The Kartvelologist

The Kartvelologist” is a bilingual (Georgian and English) peer-reviewed, academic journal, covering all spheres of Kartvelological scholarship. Along with introducing scholarly novelties in Georgian Studies, it aims at popularization of essays of Georgian researchers on the international level and diffusion of foreign Kartvelological scholarship in Georgian scholarly circles.

“The Kartvelologist” issues both in printed and electronic form. In 1993-2009 it came out only in printed form (#1-15). The publisher is the “Centre for Kartvelian Studies” (TSU), financially supported by the “Fund of the Kartvelological School”. In 2011-2013 the journal is financed by Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation.

Laura Grigolashvili 

The Georgian Translations of Andrew of Crete’s Great Cano and

Some Aspects of the Canon’s Establishment as a Genre


Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon is one of the oldest and most important monuments of Christian  spiritual  heritage.  There  are  several  factors  that  make  this  mas terpiece  of hymnology particularly important for Georgian liturgical and hagiographical scholarship. The Hymns of Repentance by the great David Aghmashenebeli (David IV the Builder, 1073 – 24 January 1125), King of Georgia, are inspired by this Canon.   In addition, the names of three of  the  most  notable  representatives  of  Georgian  literature,  Ekvtime  Mtatsmideli  ( St. Euthymius the Hagiorite), Giorgi Mtatsmideli (George the Hagiorite, George the Athonite), and Arsen Iqaltoeli (Arsen of Iqalto), are associated with this work; they have all translated St. Andreas’ Canon of Repentance and have established it as one of the most important and monumental works of the Christian liturgical poetry in Georgia.   Beyond these historical indications, as the current reevaluation of asceticism as both a religious -mystical experience and a unique phenomenon in itself is taking place, the Canon is particularly relevant in today’s world.  Even the representatives of Poststructuralism and Postmodernism have taken interest in the essence of Askesis, recognizing it as a positive occurrence. Furthermore, asceticism is regarded as the universal prerequisite of a culture as it is, as a basis that largely determines relationships between cultures and creates possibilities of initiating communications between them. It is widely recognized that the foundations of universal ethics are highlighted precisely in ascetic literature and that today’s intellectual elite cannot add anything new to these principles.   Some scholars even think that the alternations of strong, complex, dramatic feelings that are associated with repentance, which is the leading motif of Askesis, are expressed in liturgical poetry better than in treatises. As such, they strongly advise deep contemplation of Andrew of Crete’s hymns of atonement, his famous Great Canon [16, p. 65].

In the first half of the 11th   century, the Great Canon of St. Andreas of Crete was introduced and established in Georgian liturgical practice alongside the Constantinople Typikon. Interestingly, the old Georgian translations preserved the Canon’s archaic form, while the Greek Triodion (Постная триодь, Lenten Triodion, fasting hymns, Markhvanebi) containing the text of the Canon that have been passed down to us are based on a later manuscript tradition. This fact also adds to the importance of the Georgian translation s of the Great Canon for Medieval Studies.

The first attempt to translate the Great Canon into the Georgian Language is associated with the name of Ekvtime Mtatsmideli. Georgian literary scholarship has widely discussed Ekvtime’s principles of translation and degree to which his work is essential to Georgian cultural and intellectual heritage. The evaluations of Ekvtime’s work made by the Canon’s other  Georgian  translators, Giorgi Mtatsmideli and Arsen Iqaltoeli, are  particularly important as they are articulated by scholars who are among the highest authorities in both Christian liturgical tradition and Georgian hymnography in particular. Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s and Arsen Iqaltoeli’s assessments of Ekvtime’s translation  significantly overlap. In essence, they  agree  that  Ekvtime  Mtatsmideli  overlooked  the  Biblical  symbols  and  images  that saturate the Canon because he found them “hardly decipherable and distractive for the mind” (Georg. 5, 154v).In place of these, Ekvtime added Troparia for the sustenance of t he soul. Ultimately, Giorgi Mtatsmideli and Arsen Iqaltoeli conclude that Ekvtime endeavored to enrich the spiritual nourishment of the text more than he wished to retain its precise content (Georg.5, 159r). A further indication of this is that he also mod ified the mode and hirmi of the original (ibid.).

