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Kassiani (also known as Kassia) was an early ninth-century abbess who wrote sacred poems and hymns, and is the earliest woman composer whose works survive. She was from a wealthy Constantinople family and received a private education including Classical Greek studies. Kassiani became a legend in Byzantine folklore through her legendary meeting with the Emperor Theophilus, a story first recorded in the tenth century, and also included eight centuries later in Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Only around 25 of Kassiani’s compositions survive, but both her poetry and her music have been continual inspirations to Orthodox worshippers and also to later composers. The Troparion, a short poetic hymn, for which she wrote both words and music, is sung in the Vespers service of Holy Tuesday.

© Guy Protheroe

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