Manuscripts

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Armenian illustriated manuscripts

unique pieces of religious art through the centuries

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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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The Annunciation of Virgin Mary, by Sargis Pidzak, 1336, Sis, Cilicia

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The Annunciation of Virgin Mary, by Toros Taronatsi, 1323, Gladzor monastery

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The Annunciation of Virgin Mary,  by Hovhannes, 1287, Akner monastery

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The Nativity of our Lord, by Sargis Pidzak, 1336, Sis, Cilicia

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The Nativity of our Lord, Hromkla Gospels, 13th century, Hromkla, Cilicia

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The visit of the Magi, Malatia Gospel, by Toros Roslin, Malatia Gospels, 1268

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The presentation of our Lord at the Temple, Hethoum II, 1286

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The presentation of our Lord at the Temple, Mugni Gospels, 1060

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The presentation of our Lord at the Temple, Hagop Markare, 1211, Horomos monastery

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The wedding at Cana, by Grigor Sukiasants, 1332, Crimea

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The baptism of our Lord, 10th century, Echmiadzin Gospels

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The Baptism of our Lord by St. John the Baptist, Mesrop of Khizan 1605-1651

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The Baptism of our Lord, by Toros Taronatsi, 1323, Gladzor monastery

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Jesus walks on the water, by Aristakes Tzeruni, 14th century

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The Transfiguration of our Lord, by Toros Taronatsi, 1323, Gladzor monastery

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Jesus with Martha and Mary Magdalene. The raising of Lazarus, Nimbus manuscripts, 13th century

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The Palm Sunday, by Toros Roslin, Malatia Gospels, 1268

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The triumphal entry of our Lord into Jerusalem, by Hagop Markare, 1211, Horomos monastery

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The entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, Zachariah Aghtamartsi, 1357, Aghtamar, Van

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Jesus washes the feet of His Disciples, by Aristakes Tzeruni, Aghtamar Gospels, 1391, Aghtamar, Van

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Jesus washes the feet of His Disciples, 13th century, Mechitarists’ Library, San Lazaro, Venice

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The Last Supper, by Tiranu Grigor, Targmanchats Gospels, 1232

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The Crucifixion of our Lord, by Toros Taronatsi, 1323

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The Crucifixion of our Lord, 1609, The Bodleian Library

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The Crucifixion of our Lord, by Sargis Pidzak, 1336, Sis, Cilicia

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The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1609, The Bodleian Library

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Jesus Christ is risen, 14th century

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Ascension-Surkhat

The Ascension of our Lord, Surkhat Gospels, 1356

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The Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, 9th century, Gulbenkian Foundation

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The Holy Pentecost, by Toros Taronatsi, 1307

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The Holy Pentecost, by Aristakes Tzeruni, Aghtamar Gospels, 1391, Aghtamar, Van

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The Dormition of Virgin Mary, by Sargis Pidzak, 1336, Sis, Cilicia

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The Dormition of Virgin Mary, by Tiranu Grigor, 1232

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The Gospel of St. Mattew, first page, by Hakob of Djoulfa, 1610, Isfahan

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The Gospel of St. Mattew, first page, by Grigor of Syunik, 14th century

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The Gospel of St. Mark, first page, by Smbat sparapet, 1276, Sis, Cilicia

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The Gospel of St. Mark, first page, Queen Mlk’e Gospel, 9th century, Mechitarists’ Library, San Lazaro, Venice

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The Gospel of St. Luke, first page, by Toros Roslin, 13th century

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The Gospel of St. Luke, first page, by Sargis Pidzak, 1251, Hromkla, Cilicia

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The Gospel of St. John, first page, by Toros Roslin, Malatia Gospels, 1268

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The Gospel of St. John, Chapter 1, first page, Shukhonts manuscripts, 13th century 

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

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Virgin Mary with child Jesus, by Grigor Tatevatsi, 1297, village of Elgis, Vaspourakan

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Virgin Mary blessing, with child Jesus on her front, glorious on her throne, surrounded by angels, 1283, British Library

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our lady and apostles armenian icon

Our Lady coronated by angels, infant Jesus and the Holy Eucharist. Jesus the Good Shepherd and St. Gregory the Illuminator, surrounded by the 12 Apostles  

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