In volume, Ekvtime Mtatsmideli’s translation of the Great Canon is almost identical to the original text. However, his translation still leaves a sense of dissatisfaction due to both his treatment of paradigmatic biblical images and the liberty he has taken in his handling of the mode and hirmi of the Great Canon. However, in order to understand Ekvtime’s aims, it is necessary to recall Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s assessment of both his creative aims and his workin g principles: “Saint Father Ekvtime had translated the ‘Great Hymns’ as a book of repentance” (154v.). As this suggests, Ekvtime was interested in the troparia as expressions of atonements; therefore, he omitted what he saw as excessive image-symbols and Biblical names from his translation.  Another of the text’s translators, Arsen Iqaltoeli, arrives at a similar position in his assessment of Ekvtime’s translation: “He had omitted the imagery of the Holy Scripture and, instead, he had added the hymns of repentance for the sustenance of the soul” (Georg.5 147v).

By modern classification, Ekvtime’s method of translation is an example of “dynamic equivalent”. As Korneli Kekelidze has remarked, Ekvtime “did not regard it necessary to be enslaved by the Greek text; he thought it was within his authority to interpret these [the original] texts in his own way” [4, p. 18]. Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s edition of the Great Canon is based on a separate principle of translation, which he describes in the postscript appended to the text. Giorgi Mtatsmindeli aimed to create a complete anthology of both the Triodion (Markhvani) and the Easter Hymns Triodion (the Pentecostarion, Zatiki). Ideally, he wished 1 Here, we can make a reference to several opinions that are expressed in scholarly literature and that are relevant to our context: “The Old and the New Testaments images with reduced and simplified semantic schemes endlessly alternate in the Great Canon... as if the whole Great Canon is a  collection of ‘morals,’ directed towards thousands of non-existent fables”. [1, pp. 254-255].
his edition would expunge all errors from previous translations and become the crowning text of the Georgian Catholicosate. To this end, Mtatsmindeli’s translation reinstates the biblical names and images that Ekvtime had excised. This fact confirms the view expressed in scholarly literature that Mtatsmindeli envisioned a form of translation that remained as close as possible to the original text [17, p. 27].

Giorgi Mtatsmindeli had one more task to fulfill: because of  his special reverence towards Ekvtime, he considered it necessary to include Ekvtime’s troparia of repentance. This resulted in the multitude of images and troparia that swell his edition. Addressing this abundance, Giorgi Atoneli hoped that, “even though the amount of the troparia had multiplied, they were not tiresome.”Giorgi Atoneli further wished that these elements would be seen as “beautiful and [their presence] much desirable” (Georg. 5, 154r).  The fact that Giorgi Atoneli’s own translation of the Canon of Repentance exceeds both Ekvtime’s and Arsen’s in volume exemplifies his own reverence for this material.

Arsen Iqaltoeli’s task was even more difficult. He held the previous translators, (the Athonites) Ekvtime and Giorgi Mtatsmindeli, in the highest regard. Yet, he was aware that their translations diverged from Andrew of Crete’s text, as a result of whic h both translations had become burdensome to the Georgian church. It should also be taken into consideration that the Monk Arsen is one of the initiators of the ongoing Typikon changes taking place in the Georgian church. Under his very initiative, the new addition of Typikon was introduced [6, p. 576].   The Georgian King of Kings—David IV, the Builder (Aghmashenebeli)—was involved in this process as well: he ordered Monk Arsen to translate the Great Canon again. Furthermore, the king ordered Ioane Catholicos of Kartli “to set a new voice to the text of the Canon, so that the renewed church would be offered the perfect and the purist truth with every word of adoration” (Georg. 147.v.).

Arsen  Iqaltoeli  solved  the  task  brilliantly.  Once  more  drawing  on  contemporary classification, we can describe his method of translation as “formal equivalent.” In the end, Arsen Iqaltoeli   produced a nearly exact translation of the Great Canon.  He retained both the mode, the hirmi and the biblical symbols; at the same time, the semantic and artistic content of the original work remains unchanged. The fact that Arsen Iqaltoeli is loyal to the original text and follows it precisely is confirmed by both the old Slavonic and the New Georgian translation of Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon [7, p. 22-28].

