The Trisagion Hymn


        A sixth century Sunday morning Divine Liturgy at the church of Hagia Sophia surely would be awe-inspiring. After entering through the west gates of the Cathedral the average Constantinopolitans would likely walk through a sparsely decorated exonarthex and a much more adorned esonarthex. After passing through the esonarthex they would proceed through a dark ramp to enter the main space of Hagia Sophia. As the Liturgy was sung the sun would brilliantly illuminate Hagia Sophia. Dr. Cyril Mango, a professor of Byzantine history at Oxford, translates the  illumination of Hagia Sophia as written by the sixth-century Byzantine historian Procopius, as, “the radiance is generated within.”1 The gold mosaic dome would sparkle as if it were heaven, yet be “altogether terrifying by the apparent precariousness of its composition.”2 As the eighth-century Patriarch Germanus I  (patriarch 715-730) describes, at the center of the nave, almost directly under the dome, the ambo provided “a large, oval platform with stairways leading up to it on both the east and the west ends,” and was supported by eight large columns.3 The seasoned cantors stood under the ambo. From beneath the ambo their mysterious and graceful chants filled the Cathedral with holy hymns.  

        Specifically, the purpose of this website is to explore the Trisagion hymn as it may have been performed in the setting of Hagia Sophia during the sixth century. The context of the Trisagion hymn is explored together with the content of that Byzantine hymn and the acoustic traits of the chant. 

1Mango, Cyril A., The Art of the Byzantine Empire, 312-1453: Sources and Documents. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972): p. 74

2Ibid. 74

3Germanus, translated by Paul Meyendorff, On the Divine Liturgy.  (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984): 17

4 Mainstone, R. J. Hagia Sophia : Architecture, Structure and Liturgy of Justinian's Great Church. (London: Thames and Hudson, 1988): 271

“Byzantine sacred music is used, firstly, as a means of worshipping God and venerating the saints, and secondly, as a means of perfecting, of opposing and eradicating man’s lower, undesirable thought, feelings and dispositions and of eliciting and cultivating the higher ones.” 
(Constantine Cavarnos)
20th Century Chanter 

20th Centyr



This webpage was created by Konstantine Buhler  a student at Stanford University in Stanford, CA for a project in

Art History 208


This project stems from Stanford University Art History 208 Hagia Sophia, taught by Professor Bissera V. Pentcheva and the collaborative research she has with Professor Jonathan Abel, CCRMA entitled "Icons of Sound: Architectural Psychoacoustics in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul,"

The goal of this website is to make information about Byzantine Chant and specifically the Trisagion hymn accessible to the public. I will do this by engaging Byzantine chant background, information on the Trisagion and acoustic recordings of the Trisagion hymn.