About Project

Launching “The Byzantine Musical Instruments Research Project”

Koç University – Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies (GABAM) and The Friends of Music Society in Athens launched a new research project, focusing on Byzantine musical instruments in partnership with Koç University Suna Kıraç Library.

The main objective of the project was to thoroughly document the depictions of Byzantine musical instruments. All of these depictions were fully integrated at a functional and fully operational database open for researchers. Furthermore, many of these depictions will be disseminated to wider audiences through a digital exhibition.

The Byzantine Musical Instruments research project was conducted by Dr. Antonios Botonakis, a Post-Doctorate researcher based at GABAM in Istanbul, who collected data and examined them painstakingly to find out which musical instruments were used in Byzantine times.

More Information

In 2018 Koç University – Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies (GABAM) and The Friends of Music Society in Athens launched the Byzantine Musical Instruments research project, under the scientific supervision of Prof. Nikos Maliaras.

As part of this research project, Dr. Botonakis examined a great number of visual representations found on artefacts such as bowls, caskets, wall paintings, pitchers, mosaics, wooden icons etc., dated between the 2nd and the 16th century, originating from the wider geographic area of the Byzantine Empire. During the second phase of the project, Greek manuscripts containing illustrated miniatures were systematically studied. These included 369 manuscripts located at the Library of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fener, along with 19 Greek manuscripts found at the Topkapı Palace Museum Library. This research revealed more than 400 visual representations of musical instruments, which are spread across 136 different cultural institutions such as museums, churches, libraries, monasteries and research institutes in 27 countries around the world.

Byzantine Musical Instruments project is the first scientific study to bring together a vast array of visual representations of Byzantine musical instruments from a wide range of contexts. In order to encompass the rich variety of the instruments used in the Byzantine times, some recurring visuals have been eliminated from the database to make room for other non-recurring, unique visuals. Since research was conducted by a Post-Doctorate researcher who is a musicologist, not only does the database created present the iconography, but it also provides a unique classification of instruments. In addition to instrumental categorisation, the database includes several filters to help researchers make in-depth research by narrowing down several advanced search options such as geographical area, time period and artefact type.

Apart from material that was collected by the research team, 23 libraries, museums and private institutions also assisted with this research by providing necessary documentation on several artefacts and photographic reproductions.


Project Direction- Engin Akyürek

Scientific Supervision- Nikos Maliaras

Scientific Research- Antonios K. Botonakis

Project Coordination- Barış Altan, Alexandros Charkiolakis

Digital Collection Technical Support- Senem Acar (Digital collection archivist), George Boumpous, Vera Kriezi, Sina Mater (Web design)

Content Editor and Turkish Translation- Merve Özkılıç

Grant Provided by:

Koç University – Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center for Late Antique and Byzantine Studies (GABAM)


Special Thanks

We would like to acknowledge the special contribution of several directors and photographers from different institutions, who granted us permission to freely exhibit their content online:

  • Federico Gallo, the Director of the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana Library in Milano
  • Anna Rita Fantoni, the Director of the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Firenze
  • Svetlana Adaxina, the Deputy General Director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg
  • Aikaterini Dellaporta, the Director of the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens,
  • Athanasios Theofilogiannakos, the Vice-Director of the Institute of Byzantine Studies in Venice
  • Apathoniki Tsilipakou, the Director of the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki
  • Stefano Campagnolo, the Director of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana in Venice
  • Gulielmo Bartoletti, the Director of the Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria in Torino,
  • Haris Siampanis, the Chief Executive Officer of the Benaki Museum of Athens
  • V. Rev. Archim. Agathangelos Siskos and Nikolay Senkopopovsky, librarians, the Archivist of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Fener.

Biography: Antonios Botonakis

Antonios Botonakis

Currently works as an academic on Music Education and Technology in the Faculty of Music Technology and Acoustics at the Hellenic Mediterranean University.

He was born in Heraklion, Crete, in 1976. He studied Musicology in the Faculty of Music Studies at the University of Athens (Bachelor in 2000 and Ph.D. in 2013), with a dissertation on Ioannes Plousiadenos and the chantic art during his period (1450 – 1500). He holds degrees in Harmony, Counterpoint, Fugue and Byzantine Music, (National Conservatory of Greece, 1995-2000); Jazz Composition and Music Production (Berklee College of Music, 2014-2016); is a certified Microsoft Master Instructor and a qualified Steinberg Cubase user by SAE Institute and Steinberg Media Technologies. Furthermore, he has edited and produced three CDs (2005, 2008 and 2012), in cooperation with the Department of Applied Informatics and Multimedia, Technological Institute of Crete and the University Ecclesiastical Academy of Heraklion. He has participated in authoring several books, by digitizing scores of traditional Cretan songs and by making musicological remarks. He has participated in numerous conferences and published several articles. His research interests fall into the following fields: theory of Western and Eastern music notation systems, the evolution of instruments, music analysis and informatics in music education.