Currently, we would like to focus on the anthology that contains all three translations of the Great Canon, the Georg.5 manuscript, which is preserved in The National Library in Paris  (Bibliothèque Nationale,Paris).  When  we  worked  on  the  identification  of  the translations of the Great Canon, Acad. Elene Metreveli and I relied on photocopies and microfilms of this manuscript.

Ekvtime Taqaikaishvili, to whom the first scholarly description of the Georg.5 manuscript belongs, had immediately noted that in it “three different manuscripts copied at different times [were] bound under one cover” [3, p. 32]. Further research confirmed E. Taqaishvili’s observation. The autographs of three different scribes are indeed noticeable in the manuscript. The main part of the manuscript (pages 1-216) is written in one hand. This part contains almost the complete edition of Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s translation of the Triodion (Markhvani), as  well  as  the  beginning part  of  his edition  of  Zatiki,  the  Triodion (The Pentekostarion, the Easter hymns). These two manuscripts should have been parts of one book, Markhvan-Zatiki (an anthology containing both the Lenten and the Easter Hymns), before they were included in the Georg.5 manuscript [11, p. 269]. The second and third parts (pages 217-222 and pages 222-292 respectively) comprise one whole manuscript, and they are considered the new edition of the Lenten Hymns/Markhvani, The Triodion is named as the editor-compiler of this book [13, p. 15]. The manuscript must have been assembled in the 80s of the 11th century.

Some scholars have hypothesized that  the Georg.5 manuscript may  have  been  an autographic manuscript, and credible arguments have been raised in support of this notion. It is known from the primary source that Girogi Mtatsmideli had indeed translated the full texts of Markhvani and Zatiki. For Giorgi Mtatsmideli, it was customary to include the texts of the old translations alongside his own translations. The construction of the manuscript (i.e. its precision, its inclusion of references to the authors of the hymns, the anthological nature of the book, its scholia and colophons) accords with Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s working principles [11, p. 264-287].

I would also add that, among the manuscripts whose authorship is ascribed to Georgi Athoneli, his extremely important colophon is preserved only in the Georg.5 manuscript. In this colophon, the interesting circumstances related to Ekvtime Athoneli’s and Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s translations of the Great Canon are described.

However, a unanimous consensus regarding the previous observation does not exist.

Doubts have been raised about the autographical nature of the Parisian manuscript, and the following question has been asked: If Georg.5 is indeed an autographical manuscript, then why is it incomplete? Additionally, scholars have wondered what sources the scribe of the Ath. 38 manuscript relied on when he included different canons regulations in the manuscript.  Is  it  possible  for  the  autographical  list  to  be  different  from  the  Georg.5 manuscript and to have been composed of all those important parts that Georg. 5 had lacked? [15, p. 79-80].

The possibility that the scribe of the Georg. 5 had used an autographic manuscript itself as the original from which he copied the text has been considered [15, p. 81].It must be noted that the scholars studying the Georg.5 manuscript have overlooked one very important detail, and this detail is very relevant to the previously-discussed issues: it is the note that is added to the document. 

The Parisian text of Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s translation of the Great Canon includes an added inscription that states as follows: “In the Name of the Lord, these Great Hymns, [are] told by Andrew of Crete, and translated by us, Giorgi Mtatsmideli, for the second time”

2. When I was working on the manuscripts that contain the Great Canon, the same note slipped my attention as well, until my colleague, Acad. Elene Metreveli, noticed it and added a reference to the text that I had copied: “this is followed by a note about the scribe.”
(Georg.5, 127r). At the end of the text, a truly important piece of information is provided: “I have considered the ‘Great Hymns’ translated by Father Giorgi after the canticle of the crossing of the Red Sea as being better and more beautiful than Ekvtime’s translation and, thereby, I have copied them, as they are more endearing” (Georg. 5. 154v).This passage is followed by Giorgi’s famous colophon in the manuscript.

