The name of a liturgical book of the Byzantine Church. The exact meaning of the name has changed at various times. Its first use was for the index to the Biblical and other lessons to be read in church. In this sense it corresponds to the Latin Capitulare and Comes (see LESSONS IN THE LITURGY). Then the Synaxarion was filled up with the whole text of the pericopes to be read. As far as the Holy Liturgy was concerned this meant that it was replaced by the "Gospel" and "Apostle" books. Synaxarion remained the title for the index to the other lessons. Without changing its name it was filled up with complete texts of these lessons in the same way.
As the lessons in the Byzantine Divine Office are always lives of saints, the Synaxarion became the collection of short lives of saints and accounts of events whose memory is kept (like the lessons of the second nocturn). It is often compared to the Roman Martyrology. The parallel would be more exact, if we imagine the second nocturn lessons arranged together in a separate book. The mere index of such lessons is generally called menologion heortastikon, a book hardly needed or used, since the Typikon supplies all that is wanted.
There are a great number of medieval Synaxaria extant in manuscript. They are important for Byzantine heortology and church history. The short lives that form the lessons were composed or collected by various writers. Of these Symeon Metaphrastes (q. v.) is the most important. The accounts are of very varying historical value. Emperor Basil II (976-1025) ordered a revision of the Synaxarion, which forms an important element of the present official edition (Analecta Bollandiana, XIV, 1895, p. 404).
The Synaxarion is not now used as a separate book; it is incorporated in the Menaia. The account of the saint or feast is read in the Orthros after the sixth ode of the Canon. It is printed in its place here, and bears each time the name synaxarion as title. Synaxarion then in modern use means, not the whole collection, but each separate lesson in the Menaia and other books. An example of such a Synaxarion (for St. Martin I, 13 April) will be found in Nilles, op. cit., infra, I, xlix. Certain metrical calendars extant in the Middle Ages were also called Synaxaria. Krumbacher ("Gesch. der byzantin, Lit.", 2nd ed., Munich, 1897, pp. 738, 755) describes those composed by Christopher of Mytilene (d. about 1050) and Theodore Prodromus (twelfth century).
The Menologion (Synaxarion) of Basil II was edited by URBINO (3 vols., 1727), reprinted in P.G., CXVII; ALLATIUS, De libris eccles. Graecorum (Paris, 1645), 78-93; DELAHAYE, Le Synaxaire de Sirmond in Analecta Bolland., XIV (1895), 396-434; GEDEON, Boudantinon heortologion in Syllogos, XXIV (1895), 121-60. See also MENAION.
Transcribed by John D. Beetham
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV
Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company
Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by Kevin Knight
Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
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