has developed the method of transcription into the contemporary notation and promoted this system worldwide. As he emphasizes Suprasl Irmologion melodies are the ones and only musical codes that have been recorded on a CD several times.

Marcin Abijski


Based on articels of: A. Konotop, the nuns from Novo-Tikhvinsky Monastery and L.A. Dubrovina.

© 2011

Męski Chór Kameralny im. Bogdana Onisimowicza

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