We have found the postscript with the analogous information in the other manuscript that also contains Giorgi’s translation of the Great Canon (Jer. 61. - 12th-13th  c.).3 In this manuscript, the text is preceded by the same title: “The Great Canon, told by Andrew of Crete and translated by us for the second time” (Jer. 61, 141r.). Furthermore, towards the end of this manuscript’s text of the Great Canon, the scribe repeats the previously-recorded note: “I have considered the ‘Great Hymns’ translated by Father Giorgi after the canticle of the crossing of the Red Sea as being better and more beautiful than the ones in Ekvtime’s translation and, thereby, I have copied them, as they are more endearing” (Jer. 61, 468v). It is possible to draw only one conclusion from these notes: the translator of the Great Canon and the scribe who copied the Georg.5 and Jer. 61 manuscripts are not the same; they are different individuals. Giorgi Athoneli would not have evaluated and praised his own work in this manner, especially in comparison with Ekvtime’s translation.

At this point, one more question emerges: What is the relation between the texts of the Great Canon translated by Giorgi Mtatsmideli that form the parts of the Georg.5 and the Jer. 61 manuscripts? More precisely, what relation do the scribes reveal about the text of t he Great Canon? At this time, instead of answering this question with a detailed comparison of the texts, we will answer it with reference to data that provides serious implications.

It has been noted that the text of the Georg.5 has a rather unusual beginning: “To begin the canon’s singular element with the words ‘In the Name of the Lord’ is not common for hymnographic manuscripts. This is more of a title form that should have been selected by Giorgi Mtatsmideli for a hymn outside of the Canon” [15, p. 82]. It seems that the Jer. 61’s scribe felt this awkwardness and, thereby, removed the beginning – “In the Name of the Lord” – from the text.

The scribe of the Jer. 61, unlike the scribe of the Georg.5, finds it necessary to make a notice at the end of Giorgi’s translations: “These great hymns are translated by Father Giorgi after the canticle of the crossing of the Red Sea.” Following this observation, he provides a note,  stating  that  he  chose  Giorgi’s  translation  over  Ekvtime’s.  As  we  have  already mentioned, a similar notice is added to the text in the Georg. 5, but we think that the information provided in  the Jer. 61 manuscript has a  logical basis insofar as  the scribe working on this manuscript had two translations at his disposal, Ekvtime’s and Giorgi ’s. The note explains his choice. However, the scribe of the text in the Georg. 5 made no such choice. He  included  both  translations  in  the  book.  The  notice  that  he  had  selected  Giorgi’s 3 Neither of the researchers of the Jerusalem manuscript (A. Tsagareli, N. Marr, W. Blake) mentioned that Girogi Mtatsmideli’s translation of the Great Canon is included in this book. We found this information when we studied this liturgical book in detail.
Comparison of the Georg.5 and Jer. 61 manuscripts reveals one more similarity.  In both, the Georgian texts of the Great Canon are accompanied by Ekvtime’s translation of the “Hymn of Praise.” In the Georg.5 manuscript, the hymn is placed in the middle of Giorgi and Ekvtime’s translations; in Jer. 61, it comes at the end of Giorgi’s translation. The study of the Georgian manuscripts containing the Great Canon reveals that Ekvtime’s translation of the above-mentioned sticharion is included in all of them. In the Jer. 61, which contains Arsen Iqaltoeli’s translation of the Great Canon and concludes with Ekvtime’s translation of the “Hymn of Praise,” a notice made by the scribe is included as well:  “Although they have the new stichera, we still wrote the old one”. We found the new translation of the “Hymn of Praise” in the A147 manuscript. This anthology of hymns is considered the new edition of Markhvani, the  Book of the Lenten Hymns. It  is  not  known who  completed the  new translation of this sticharion. It is possible that the translator of this sticharion was Arsen Iqaltoeli himself. In my opinion, Giorgi Mtatsmideli had not translated the stichera again, as (in this case) Ekvtime’s translation had his full support and trust.

