Codex Suprasliensis

Written by Мая Петрова-Танева
Codex Suprasliensis Codex Suprasliensis

The largest preserved Old Bulgarian manuscript which originated sometime in the middle of the 10th century in Eastern Bulgaria. The collection contains long readings about the days in March and comprises two sections – a menaion or martylogoion (lives of saints) and a triodion or homiletic part (sermons for major church feasts from the Paschal cycle).


The manuscript became known in 1823 thanks to the Belorussian philologist and theologian, Canon Michał Bobrowski (1784–1848), who found it in the library of the Monastery of the Annunciation in Supraśl, near Bialostok, Poland. Bobrowski, however, was also the one who divided the codex into parts that were never joined together again. In connection with the preparation of the Glagolitic Glagolita Glocianus for publication, he sent fragments of the manuscript he sent fragments of the codex to Jernej Kopitar (1780–1844) on two occasions (so today 118 folios are located at the National and University Library in Ljubljana, Sign. Cod. Kop. 2). Another 16 folios, which unknown how, ended as property of the Russian landlord Strelbishki, were bought by Afanasii F. Bichkov in 1856 and are now at the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg (Sign. Q.п.I.72). The main portion of the manuscript, consisting of 151 folios, is now kept at the National Library of Poland (Sign. БОЗ.201). After the death of Bobrowski, it was bought by the Zamoyski aristocratic family and was added to their enormous collection of manuscripts and incunabula. During World War II the so-called Warsaw part of the codex changed its location on several occasions, disappearing without trace in 1944 and then considered irretrievably lost for a long time. Its fate was not known until right until 1967 when it was unexpectedly offered for an enormous sum to Harvard Library. Following complicated secret negotiations, the manuscript was bought by Herbert Moeller, an American who had amassed an enormous fortune from the trade with ham and distribution of meat products in Poland, and he returned it to Poland gratuitously.

Today, Codex Suprasliensis lacks both incipit and explicit, as well as separate folios inside, while the three parts kept in Slovenia, Russia and Poland number a total of 251 parchment folios. These include: Vita (Passio) Pauli et Iulianae (March 4), without incipit; Vita (Passio) Basilisci (March 5); Vita (Passio et miracula (March 31); Cononis martyris in Isauria (March 6); (Passio) XLII martyrum Amoriensium, with omissions (March 7); Vita (Passio) XL martyrum Sebastenorum (March 9); Laudatio in XL martyres Sebastenos (March 9); Vita (Passio) Codrati (March 10); Vita Gregorii I papae (March 12); Vita (Passio) Pionii presbyteri Smirnae (March 12); Oratio Pionii, from another source; Vita (Passio) Sabini (March 13); Vita Alexandri presbyteri Sidensis, no incipit or explicit; Narrationes de taxeota, no incipit; Vita Pauli simplicis, with omissions (March 19); Vita (Passio) Terentii, Africani, Pompei et sociorum (March 20); Vita Isaacii monachi (March 21); Vita Trophimi et Eucarpionis (March 22); Vita Dometii Persae (et discipulorum eius) (March 23); Vita Artemonis, no incipit (March 24); Iohannes Chrysostomus. In annuntiationem sanctissimae deiparae and Iohannes Chrysostomus. In annuntiationem b. uirginis, no incipit (March 25); Vita (Passio) Irenaei episcopi Sirmii (March 26); Vita (Passio) Ionae et Barachisii martyrum (March 29); Vita Ioannis hesychastae (March 30); Vita Ioannis hesychastae (March 31); two homilia of John Chrysostom Iohannes Chrysostomus. In quartriduanum Lazarum homilia 1 and 2; Patriarchae Photii. In ramos et Lazarum homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. In parabolam de ficu, homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. De jejunio, de Davide et de presbyteris, de Josepho et de novato; Iohannes Chrysostomus. In parabolam decem virginibus, et de eleemosyna; Iohannes Chrysostomus. In sancta et magna feria secunda homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. De meretrice homilia; Johannes Chrysostomus. De invidia homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. De proditione Iudae homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. In magnam feriam homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. In resurrectionem Domini homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. In sanctum Pascha homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. De incredulitate ap. Thomae homilia; Iohannes Chrysostomus. In sanctum Thomam apostolum et contra Arianos sermo; Vita Iacobi eremitae in Palaestina, no date; Vita Basilii et Capitonis apud Chersonesum no date; Vita Aninae Thaumaturgi.

