Cerkovnoje Prostopinije (1906)

Cover of the Bokshai Prostopinije (1906)

Contents - read this book online - view a PDF (10 MB)

The Cerkovnoje Prostopinije (Church Plainchant) of Father John Bokšai and Cantor Joseph Malinič was the first anthology of prostopinije chant printed using modern musical notation. Originally intended to serve as a teaching tool for chant in the Eparchy of Mukačevo, it has maintained its status as a standard reference to the present day.

It is often referred to simply as "Bokshai", or "the Prostopinije". Note that the initial "C" in the title is a transliterated "ts" sound in Slavonic.

Copies can be purchased from the Byzantine Seminary Press.


In 1899, Bishop Julius Firczak of Mukačevo held a Cantors' Convention to "alleviate the deteriorating situation of the cantors and teachers of the parochial schools." Shortly afterward, he commissioned Father John Bokšai, a canon of the Užhorod cathedral who had received musical training, and the cathedral's cantor, Joseph Malinič, to prepare an collection of church plainchant. Malinič could not read or write music; instead, he sang the melodies from memory, and Father Bokšai wrote them down.

The resulting work was published in Užhorod in 1906, in Church Slavonic (Cerkovnoje Prostopinije) and Hungarian (Egyházi Közénekek). Bishop Firczak ordered every parish in his eparchy to purchase two copies of the prostopinije book, in order to achieve greater uniformity in liturgical singing.

The influence of this book was widespread. It was used as the standard manual of plainchant at the Cantor's Preparatory School in Užhorod, and largely displaced the use of older publications in square notation. Of course, many cantors continued to 'adapt' the melodies to suit the style used in their own villages. But the new, accessible work formed a general standard for chant singing in Church Slavonic and Hungarian. (To this day, Hungarians in Europe singing prostopinije adhere exactly to the melodies in the Hungarian version of Bokšai and Malinič's collection.)

Cantors in the United States found it increasingly difficult to obtains copies of the work after the beginning of World War I, leading eventually to the publication of the Ratsin Prostopinije. From 1950 onwards, the Bokšai Prostopinije (in Church Slavonic) was reprinted for parish use, first in Lisle, Illinois, and later by the Byzantine Seminary Press in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But in the second half of the twentieth century, cantor increasingly turned to collections of chant written out in Latin rather than Cyrillic letters, such as the Sokol Basic Chant and Plain Chant.

In 2006, a conference was held in Uzhorod to mark the 100th anniversary of the publication of the Bokšai and Malinič Prostopinije.


The Bokšai Prostopinije opens with the Octoechos (43 pages), a set of melodies for each of the eight tones. Comparatively few troparia, kontakia, and stichera are written out; instead, a model melody is provided for each combination of tone and melody, and the cantor was expected to apply them to particular liturgical texts as needed.

The Octoechos is followed by music for Matins (8 pages) and Vespers (3 pages). For each feast, music is given for the fixed hymns of the service only.

The largest part of the work is music for the Great Fast (32 pages), Paschal Season (9 pages) and immoveable feast days (42 pages). In each case, the music consists of the irmosy for the canon(s) at Matins - very ornate melodies which could neither be easily memorized, not learned from simple model melodies. Alongside the canons are various "special" melodies which are used only on specific feasts, such special responses and refrains for the Paschal Matins service.

Next comes music for "occasional services" (15 pages): the funeral services, weddings and ordinations, the blessing of water and the service of Great Compline.

Finally - and this is perhaps strange to us - comes music for the Divine Liturgy (35 pages). These melodies are generally the most "folk-like", and were often omitted from earlier collections of plainchant since they were not part of the "eight-tone" system of music. Many melodies, such as those for the Cherubic Hymns, are derived directly from the tunes of popular religions songs, such as well known Marian hymns.

See also: Complete contents


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For further reading

Sister Joan Roccasalvo. The Plainchant Tradition of Southwestern Rus'. (Boulder, Colorado: Eastern European Monographs, 1986.)

Professor Michael Thompson. "The Use of the Bokshaj Prostopinije in the United States." Paper presented at the 2006 Conference on the 100th Anniversary of the publication of the Bokšai Prostopinije, Užhorod, Ukraine. (PDF)