Whether it is autographical or not, the importance of the Georg.5 manuscript is indeed immeasurable.  It was composed in the 12th  century, it characterizes Giorgi Mtatsmindeli’s creative method. In it, “the Georgian and the Byzantine hymnographic heritage is fully represented” [15, p. 76]. The anthology contains all three translations of the Great Canon, and (as the first part of the Georg.5 clearly reveals) Giorgi Mtatsmideli was its editor. Here is what we have in mind:

1. The oldest manuscripts that contain Ekvtime Athoneli’s translation of the Great Canon are the Sin.5 and the Sin.75. Both manuscripts are thought to be sources for the liturgical anthology that is preserved in the Georg.5 manuscript. In the Sinai manuscripts, the title of Ekvtime’s translation of the Great Canon is recorded in the following ways: “The Hymns of Repentance, told by Andrew of Crete the Archbishop” (Sin.5, 191v.) and “The Hymns of  Repentance, told  by  Saint  Andrew of  Crete  the  Archbishop” (Sin.75, 191r.). However, in the Paris manuscripts, the Canon is referred to as the “Great Hymns” and was titled: “The Great Hymns of Repentance, told by Andreas of Crete, who was in Jerusalem” Georg.5 (127r).

2. In the Sin.5 and the Sin.75, unlike in the Georg.5, Ode II lacks the second hirmi.

3. And, Ode III, unlike in the Georg.5, has one hirmus.

4. In Sin.5 and Sin.75, Ode VI (The  Plea) lacks a  kontakion, while in the Georg.5, at the end of Ode VI, the beginning words of the kontaktion of Ode VI - “My soul, my soul, arise!”  - are written in the same hand as the rest of the Ode: the sixth kontaktion (Georg.5, 134r). We think that this note is to align the Georgian translation with the Greek tradition.

5. All three Georgian translations of the Great Canon are accompanied by the strophes of the Biblical canticles. According to my research, these hymns in their complete form, without any reduction, are present only in the Georg.5 manuscript; in the other manuscripts, including the Sin.5 and the Sin. 75, only the initial words of these strophes are provided, in order to make reference to the corresponding hymns. In the Georg.5 anthology, as we have already stated, even Ekvtime’s translation is accompanied by the complete texts of these strophes. What is also important is that these texts in the Sin.5 and the Sin.75 manuscripts are based on the pre-Athonite tradition (the era before the school of Mount Athos) of the Biblical hymnology. In the Georg.5 manuscript, they are provided under Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s edition.

It  is  obvious  that  the  editor  of  the  first  part  of  the  Georg.5  anthology is  Giorgi Mtatsmideli. At the very least, the list of texts comes from Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s a utograph. Furthermore, Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s famous colophon, as Ekvtime Taqaishvili states, must have been written in this manuscript by Giorgi Mtatsmideli himself, “with a very fine nuskhuri script as was characteristic him” [3, p.33].

The exploration of the Great Canon’s oldest Georgian translations allows us to express our opinion about some aspects of the canon’s establishment as a genre. The date of canon’s exact origin is not clear. But it is recognized that in the earlier Christian liturgical service, separate biblical hymns (canticles) were used with the Psalms. Later, troparia, which were the same as [the Georgian] dasdebelni, were added to them. Thus, the one-ode hymn, two- odes hymn, three-odes (and so on) hymns were created, but, Andrew of Crete (650 -726) himself is thought to be the founder of the canon as a genre—as the new genre of liturgical poetry.  And his Great Canon, recognized as the “King of Canons,” is thought to be the oldest example of this genre. It has been known that the reduction of the number of the odes from the initial fourteen to nine (1. the Canticle of Moses (Exodus, 15: 1–19); 2. the Death Canticle of Moses (Deuteronomy,  32: 1–43); 3. the Canticle of Hannah (1 Samuel, 2: 1–10); 4. the Canticle of Habakkuk (Habakkuk, 3: 2–19); 5. the    Canticle of Isaiah ( Isaiah, 26: 29–19);

6. the Canticle of Jonah (Jonah, 2: 3–10);

7. the Canticle of Azariah (Daniel,  3: 26–45, 52–56);
8. the  Song of the Three Children (Daniel, 3: 57–88); 9. the Canticles of Mary, the Theotokos, and  Zachariah  (Luke,  1:  46–55,  68–79)  was  first  performed  in  the  Jerusalem  liturgical practice. The main steps towards the development of the hymnographic canon were made in Palestine as well. Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon consists of precisely nine Odes, each of which has its irmoi and the corresponding troparia.  Initially, the Great Canon consisted of 210 troparia; later, 40 more troparia were added to it. Thus, it became a historically unique example of liturgical poetry, even with its volume.

