The Reform of Ritual Singing in the Serbian Church at the Beginning of the 13th Century


  • Cvjetko Rihtman



There can be no doubt that the emergence of the Bogumils during the 12th century gave rise not only to a ferment in the life of the Serbian Church but also to changes in the organization and in liturgical forms and in this connection an inevitable deviation from the liturgy of the ruling Byzantine Church. Thus we may accept the hypothesis that already by this period the ritual singing of the Serbian Church had begun to vary from the original Byzantine. We may imagine the same process – characterised by the tendency to simplify the original Byzantine melody – both with the Bogumils and with the rest of the Serbian Church, on one hand due to the simplicity to which the Bogumils were inclined and on the other to the small number of churches, mostly neglected. A change comes about in the second half of the 12th century in the period of Stevan Nemanja when the Serbian state took a determinedly negative stand against Bogumilism and when in these circumstances and in this spirit a need was felt to set the Church in order. From our information about ritual church singing in Serbia before Stevan Nemanja as well as during his rule, we must conclude that also in this very important field of liturgy the same need was felt. However, the true reform of liturgical singing, as can unambiguously be seen from Sava's Life of Stevan Nemanja and the life of St. Sava by Theodosius the Monk, was carried out by Rastko, Stevan Nemanja's youngest son, when, as Sava I, he established the Serbian autocephalous archiepiscopate. The reform was necessary for a number of reasons; because in the circumstances mentioned above, the singing had deviated from the Byzantine, because in a sense it had become out-of-date, because the order and the place of individual hymns in the liturgy had been destroyed and because at about that time the Byzantine Church (and after her, other Orthodox churches in Europe) had at last accepted the hagiopolitical tradition.


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How to Cite

Rihtman, C. (1966). The Reform of Ritual Singing in the Serbian Church at the Beginning of the 13th Century. Musicological Annual, 2(1), 5–11.