Troparion (also tropar; plural troparia) is a type of hymn in Byzantine music, in the Orthodox Church and other Eastern Christian churches. It is a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas; this may carry the further connotation of a hymn interpolated between psalm verses.
The term most often refers to the apolytikion, the thematic hymn which closes Vespers. (In Greek churches, the apolytikion troparion is known simply as the apolytikion; in most other churches, it is known simply as the troparion.) This troparion serves as a thematic hymn and is repeated at every service of the day.
Troparia are also sometimes used as refrains for chanted psalm verses, though stichera more often serve this function.
A theotokion (or bohorodicen) is a troparion to the Theotokos; these hymns are collectively called theotokia.
A famous example, whose existence is attested as early as the 4th century, is the Vespers hymn, Phos Hilaron, "Gladsome Light"; another, O Monogenes Yios, "Only Begotten Son," ascribed to Justinian I (527-565), figures in the introductory portion of the Divine Liturgy. Perhaps the earliest set of troparia of known authorship are those of the monk Auxentios (first half of the 5th century), attested in his biography but not preserved in any later Byzantine order of service.
Paschal Troparion, Tone V:
- Christ is risen from the dead,
- trampling down death by death,
- and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
Troparion of the Holy Cross, Tone I:
- O Lord, save your people,
- and bless your inheritance!
- Grant victory to the Orthodox Christians
- over their adversaries,
- and by virtue of your cross,
- preserve your habitation.
This is literally the fight song of Orthodox Christians. Often used in battle, the phrase "the Orthodox Christians" (or often, "thy people") has come to replace "the righteous and God-fearing Emperor (or Tsar) N.." The Tone I melody used in many Russian churches can be heard in the background of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Today the hymn is typically understood to have a primarily spiritual meaning.
- It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos,
- ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God:
- more honorable than the cherubim, beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim —
- without corruption you gave birth to God, the Word.
- True Theotokos, we magnify you!
This theotokion is sung at nearly every service of the Church and privately by many Orthodox Christians.