There are several aspects of the Great Canon that demand a special attention: a) the unusual length of the Odes, b) the varying lengths of the Odes, and c) the two hirmi of  the second as well as of the third Ode. Such features are strange for a complete, fully -formed canon.  What  are  the  reasons  for  the  Great Canon’s unique  and  previously-described specificities? And, what determined them?
The Georgian translations of the Great Canon preserved its archaic form. Specifically, all the Odes and all the troparia are accompanied by strophes fro m the Biblical canticles. Scholarly research of the manuscripts that came down to us confirms that it is very rare for each strophe or half-strophe of the Biblical canticles accompanying all the troparia of the Canon to have added references. Yet, hymnographic scholars know that all the semantic and thematic content of the nine Odes of the Canon are determined by biblical canticles. This relationship between the Canon and the Biblical hymns reveals how this new, universal genre of liturgical chanting - the canon - was born: how it grew out of the biblical tradition.

Biblical canticles differ in length. It seems that Andrew of Crete even aligned the Odes of the Great Canon with the biblical hymns according to their length. Archimandrite Cyprian (Kern) explains: “The canons of John of Damascus are shorter than the canons by St. Andrew of Crete. Whereas the latter tried to align a specific troparion to each hymn of the Biblic al canticles, John of Damascus had used two or three troparia with a canon” [2, p. 38]. The correlation of the Biblical canticles and the Canon   troparia determined the volume of the Canon’s Odes and their difference from each other in length. So, as eac h Ode in the Great Canon is accompanied by the strophes from the Biblical canticles, the Ode is approximately as big as the corresponding Biblical phraseology makes it. This is the reason that Ode I of the Great Canon contains 22 troparia, Ode IV contains 27 troparia, Ode V contains 20 troparia, Ode VI contains 16 troparia, and Ode IX contains 25 troparia. Scholarly literature widely underscores the fact that Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon is distinguished from other canons by  the fact that each of  its odes  is  accompanied by  two hirmi. We have not met any explanation for this particular facet of Andreas of Crete’s  Great Canon in the scholarly literature.

The organic relationship between the Biblical hymns and the  Great Canon that is apparent in the oldest manuscripts of it  that exist in Georgian allows us to make arguments that are to be taken into account.

The second Ode of the Canon, “Attend, O Heaven” (‘’მოიხილესა’’), is linked to the Second Canticle of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43). This is a long hymn that completes the Pentateuch. The wise patriarch reminds his people of the high ethical principles and demands their strict following of them. This text is thought to be the will of the Prophet Moses. As we have already noted, the canticle is very long, and its content can be divided into two, unequal parts. The first part consists of 38 strophes and begins with the following words: “1. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2. My doctrine S. Averintsev notes that in the fifth-century Septuagint Manuscript (so-called Codex Alexandrinus- Alexandrian Codices), the Psalms accompany the list of the Hymns from the Old and the New Testaments. But as the Septuagint Manuscript has been preserved only in the Christian written tradition, it is impossible to determine whether this anthology of the Biblical canticles is created in the Judaic environment and completed by Christian editors or if its existence is conditioned by the young church’s liturgical demands, as V. Christi [1, p. 213] has thought of it.

It is essential that the tenth-century manuscript of the old Georgian translations of  The Psalms, together with other additions, is accompanied by the anthology of the 9 Biblical Canticles [10, p. 411-445].
shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: 3. Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.”6   The second part of the Ode (32, 39-43) is constructed with a completely new intonation. In it, the leading tone is accusative.   However, in its concluding words, the sense of hope and faith emerges. This part of the canticle begins with a completely different passion: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand”7 (Deuteronomy 32:39).

The second irmos of Ode II of the Great Canon in Arsen   Iqaltoeli’s translation states the following: “Attend, O Heaven, and I will speak and sing in praise of Christ who took flesh from a virgin and came to dwell among us.”8 The other irmos of Ode II is as follows: “Behold now, behold now! See that I am God, who rained down manna in the days of old and water spring brought gushing from the rock, given for my people in the wilderness, and by the might  of  my  right  hand  and  by  my  power alone.” 9  What  is  most  essential is  that  the corresponding troparia of Ode I are followed by the strophes of the first part of the Biblical canticle of Moses, and the strophes of the second part of the Biblical Hymn of Moses are distributed throughout the corresponding troparia of the second irmos.

