Songs of the Night – New Study and Translation of Roman the Melodist

On 14 September, the book Nattens Sange (Songs of the Night) by Retracing Connections team member Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen was published in Denmark by Atlanten. The book contains four hymns of the poet Romanos Melodos (c. 485-560 AD) in a fresh translation into Danish. The hymns are accompanied by beautiful paintings and drawings by the internationally acclaimed artist Peter Brandes. Romanos was a deacon and singer in sixth century Constantinople who wrote lengthy narrative and dramatic hymns known as kontakia.

In his hymns, Romanos would retell Biblical stories in such a way that the audience would be invited to enter the sacred narratives and listen to conversations between biblical characters as if the audience were present at the narrated events.

The book opens with an introduction placing Romanos in context and giving a short overview of the current state of research, as well as providing examples of Romanos’ poetic and rhetorical techniques. Four hymns are rendered in Danish translation: “On Joseph”, “Nativity II”, “On Peter’s Denial” and “On the Victory of the Cross”. Except for the last one, these hymns have never before been translated into Danish. Each hymn is accompanied by paintings and drawings by Peter Brandes who draws on the Christian iconographic tradition in his own personal style. A commentary on each hymn concludes the book. 

Romanos’ poetic skill has earned him a spot among the most lauded Byzantine poets and became a model of inspiration for later liturgical poetry in Byzantium. This is testified by the fact that during the ninth and tenth centuries several hymns written in honor of saints were attributed to Romanos. He has thereby had a direct and indirect influence on the formation of the Byzantine Storyworld examined in the programme. 


Uffe Holmsgaard Eriksen will present the book at Lund University on 17 October 2023 at the Collegium Patristicum Lundense