The codex was published repeatedly, both partially and in full. The Kopitar (Ljubljana) folios were made public in 1851 by Franz Miklosich, the two quartos from St. Petersburg in 1868 by Izmail Sreznevsky. The full publication of the text, complete with palaeographic and linguistic notes, was the work of Sergej N. Severjanov (1904, 1956). Yordan Zaimov and Mario Capaldo added photos of all preserved pages of the codex and parallel Greek text to the deciphered Old Bulgarian text (1982–1983). The latest edition at this point was the work of an international team and resulted from a project under the aegis of UNESCO, aimed to unite digital images of the three parts in one. The interactive digital version, with critical apparatus, parallel Greek text, translation in English, glossary and search application is accessible at: and The Codex Suprasliensis has been listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register since 2007.

The manuscript is written on parchment, in straight large semi-uncial, with two-yer, two-jus orthography. Three letters are used for the nasal vowels – ѫ, ѧ (in the beginning of the words and after vowels) and ꙙ (after consonants). The decoration – headpieces and initials – is executed in geometric-knotwork style with floral motifs. Nearly all of the codex was written by one scribe whose name, Retko, has been preserved in a marginal note on f. 104r: г҃і помілоуі ретъка амин. In addition, there are traces of another two unknown copyists who copied a mere twenty lines or so.

Although older research dates the codex in the 11th century, recent studies of its palaeographic, codicological, linguistic and textological peculiarities have shown that it was written at the time of the so-called “late Preslav” during the reign of Tsar Peter (927–969). On the basis of the contents and the order of the texts in the codex, (where the homilies about Lazarus Saturday follow the text for March 31) G. Krusev and A. Boyadjiev calculated that the codex must have been written in a year when Easter was on April 9. Thus, they surmised that the codex must have been written in the last quarter of the 10th century (G. Krusev, A. Boyadjiev, „On the Dating of Codex Suprasliensis“, in: Преоткриване 2012: 17–23).

In terms of content, Codex Suprasliensis can be defined as a combination of a reader with readings for nearly every day of the month (chapters 1–25 and 46–48, reflecting the fixed feasts) and homilies for the moveable feasts from the Festal Triodion from the Saturday of the sixth week of Lent to Thomas Sunday (chapters 26–45). A precise Byzantine equivalent is not known. All included texts were translated from Greek, but at different times. Generally, the language of the homilia is more archaic, while the hagiographic texts in the first part are mainly translations made in Preslav, although the groups divided by genre are not homogeneous either (Marguliés 1927; Van Wijk 1923; Кульбакин 1940; Добрев 1978; Е. Дограмаджиева, „Вариативността на съюзните средства в Супрасълския сборник“, в: Проучвания 1980: 203–207; Добрев 1981; Дунков 1985; Дунков 1990; Мирчева 2018). And if the homilies from the Triodion cycle are also found in other South Slavic copies, the readings from the Menaion part remain completely isolated both separately and as a group in Soth Slavic tradition. Many of the hagiographical texts in Codex Suprasliensis, however, were distributed in another, frequently more archaic translation, preserved in Old Russian, Middle Bulgarian and Serbian manuscripts (cf. BHBS; М. Петрова, М. Йовчева, „Светците от Супрасълския сборник: имена, дати, източници“, in: Преоткриване 2012: 377–445; Мирчева 2018).

The only evidence we have of transmission of the full content of the codex or of parts of it are associated with the literature of Eastern Slavs.

According to S. Temchin (С. Темчин, „Бытование древнеболгарского Супрасльского сборника в Великом княжестве Литовском в XVI–XVII веках: новые данные“, in: Преоткриване 2012: 195–215), today we know of four East Slavic copies of Codex Suprasliensis.

1. Kievan copy (Kiev, Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, Meletski monastery collection, f. 303, No. 117п, 1520–1530) presents the two parts of Codex Suprasliensis in reverse, the triodion part preceding the menaion part. It has preserved some of the fragments lost in the Old Bulgarian original. According to R. Aitzetmüller, the copy was made directly from Codex Suprasiensis (Aitzetmüller 1967, 1969, 1970, 1974; description in Преоткриване 2012: 447–454).

2. Codex No. 104 from the V. S. Stefanyk National Science Library of Ukraine in Lviv is related to this and is very similar in structure, content and language, f. 3, from the last quarter of the 16th century. The manuscript is a fragment Pentekostarion and a Reader for the month of March with additions.