A similar picture emerges in the Canon’s relation to the Biblical canticle of Hannah (Samuel, 2:1-10). The canticle articulates boundless gratitude to the Lord. In it, with the glorification of God, the words are filled with prophetic pathos. Thus, it is possible to divide this  canticle  into  two  parts.  The  first  part  contains  five  strophes  and  begins  with  the following words: “My heart rejoiced in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD.”10 The second part of the canticle consists of five strophes as well, but it is uttered with a totally different, totally new rhythm and intonation:

“The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory.”

In the same manner, the corresponding troparia of the firstirmos of Ode III of the Great Canon are accompanied by the strophes of the first part of “The Prayer of Hannah” canticle, [Deuteronomy 32:1-3. The Holy Bible, KJV Deuteronomy 32:39. The Holy Bible, KJV “Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete – Full Version, Thursday in the Fifth Week” Sacred Music Library of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. [] [ -full-bb_0.pdf]; “Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete – Full Version, Thursday in the Fifth Week” Sacred Music Library of the  Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, [][ iles/canon_of_st_andrew-full-bb_0.pdf]; Samuel, 2:1. The Holy Bible, KJV; Samuel, 2:6-8. The Holy Bible, KJV] and  the Troparia that are aligned with the second irmos are decorated with the strophes of the second part of “The Prayer of Hannah” canticle. 

It is interesting that, as we have already mentioned above, the third Ode in the Sin.5 manuscript lacks the second irmos and that this irmos’s   troparia are linked with the troparia of the first irmos. Accordingly, the biblical canticle of “The Prayer of  Hannah” is fully distributed between the 19 troparia that comprise Ode III of the Great Canon. However, a different picture is presented in Arsen    Iqaltoeli’s translation. In it, the translator is loyal to the Greek tradition, and Ode III of the Canon has two irmoi, and the text of the biblical canticle is also distributed correspondingly.

Such functional significance of the biblical hymns raises a question: if between the biblical canticles and the troparia of the Great Canon such an obvious, organic link exists (the biblical canticles determine the length of the Odes, the necessity of two irmoi, the necessity of organizing the whole text of the Canon with the biblical hymns), then what was the main function of the irmoi in the structure of the Great Canon? Did they carry the rhythmic- melodic function from the very beginning? In all three translations of the Great Canon, the irmoi seemingly fulfill this function. But, we do not know what the nature and the main aim of the irmoi was at the time when the Great Canon was composed. Neither the earliest manuscripts of the Great Canon nor oldest manuscripts containing other hymns have come down to us.

As a result of the study of the “oldest Iadgari” (Tropologion), scholars have arrived at a very important conclusion concerning the necessity of the hirmi: the first strophes that were the links to the biblical canticles, arose after the supplemental strophes of the Biblical hymns were separated from the biblical canticles, and the new type of poetic canon was cre ated, in which the first strophe of each ode acquired a function of articulating the linkage of the poetic ode with the biblical canticle. This very function of the irmoi is expressed in the fact that each irmos within certain boundaries is to be constructed by means of the hymns’ paraphrased texts.  Such irmoi are the oldest for the Iadgari (14, 834). Archimandrite Cyprian (Kern) even thinks that an hirmi as such is a creation of St. Andrew himself (2, 35). It cannot be ruled out that the beginnings of the tradition of supplementing odes with the biblical canticles might also have been associated with Andrew of Crete. Incidentally, this applies as well to the refrains that are associated with the Great Canon. It seems that Andrew of Crete, as the founder of the canon as a genre, inaugurated the tradition of linking liturgical poetry with the Bible. He had once and for all established the creed of the Patriarchs: “In our hymns only the words are different, different from [those of] the Holy Scripture, but in  their essence, the hymns we sing are the same” (9,1).

