Manuscripts

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Armenian illuminated manuscripts

unique pieces of religious art through the centuries

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The Gospel of St. John, Chapter 1, first page, by Toros Taronatsi, 1323, Gladzor monastery, Matenadaran collection

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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.
Brilliantly illustrated pages were followed by the script originally carved by iron into stone. Pages were adorned with fantastical creatures or birds, which often formed the initial letters of the chapters. The most important sections were written in red ink in purpose to draw reader’s attention. Black lettering was used in writing the script, symbolizing the pain of original sin, while the use of white paper symbolized the innocence of birth.
The header or footer, also written in red ink, would provide information about the scribe, the patron, the artist, the date, when, where, and for whom the manuscript was created. The scribe would add notes about his working conditions or anecdotes of wisdom that sometimes were carried into the margins of the manuscript. So important was the privilege of owning a manuscript, that the owner would also add his name into the script.
The invention of the mechanical printing press in the 15th century, resulted in the gradual decline of the art of manuscript and calligraphy. The first printed book in Armenian letters was published in 1486. In 1512, the first Armenian printing house was established in Venice by Hakob Meghapart Very soon, several Armenian printing houses were established and the number of Armenian printed books increased gradually .
In 1915, during the Armenian Genocide massacres by the turks, Armenian monasteries were looted and vandalized, with a huge number of manuscripts being destructed, burnt and lost forever. Nowadays, only a few thousands of manuscripts have still survived, preserved in several museums and collections throughout the world.
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).
Illustrated manuscripts are considered as the greatest treasures preserved by the Mechitarists’ brotherhood. A large collection (of more than seven thousand manuscripts) are preserved in the Mechitarists’ establishments in Lan Lazaro Venice and in Vienna. A large collection of Armenian manuscripts (more than four thousand) are preserved in the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Notable collections also exist in the British Library, and in Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

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Galleries of Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts

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

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key3  The Annunciation

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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1336-ms5786-nativity

key3  The Nativity

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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1286-ms979-presentation

key3  The Presentation at the Temple

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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1287-ms197-baptism

key3  The Baptism

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  Preaching and miracles of Jesus

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Transfiguration

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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14-Entry-to-Jerusalem-Armenian-1286-Cilicia-copy

key3  The Palm Sunday

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Last Supper

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Crucifixion

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Resurrection

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Ascension

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Pentecost

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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our lady in glory armenian

key3  Our Lady Mother of God

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Four Evangelists

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Apostles & Saints~

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  The Old Testament

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  Illuminated Miniatures

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

1261-ms378-ascension

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key3  Eusebian Canon Tables

a collection of illuminated manuscripts

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