Background Information about the Typikón
The word, Typikón, has the
meaning of “following the order.” A Typikón exists for the liturgical
services which is the established order for their celebration. A Typikón
exists for a monastery which is the order followed in the daily and annual
routine of those living there.
A Typikón may be a complete,
written document describing the “order” to the followed, or it may be an
unspoken understanding, or it may be a combination of written guidelines
and understood customs.
A Typikón assumes the existence of
liturgical books that contain the fixed and variable parts of these
services. In monastic usage, the Typikón of the monastery includes both
the rule of life of the community and the rule of prayer.
Development of the Typikón
The Typikón (sing. typicón,
pl. typicá; Greek: Τυπικόν, "that of the prescribed form"; Slavonic:
Тvпиконъ/Typikón or Оуставъ/Ústavə) is a liturgical book which contains
instructions about the order of the Divine Services.
Early Historical Development of the Typikón
The written Typikón has its
origin in the liturgical practices and order of daily life of monasteries.
The primary chronicle of the early Christian monastics living in the
deserts of Egypt and Palestine is the Lausiac History (Historia
Lausiaca) written in AD 419-420 by Palladius of Galatia, Bishop of
Helenopolis, at the request of Lausus, chamberlain at the court of Emperor
The Lausaic History records
that early Christian hermits prayed the Psalms, sang hymns, and recited
prayers often in combinations of twelve. As coenobitic (community)
monasticism developed following the example established by Saint Pachomius
of the Thebaid (ca. AD 290–346) the cycle of prayer became more fixed and
complex, with different practices in different places.
The early Christian woman
pilgrim to the Holy Land about AD 381–384, Egéria, Lausaic History records
But among all things it is a special feature that they arrange
that suitable psalms and antiphons are said on every occasion, both
those said by night, or in the morning, as well as those throughout
the day, at the sixth hour, the ninth hour, or at lucernare, all being
so appropriate and so reasonable as to bear on the matter in hand.
By the fifth century, the
region near Jerusalem had become a major center of pilgrimage and
monasticism, and the daily cycle and order of services became highly
developed. The order of services –Typikón – in the Palestinian region thus
became increasingly influential throughout the Christian Church.
The single, most-influential
liturgical Typikón is that of Saint Savvas (AD 439–532) who standardized
the order of life and services in the Palestinian monasteries. It is known
simply as the Typikón of Saint Savvas (or Mar Sabbas) the Sanctified
Monastery in Jerusalem and to this day regulates the order of
Divine services worldwide in the Orthodox Church.
The Life of Saint Savvas the Sanctified
Saint Savvas (AD 439–532) was
born near Caesarea of Cappadocia, Asia Minor. In his youth, he entered the
monastery of Bishop Flavian of Antioch in Syria. There he learned to read
and became an expert on the Holy Scriptures. He received monastic tonsure
at the age of 17, and spent the next ten years in obedience to Bishop
Thereafter Saint Sabbas
traveled to Jerusalem continuing in the ascetic life in obedience to Saint
Euthymius the Great. Saint Euthymius sent him to Abba Theoctistus at a
nearby monastery with a strict cenobitic (community) “rule of life” –
Typikón. Saint Sabbas lived in obedience at this monastery until the age
Saint Euthymius directed the
life of the young monastic, and took him to the wilderness, setting out
each January 14 where they remained until Palm Sunday. After Abba
Theoctistus fell asleep in the Lord, Saint Savvas was given a blessing to
live an eremitical (hermit) life in a nearby cave, leaving only to
participate in the Divine Services. When his spiritual father, Saint
Euthymius fell asleep in the Lord (ca. AD 373), Saint Savvas withdrew from
the monastery and moved to a cave near the
monastery of Saint Gerasimus of the Jordan.
Disciples began to gather
around Saint Savvas, who became spiritual father guiding them in the
monastic life. As the number of monastics increased, the monastery which
would become known to us as the “Great Lavra” or Monastery of Saint
Savvas, began to take shape. The is regarded as being founded in the
Kidron Valley, south of Jerusalem, in AD 484.
As happens, the one who seeks
the destruction of mankind tempted some of the fathers at the Lavra
opposed the rule of Saint Savvas and demanded a priest as their abbot. In
response, Saint Savvas quietly he withdrew to the New Lavra which he had
built near Thekoa.
Seeing the humility of His
faithful servant, the One Who seeks the salvation of mankind, inspired
Patriarch Salustius of Jerusalem to ordain Saint Savvas to the priesthood
in AD 491. The Patriarch appointed Saint Savvas as Archimandrite in AD
494, overseeing all the monasteries in Palestine. Saint Savvas composed
the first monastic rule of church services, the so-called Jerusalem
Typikón, to guide all the monasteries. Saint Savvas fell asleep in the
Lord on December 5, 532.
The Continuing Importance of the Typikón of Saint Savvas the Sanctified
The Great Lavra of Saint
Savvas long continued to be the most influential monastery in the Holy
Land. The “golden age” of the monastery took place during the eighth and
part of the ninth centuries. During that era numerous saints and
highly-influential theologians lived there:
The greatest theologian of the eighth century, Saint John of Damascus
Saint Kosmas the Hagiopolite
Saint Stephanos the Melodist,
Saint Michael the Synkellos
Saints Theodore and Theophanes the Graptoi (Branded)
Saint Theodore, bishop of Karron
Saint Stephanos the Womder Worker
Saint Theodore, Bishop of Edessa and
The Holy Martyr Michael
The theological significance
of Saint Savva Monastery to the Church was at a zenith when Saint John
of Damascus solidly defended the place of holy icons in the Christian
Church during the first period of Iconoclasm (AD 726-787). Again, during
the second period of iconoclasm (AD 814–843), Saint Theodore the Studite
summoned Saints Michael Syncellos, Theophanes and Theodore the Graptoi to
Constantinople as confessors before imperial power of the truth of
Saint Savvas Monastery also
excelled in theological as well as liturgical documentation, copying, and
translation during these centuries. It was the center of Georgian
literature from the seventh to the tenth century, as well as being the
center for translation of ecclesiastical writings from Greek into Arabic.
