Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Surnamed ho melodos and ho theorrhetor , poet of the sixth century. The only authority for the life and date of this greatest of Greek hymn-writers is the account in the Menaion for October; his feast is 1 October. According to this account he was by birth a Syrian, served as deacon in the church at Berytus, and came to Constantinople in the reign of Anastasios. It was in the Church of the Most Holy Theotokos ( eis ta Kyrou ) that he received the charisma of sacred poetry. "After a religious retreat at Blachernae he returned to his church, and one night in his sleep saw a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos, who gave him a volume of paper, saying, 'Take the paper and eat it'." The saint, in his dream, opened his mouth and swallowed the paper. It was Christmas Day, and immediately he awakened and marvelled and glorified God. Then, mounting the ambo, he began the strains of his

he parthenos semeron ton hyperousion tiktei.

He wrote also about one thousand kontakia for other feasts before he died.

Beyond this passage, there are only two mentions of Romanos's name, one in the eighth-century poet St. Germanos, and once in Suidas (s. v. anaklomenon), who calls him "Romanos the melode". None of the Byzantine writers on hymnology allude to him: his fame was practically extinguished by the newer school of hymn-writers which flourished in the eighth and ninth centuries. Krumbacher has made it fairly certain, by a number of critical arguments, that the emperor named in the Menaion as reigning when Romanos came to the capital is Anastasius I (A.D. 491-518), not Anastasius II (A.D. 713-16); Pitra and Stevenson are of the same opinion. Probably, then, he lived through the reign of Justinian (A.D. 527-65), who was himself a hymn-writer; this would make him contemporary with two other Byzantine melodes, Anastasios and Kyriakos. "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", says Krumbacher, and all the other critics of Byzantine poetry subscribe to this enthusiastic praise. Some have called him the Christian Pindar. Down till the twelfth century his Christmas hymn was performed by a double choir (from S. Sophia and the Holy Apostles ) at the imperial banquet on that feast day. Of most of the others only a few strophes survive. The long hymns ( kontakia ) consist of twenty-five strophes ( troparia ), usually of twenty-one verses each, with a refrain. Besides the Christmas hymn we may cite the following titles to exemplify St. Romanos's choice of subjects: "Canticum Paschale", "de Crucis Triumpho", "de Iuda Proditore", "de Petri Negatione", "de Virgine iuxta crucem". Dramatic and pathetic dialogue plays a great part in the structure. The simple sincerity of tone sometimes puts the reader in mind of the Latin medieval hymns, or the earliest Italian religious verse. Romanos, like the other melodes, obeys a purely accentual or rhythmic law ; the quantitative scansions are obsolete for those to whom he sings (see BYZANTINE LITERATURE, IV). Editions: Twenty-nine hymns in Pitra, "Analecta Sacra", I, 1876; three more in Pitra, "Sanctus Romanus veterum melodorum princeps" (1888); Krumbacher long ago promised a complete critical edition according to the Patmian codices, but has not yet achieved it.

[ Note: St. Romanos is also described in the article, "Saints Romanus" [(8)], Romanos and Romanus being the Greek and Latin forms respectively of the same name.]


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21
10 A disaster for me, mother, that you bore me to be ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 59:2-3, 4, 10-11, 17, 18
2 rescue me from evil-doers, from men of violence ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:44-46
44 'The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 30th, 2014 Image

St. Peter Chrysologus
July 30: St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter