Codex Etchmiadzin

Alternate Titles:

Codex Etschmiadzin, Etschmiadsin-Evangeliar

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Codex Etschmiadzin
Etschmiadsin-Evangeliar

Type
Extent / Format

464 pages / 34.5 x 26.0 cm

Origin
Date
Around 989
Style
Genre
Language
Others
Illustrations

19 full-page illustrations

Short description

The Codex Etchmiadzin represents one of the most important artifacts of Armenian Christianity. Its outstanding importance in religious life, art, and science is owed to the uniqueness of its written and pictorial records that bring us closer to the beginnings of Christian literature than other comparable manuscripts. It is believed to be the most faithful copy of the Old Armenian bible translation that dates back to the early 5th century. The great importance of this manuscript is also underlined by the splendid ivory cover dating from the 6th or 7th century which has protected the codex since its restoration in the 12th century. The manuscript enjoys relic-like status in Armenia today and is one of its greatest national treasures.

Facsimile editions available

Description

The Roots of Christianity, in Ivory

Since 1920, the Matenadaran Archives in Yerevan have housed, on permanent loan from the Catholicos of All Armenians, what is one of the most precious manuscripts in the world - the Codex Etchmiadzin, named after the place where it was formerly kept. Its outstanding importance in religious life, art, and science is owed to the uniqueness of its written and pictorial records that bring us closer to the beginnings of Christian literature than other comparable manuscripts. The text of this tetra-evangelary, written at the monastery of Noravank in the province of Blen (south east of Yerevan) in 989, is held to be the most faithful copy of the Old Armenian bible translation that dates back to the early 5th century and which is called the "Queen of Biblical Translations" by merit of its great accuracy, its beauty of language, and its purity of style. The 15 full-page illustrations preceding the biblical report date further still. They are the most faithful reflection of the system of decoration developed by Eusebius of Caesarea in the first half of the 4th century for his rendition of an evangelary and which was subsequently to remain the binding form for all manuscripts of this kind. However, the two pages which, sewn into strips of parchment, are bound into the last layer of the manuscript are the real artistic and spiritual culmination of the Codex Etchmiadzin. These two folios are from a 7th-century evangelary and display four full-page feast-day illuminations, the Annunciation, the Annunciation to Zacharias, the Adoration of the Magi, and the Baptism of Christ. The hieratic, monumental miniatures represent the oldest instance of Armenian book illumination. Thanks to the inclusion of these fragments of a 300 year older manuscript, the "new" Codex has always been of particular significance. The great importance of this manuscript is also underlined by the splendid ivory cover dating from the 6th or 7th century which has protected the codex since its restoration in the 12th century. Like many other manuscripts in Armenian culture, the Codex Etchmiadzin is also held in great esteem. Even today, it is revered like a holy relic and mostly hidden away from prying eyes. It is one of the very few manuscripts that may never leave Armenia.

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