3. The Vilnius Chrysochorras, Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, F. 19, No. slav. 257, from the first quarter of the 16th century contains copies of nearly all homilies in the Codex Suprasliensis – 16 of the total of 20. These, however, were not copied en bloc, but were rearranged with other texts.

4. A later twin manuscript dating from 1610 has been preserved in convolute (Kiev, Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine, collection of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, f. 306, No. 219).

MS No. 596 at the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Collection of new acquisitions, St. Petersburg, dated in the third quarter of the 15th century and considered the earliest copy of Codex Suprasliensis, and containing its menaion part, does not approach either directly or indirectly this particular Old Bulgarian manuscript (description in Преоткриване 2012: 454–460; Темчин 2006; Темчин, „Бытование …“, 198).

E. Mircheva has added yet another manuscript to those listed by S. Temchin – Russian State Library, f. 113 No. 197 – a reader from the end of the 15th century from the Joseph of Volokolamsk monastery, 23 texts of which coincide with the menaion part of Codex Suprasliensis. She, however, is of the opinion that, with the exception of the Kievan version, the above-listed codices should not be considered as its “copies”, for they reflect the further development of menaion and triodion miscellanies on Russian soil, accompanied by their enrichment with additional readings (Мирчева 2018: 23).

There is abundant academic literature on various aspects of Codex Suprasliensis (language, textology, palaeography and codicology, macro-genre characteristics, quest for possible parallels in Slavic and Byzantine literature, stratigraphy of translations and history of the individual texts). Two important international conference are evidence of the interest in this valuable manuscript and the reports there are published in: Проучвания върху Супрасълския сборник (1980) abd Преоткриване: Супрасълски сборник, старобългарски паметник от Х век (2012).


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  • Monumenta linguae Palaeoslovenicae e codice Suprasliensi. Еd. Franciscus Miklosich. Vindobonae, 1851 (, достъп 03.06.2019).
  • Срезневский, И. И. Древние славянские памятники юсового письма (С описанием их и с замечаниями об особенностях их правописания и языка). 4. Супрасльская рукопись. – СОРЯС, 3, 1868, 1, 27–36; 2, 174–186, 225–240 (, достъп 03.06.2019).
  • Супрасльская рукопись. Труд Сергея Северьянова. 1. СПб., 1904 (Памятники старославянского языка. 2, вып. 1). Фототипно изд. Graz, 1956 ( , достъп 03.06.2019).
  • Супрасълски или Ретков сборник. Увод и коментар на старобългарския текст Й. Заимов. Подбор и коментар на гръцкия текст М. Капалдо. Т. 1–2. С., 1982–1983.


