Apostles & Saints

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Armenian illuminated manuscripts

A collection of the best known and most characteristic illuminated manuscripts of the Armenian Church

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Armenian illuminated manuscripts form one of the most beautiful traditions of the Medieval Armenian art. The earliest surviving examples date from the 5th century, following the invention of the Armenian alphabet by Masrop Mashtots Մեսրոպ Մաշտոց (362-440). Very few fragments dated from the 5th-7th centuries have been survived. The oldest preserved in its entirety dates from the 9th century. 13th-14th centuries form the golden age of the Armenian calligraphy. Among the greatest Armenian miniaturists is Toros Roslin Թորոս Ռոսլին (1210-1270), who lived and worked in the Armenian kingdom of CIlicia.
Armenian Illuminated manuscripts are remarkable for their festive designs based on the Armenian  religious life and culture. lluminated manuscripts mostly recount the Holy Bible, in particular the Holy Gospels, as well as many aspects of the religious life and teachings of the Armenian Church. Most of the manuscripts were written and illustrated by monks. Armenian monasteries have been for centuries the centres of religious art and literature. Most of those manuscripts are exquisitely elaborated, covered in gilt and brilliant colors. It was a common belief that the beauty of the illustration could refresh the human mind and spirit.
Of the 31,000 Armenian manuscripts currently listed around the world, about 10,000 of them are ornamented, with 5,000 – 7,000 of them containing miniatures. Most of these manuscripts are preserved in the Matenadaran Institute of Yerevan (more than ten thousand manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts).

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»   St. John the Apostle


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St. John the Apostle, 1224, Khoranashat vank, Artsakh, ms4823 Matenadaran collection

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St. John the Apostle, by Tiranu Grigor, 1232, Targmanchats Gospels, ms2743 Matenadaran collection

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St. John the Evangelist, Toros Roslin, Queen Keran Gospel, 1262, Jerusalem Arm.Patriarchate

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St. John the Apostle, by Toros Roslin, Malatia Gospels, 1268, ms10675 Matenadaran collection

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St. John the Apostle, by monk Avag, 1337, Agarak monastery, ms212 Matenadaran collection

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St. John the Apostle, by Mesrop of Khizan 1605-1651, Paul Getty museum

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St. John the Apostle, 1609, The Bodleian Library

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St. John the Evangelist, Malnazar Gospels, 1637, Paul Getty museum

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»   St. Stephen the First Martyr


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The stoning of St. Stephen, Gospel of Grner, Cilicia, 1263, ms56.11 Freer Gallery of Art, Washington

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»   St. George


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St. George, by Grigor of Syunik, 14th century, ms6305 Matenadaran collection

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»   St. Gregory the Illuminator


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St. Gregory the Illuminator preaching to King Trdat who is still in the form of a wild pig, History of Agathangeghos, 1569, ms1920 Matenadaran collection

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St. Gregory the Illuminator preaching to King Trdat, 1678, ms1306 Mekhitarists Library, Vienna

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