Church Slavonic

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Page written in Church Slavonic from the Psalter of Kiev (Spiridon Psalter) of 1397

Church Slavonic is a traditional liturgical language used in the Slavonic-speaking countries by the Orthodox Churches and Eastern Catholic Churches , or used in the Slavic Orthodox Churches. It was created as part of the Slavic mission by Cyril and Method and was the most important Slavic literary language until modern times . The best studied variant of Church Slavonic is Old Church Slavonic .

Editorial offices

Old Church Slavonic is only the "tip of the iceberg" of Church Slavonic literature, a clearly delimited body of manuscripts that is archaic due to its orthographic and phonological characteristics. The vast majority of Church Slavonic literature, which was created and passed down into modern times , was linguistically influenced by the local vernacular idioms and thus differed from the Old Church Slavonic canonical texts. In this context, one speaks of Church Slavonic editors .

Bulgarian Church Slavonic

After the students of Methods were expelled from Great Moravia , they found - and with them the Church Slavonic literature - their so-called “second home” in the Bulgarian Empire . Under Tsar Simeon I , a large number of texts were mainly translated from Greek , some of the oldest manuscripts of which still belong to the Old Church Slavonic canon.

Later, from around 1200 , the texts differ from the Old Church Slavonic through the influence of the local dialects , for example through the confusion of the nasal vowels . This corpus of text is referred to as Bulgarian Church Slavonic or Central Bulgarian .

In the 14th century, the books that were passed on more and more were subjected to a revision ( Euthymios von Tarnowo , Orthographie von Tarnowo ). The Slavic monasteries on Mount Athos played an important role here , in which people worked diligently on and with the tradition. With the advance of the Ottomans into the Balkans , the flowering of Church Slavonic writing in Bulgaria ended.

Serbian Church Slavonic

In Serbia, Church Slavonic was influenced by the štokavian substratum . There, too, the tradition was archaized as a result of Konstantin von Kostenec's treatise “On the Letters” based on the Tarnowo school , which was intended to increase the prestige of the language. The 14th and 15th centuries are considered to be the heyday (copies, stories of saints translated from Greek). Serbian Church Slavonic was the main written language in Serbia until the 18th century and one of the official languages ​​in the early period of the Ottoman Empire . The Serbs, who after the Turkish wars in the Vojvodina settled, since the end of the 17th century came the Russian-Church Slavonic (Neukirchenslawisch) and later for the secular literature Slavonic-Serbian as a written language in use in the rest of Serbia itself Serbian Church Slavonic was used.

Russian-Church Slavonic

Origin and development

The most important basis is the Russian-Church Slavonic , which originated on the soil of the Kievan Rus . The Ostromir Gospel of 1056 is a first dated monument , which was probably copied from a South Slavic original that has not survived. In contrast to the Old Church Slavonic monuments, the Ostromir Gospel shows the confusion of the nasal vowels ę and ę with the oral vowels u and 'a. Overall, there are only minor linguistic differences to the Old Church Slavonic.

Even monuments of the early period that were not explicitly used for liturgical purposes, such as the Nestor Chronicle , appear largely in Church Slavonic form , apart from the aforementioned (and other) orthographic-phonetic peculiarities and isolated lexical Eastern Slavisms. The further development of the East Slavic idioms and the independent handing down of literature on East Slavic soil led to the fact that up to the 14th century the Russian editorial staff differed significantly from the Old Church Slavonic texts, at least in terms of orthography.

Second South Slavic influence

A re-archaization of the orthographic form of the texts took place when, as a result of the Ottomans' advance into the Balkans, many Slavic, predominantly Bulgarian, scholars of the Tarnow School (such as the later Metropolitan Kiprian ) from the end of the 14th century in the meanwhile strengthened Moscow Rus found refuge. In this context, one speaks of the second South Slavic influence (the first South Slavic influence being the adoption of Bulgarian Church Slavic literature in connection with the Christianization of the Kievan Rus under Vladimir I in 988 ). The result of this re-archaization was, among other things, the attempt at etymologically correct nasal writing, as can be found in the first Church Slavonic full Bible , the Gennadius Bible from 1499 by Archbishop Gennadius of Novgorod .

The way to New Church Slavonic

In the 16th century, as the leading representative of Slavic Orthodoxy, Rus was confronted with diverse cultural challenges. As a result of the Reformation and, above all, the Counter-Reformation promoted by the Jesuits in the (south) western East Slavic areas (today Belarus and western Ukraine ) , which had been united under the Polish crown since 1569 , Orthodoxy and thus Church Slavonic were threatened. Book printing played an important role in the dissemination of theologically different ideas, and in the course of the 16th century it was also used in the eastern regions of Europe. The denominational and theological challenges and the printers' need for uniformity led to the first printed Church Slavonic Bible, the Ostrog Bible from 1581 , as well as attempts to codify Church Slavonic in grammars and dictionaries , which thanks to the printed form were widely used and thus developed normative power . In this context, the grammar by Meleti Smotryzky ( 1619 ) and the dictionary by Pamwo Berynda ( 1627 ), works that were all created in the region of (south) western Russia, which was characterized by cultural contacts, should be mentioned in this context . The New Church Slavonic system standardized and codified in this way found its way to Moscow with Ukrainian scholars in the middle of the 17th century . This cultural import is referred to as the Third South Slavic Influence, even if the South Slav region hardly played a role here, but instead the intellectual life in the Ukraine (south of Moscow); After the revision of the liturgical books on the basis of Greek texts under Nikon and the printing of further Bible editions, the New Church Slavonic radiated from Moscow to the other areas of Orthodox Slavia and is still used in approximately this form in Orthodox worship today.

Croatian Church Slavonic

Croatian Church Slavonic occupies a special position within the history of Church Slavonic literature . Belonging to the Catholic - Latin culture, it nevertheless preserved the Cyrillomethodian tradition in the text transmission even after the Oriental Schism of 1054 , whereby the angular Glagoliza was used to create the text . Since there were no permanent cultural contacts with the Eastern Balkans or Rus, which would have influenced the tradition, archaic readings can often be attested in Croatian-Glagolitic manuscripts.

Czech-Church Slavonic

The early evidence of Church Slavonic in the western periphery, namely the Czech Church Slavonic, played only a minor role in the subsequent history of Church Slavonic.


  • August Schleicher : The form theory of the Church Slavonic language explained and presented comparatively. Reprinted by H. Buske Verlag, Hamburg (1998), ISBN 3-87118-540-X .
  • Nicolina Trunte: A practical textbook of Church Slavonic in 30 lessons. Volume 2: Middle and New Church Slavonic. Verlag Otto Sagner, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-87690-716-0 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Church Slavonic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. The Second South Slavic Influence on Russian Literature  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 92 kB), 2Template: Toter Link /