  • Благова 1966: Благова, Э. Гомилии Супрасльского и Успенского сборников. – В: Исследования источников по истории русского языка и письменности. М., 1966, 77–86.
  • Велчева 2004: Велчева, Б. Повторение – благозвучие, ритъм (Наблюдения върху старобългарската преводна проза). – Palaeobulgarica, 28, 2004, 2, 45–54.
  • Добрев 1978: Добрев Ив. Гръцките думи в Супрасълския сборник и втората редакция на старобългарските богослужебни книги. – Български език, 28, 1978, 2, 89–98.
  • Добрев 1981: Добрев, Ив. Агиографската реформа на Симеон Метафраст и съставът на Супрасълския сборник. – Старобългарска литература, 10, 1981. 16–38.
  • Дунков 1985: Дунков, Д. Супрасълският сборник и етапите в развитието на преславската редакция на старобългарските книги. – Език и литература, 40, 1985, 5, 11–20
  • Дунков 1990: Дунков, Д. Наблюдения върху състава на Супрасълския сборник. – Език и литература, 45, 1990, 4, 25–34.
  • Дурново 1925: Дурново, Н. Н. К вопросу о древнейших переводах на старославянский язык библейских текстов. Супрасльская рукопись. – ИОРЯС, 30, 1925, 353–429.
  • Куев 1979: Куев, К. Съдбата на старобългарските ръкописи през вековете. С., 1979, 159–163.
  • Кульбакин 1940: Кульбакин, С. М. Лексичке студиjе. Хомилиjе Супраслског зборника. – Глас Српске академиje наука, 182, други разред, 92, 1940, 9–24.
  • Мирчева 2011: Мирчева, Е. За етапите в развитието на Преславската преводаческа и редакторска школа (Отново за Супрасълския сборник). – Palaeobulgarica, 35, 2011, 4, 3–23.
  • Мирчева 2018: Мирчева, Е. Староизводните и новоизводните сборници – преводи, редакции, преработки, книжовни особености. С., 2018.
  • Мирчева 2018а: Мирчева, Е. Новгородски ли са Новгородските чети-минеи? – Старобългарска литература, 57–58, 2018, 143–162.
  • Мострова 2005: Мострова, Т. Неизвестни преписи на жития и слова от Супрасълския сборник в ръкописи от Библиотеката на Литовската академия на науките. – В: Славистични изследвания. [Кн.] 7. Сборник, посветен на XII международен конгрес на славистите. С., 2005, 9–28, с факс.
  • Преоткриване 2012: Преоткриване: Супрасълски сборник, старобългарски паметник от Х век. Ред. А. Милтенова. С., 2012.
  • Проучвания 1980: Проучвания върху Супрасълския сборник, старобългарски паметник от Х век. Доклади и разисквания пред Първи международен симпозиум за Супрасълския сборник, 28–30 септември 1977, Шумен. С., 1980.
  • Самойлова 1997: Самойлова, Н. Преславская лексика в евангельских цитатах Супрасльского сборника. – Palaeobulgarica, 21, 1997, 1, 85–90.
  • Славова 2003: Славова, Т. Супрасълски сборник. – В: Старобългарска литература. Енциклопедичен речник. Велико Търново, 2003, 500–501.
  • Стефова 2003: Стефова, Л. Супрасълски сборник. – В: Кирило-Методиевска енциклопедия. Т. 3. С., 2003, 776–784.
  • Супрасльская рукопись. – В: Библиотека Фронтистеса (достъп 11.05.2019).
  • Темчин 2006: Темчин, С. Ю. О бытовании древнеболгарского Супрасльского сборника в Великом княжестве Литовском в XV–XVI веках. – В: Этнокультурные и этноязыковые контакты на территории Великого княжества Литовского. Материалы международной научной конференции. М., 2006, 175–189.
  • Aitzetmüller 1967, 1969, 1970, 1974: Aitzetmüller, R. Eine russisch-kirchenslavische Parallelhandschrift zum aksl. Codex Suprasliensis. Materialien zu dessen Textgestalt. – Anzeiger für slavische Philologie, 2, 1967, 48–66; 3, 1969, 102–117; 4, 1970, 72–82; 7, 1974, 92–108.
  • BHBS: Bibliotheca Hagiographica Balcano-Slavica. Sofia, 2008.
  • Dennis 1996: Dennis, R. Mr. Vlasov Meets the Ham King: How a Harvard “Man of the World” Recovered a Priceless Manuscript from the Underworld of the Stolen Artifacts. – In: Harvard Magazine, March–April 1996, 40–45.
  • Lunt 1983: Lunt, H. One OCS Translation or Two? On the Suprasliensis and Related Sborniki. – Die Welt der Slaven, 28, 1983, 225–249.
  • Маlingoudis 1981: Маlingoudis, Ph. Zu einigen Verfassungstermini des Codex Suprasliensis. – Cyrillomethodianum, 5, 1981, 197–201.
  • Marguliés 1927: Marguliés, A. Der altkirchenslavische Codex Suprasliensis. Heidelberg, 1927.
  • Meyer 1935: Meyer, K. Altkirchenslavisch-griechisches Wörterbuch des Codex Suprasliensis. Glückstadt-Hamburg, 1935.
  • Μeyer 1939: Μeyer, K. Altkirchenslavische Studien. 1. Fehlübersetzungen im Codex Suprasliensis. Halle, 1939.
  • Milev 1978: Milev, A. Über die altbulgarischen Übersetzungen im Codex Suprasliensis. – Palaeobulgarica, 2, 1978, 3, 51–59.
  • The Tenth-Century Codex Suprasliensis: Tomova, E., M. Yovcheva, A. Miltenova. The Tenth-Century Codex Suprasliensis in the Context of Byzantine-Slavonic Relationships [An Exhibition, Sofia, 11-19 August 2011]. (достъп 15.05.2019).
  • Van Wijk 1923: Van Wijk, N. Zur Komposition des altkirchenslavischen Codex Suprasliensis. Amsterdam, 1923 (= Mededeelingen der Koninklijke akademie van wetenschappen 59, ser. A, № 4, 192.

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SESDiva ERA.Net RUS Plus Call 2017 – S&T

SESDiva. Project № 156

SESDiva aims at creating a virtual museum of written culture in relation to the social, religious, cultural, and ideological environment and relations between the South and East Slavs throughout the centuries from the 11th to the beginning of the 20th century.

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