Most notably, the hymns of
the Savvaite hymnographers and the liturgical practices of Saint Savvas
Monastery were widely disseminated by distinguished monastery founders
from the 9th to the 13th century. The Typikón of Saint Savvas influenced,
to a great or lesser degree, the subsequent monastic Typiká written by:
Saint Theodore the Studite (9th century)
Saint Paul the Younger of Mount Latros (11th century)
Saint Lazaros of Mount Galesion (10-11th century)
Saint Luke of Messina, Sicily (12th century)
Saint St Neophytos
the Recluse, Cyprus (12-13th century)
Saint Nilos of Tamasia, Monastery of Maheras, Cyprus (13th century)
The Typikón of Saint Savvas
was not a static “rule,” but rather a “standard” for the development of
subsequent services and practices. Saint Sophronius, Patriarch of
Jerusalem (AD 560–638) revised the Typikón during the early sixth century.
Saint John of Damascus (AD 675-749) expanded the material.
Most significantly, Saint
John of Damascus compiled, systematized, and organized the services books
of the Orthodox Church according to the Typikón. These are exactly the
service books used in every church today – the only “significant change”
being their translation into various languages according to the pastoral
needs of the faithful.
Known variously as the
“Jerusalem,” “Palestinian,” or “Sabbaite” Typikón, the “Typikón of Saint
Savvas the Sanctified” remains in widespread and general use in most
monastic communities worldwide as well as in parishes and cathedrals in
the Slavic tradition.
The Studite, or “Constantinopolitan,” Typikón
The “Byzantine” Typikón
followed in most parishes and cathedrals in the “Greek” tradition was
developed directly from the “Typikón of Saint Savvas the Sanctified”
A distinctive order of
services developed at the “Great Church of Christ” in Constantinople which
reflected its connection to the Roman emperor and its preeminence in
Christendom. Known to liturgical scholars as the “Cathedral Typikón,” it
was then known as the ἁσματική ἀκολουθία (asmatiké akolouthía, or “sung
Very few traces of this
Typikón have survived to the modern era for two reasons. First, this
Typikón was followed only in two churches, the Great Church of Christ,
Ἁγία Σοφία– Holy Wisdom, and the cathedral of Saint Dimitrios in
Thessaloniki. In the latter it survived until the Ottoman conquest and
most of what is known about it today comes from descriptions in the
writings of Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki.
Second, and more
significantly, the “Cathedral Typikón” was incorporated into the Studite
Typikón. During the iconoclastic period, Saint Theodore the Studite sensed
that some of the asmatiké akolouthía hymnography at both the Great Church
and at the Studion monastery reflected certain non-orthodox concepts. He
further discerned that the hymnology at Saint Savvas Monastery was a sure
guide to true Orthodox theology, as he himself wrote to Patriarch Thomas
The holy fathers of Stoudios
synthesized the asmatike akolouthia of the Great Church with the Studion
hymnography to produce the hybrid “Studite Typikón.” This is the
“Byzantine Typikón” which has been handed down within the Greek Churches.
It is the psalmodt and hymnology of the Palestinian, Savvaite Orologion
grafted onto a framework of the services practiced in the Great Church.
The Monastery of Stoudion in
Constantinople therefore had a very sophisticated and rich liturgical
practice, especially in regard to Lenten and Paschal services. The current
Typikón of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, still titled the “Typikón of the
Great Church of Christ,” is the 21st century reiteration of this
The first modern printing of
the Constantinopolitan Typikón was in 1839. Protopsaltes of the Great
Church, Constantine Byzantios, composed and published it twice: in Greek
as “The Ecclesiastical Typikón according to the Style of the Great
Church of Christ” and also in Slavonic.
In 1888, Protopsaltes of the
Great Church George Violakis, corrected mistakes and ambiguities in the
Byzantios text, and later published the completed and corrected Typikón as
“Typikón of the Great Church of Christ” which is still in use today
in churches of the “Byzantine” practice. This Typikón is often regarded as
prescriptive and innovative but, as Bishop Kallistos Ware noted, “In
making these and other changes, perhaps Violakes was not innovating but
simply giving formal approval to practices which had already become
established in parishes.”
Differing in no significant
way from the Savvaite Typikón, the editions published annually in recent
years reflect three traditions, or practices (rites): the cathedral
Typikón (of Saint George Patriarchal Cathedral), the monastic Typikón (for
monasteries in Greece), and the parish Typikón for churches worldwide of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The “Slavic” Typikón Today
Adapted from articles at:
The “The Order of Divine Services,
According to the Usage of the Russian Orthodox Church” is fundamentally
the monastic Typikón of Saint Savvas which the Russian Orthodox Church inherited.
It is used to this day in monasteries, parishes, and cathedrals, and is
the common reference for services celebrated in the Orthodox Church in America.