Kontakion [kondakion] (Gk.: ‘scroll’)
- Christian Thodberg
[kondakion] (Gk.: ‘scroll’)
A liturgical poem sung mainly at Orthros in the Byzantine rite. One of the two most important poetic forms in medieval Byzantine religious poetry (the other being the kanōn), the kontakion most likely originated in Byzantium, although a strong Syrian influence is evident, particularly the poetry of Ephrem Syrus (cf Petersen, 1985). It is a kind of poetic homily whose narrative and dramatic content greatly influenced later Byzantine poetry. According to legend, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave to Romanos, a notable 6th-century hymn writer and composer, a scroll on which he wrote, by divine inspiration, a Christmas kontakion, Hē parthenos sēmeron (‘Today the Virgin’).
Introduced into the Byzantine Hours during the 6th century, the kontakion was originally part of the Constantinopolitan ‘cathedral’ vigil that later came to be incorporated into Orthros (see Lingas). In its full form it consisted of an initial strophe – the prooimion or koukoulion – followed by some 18 to 30 strophes – the ...