Based on our research, we can conclude that, for Andrew of Crete, the main purpose of an irmos is to establish a connection with the Biblical canticles. Let us not forget either that the Canon’s association with the Biblical canticles is expressed in the titles of the Odes of the Canon that are preserved in the Georgian (and not only Georgian) tradition.

It is known that, over the time, hymnographers removed the second Ode from the Canon’s composition. Different scholars explain this fact differently. Perhaps, the structural specificity of the second Ode is one of the reasons for its removal from the composition of the Great Canon?

The  license  that  Ekvtime  Mtatsmideli  and  Giorgi  Mtatsmideli  took  with  their translation of the Canon into Georgian facilitates this argument. Ekvtime Mtatsmideli altered the mode of the Canon as well as its hirmi; as for Giorgi Mtatsmideli, he preserved the Canon’s original voice, but he applied different hirmi to St. Andrews’ text.

Scholars have argued that the use of tone as a dogmatic source post-dates the epoch of Ekvtime Mtatsmideli [8, p. 15]. As for the hirmi, it is widely acknowledged that, since the tenth century, hymnographers did not compose hirmi themselves but  referred to  irmoi anthologies, or irmologions (heirmologions). Giorgi and Ekvtime Mtatsmideli behaved in this manner. They used the hirmi that had already been adapted to the Georgian tradition and that were part of the tenth-century Alaverdi manuscript, which is the same as the Jordan anthology (A 603). As for the third translator of the Great Canon, he confronted a different reality.  He  translated  Andrew  of  Crete’s  Great Canon’sirmoi himself.  According  to  the Georgian liturgical practice, one and the same hirmi was frequently used in different canons. But, the irmoi of the Great Canon translated by Arsen Iqaltoeli are exceptions in this respect: they represent one whole cycle that belongs to this Canon only [8, p. 18]. These hirmi of the Great Canon are included in the A 85 manuscript.
In this respect, it is noteworthy to review Giorgi Mtatsmideli’s long will that is added to the text of the Great Canon. In it, a good deal of important information is articulated: that Ekvtime  Mtatsmideli omitted  Biblical  figures  and  metaphorical systems  from  the  Great Canon, that he added the hymns of repentance to the Canon; that he extended the text, etc. But, in the will, nothing is said about the main question concerning the replacement of the mode and the hirmi in the Canon. However, Arsen Iqaltoeli discusses these changes broadly in his will (colophon) accompanying his translation of the Great Canon: Ekvtime Mtatsmdeli “changed the mode and the Hirmi,” and Giorgi Mtatsmideli “had not changed the mode, but he had changed the hirmi as the [existing] translation was not appealing for him.”

In the end, perhaps it would not be excessive to summon up the etymology of the Georgian term “dzlispiri” (hirmi), which is highlighted in the study made by the Acad. K. Keklidze and which, for some reason, is forgotten today. As Kekelidze notes, the word “dzlispiri” consists of two roots: “dzlis” and “piri”. The word “piri” means the beginning; “dzlis”-“dzalis” means “string” (five-strings, ten-strings). To defend his argument, Kekelidze supplies the following passage from the Georgian translation of the Bible: “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wildernes s of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

Thus, the literal meaning of “dzlispiri” is the beginning the word of the Ode performed on  the  musical instrument and,  thus,  the  first  song  [5,  p.  214].  Would it  therefore be appropriate to conclude that, even in Andrew of Crete’s epoch, that the person who chanted dzlispiri was the initiator of the hymn in litrurgical services? Did hirmi also determine the tone of the canon? The two irmoi, which accompany II and III Odes in the Great Canon’s and are defined by their specific intonation, point to such a function of dzlispiri. The main thing is that the patrons of Georgian culture  - King David the Builder, Ekvtime Mtastmideli, Giorgi Mtatsmideli, Arsen Iqaltoeli, Ioane Catholicos of Kartli, the whole generation of Georgian scribes - recognized the extraordinary importance of Andrew of Crete’s Great Canon, known as the “King of Canons,” and by its adaptation in the Georgian ecclesiastical liturgical practice they strengthened the foundations of Georgian spiritual culture. The oldest Georgian translations preserved an archaic text of the Great Canon, that allows scholars to make a contribution to the study of the early stages of liturgical poetry.

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