Armenian Gospel Book


Presented here is the oldest Armenian manuscript in the Bavarian State Library. It was written in 1278 by Archbishop Johannes, the brother of King Lewon III (also seen as Leon, 1270‒89) and abbot of the monastery in Grner in the kingdom of Cilician Armenia (which existed from 1080 to 1375). An artist named Basilius made the illuminations, and the binder was Arrakhel Hnasandentz, as is stated in a note in the book. The manuscript follows the usual pattern of Armenian texts of the four Gospels: the letter of Eusebius to Carpianus, decked out with tailpieces, is followed by the Canon tables (here unfortunately without the usual artistic embellishments); then come the texts of the four Gospels, each introduced by a table of contents of the chapters and a prologue, a picture of the Evangelist covering the whole of the left-hand page, and a richly decorated first page of the Gospel covering the right-hand page. At the bottom of the pages are found details relating to individual canons of Eusebius, a method which served to facilitate the subdivision of the Gospels prior to the introduction of chapters and verses. The translation of the Gospels into Armenian is amongst the oldest examples of Armenian literature, and was an achievement of the Armenian Golden Age of around 400 to 450. The miniatures in the manuscript were executed during the best period of Armenian illumination, which reached its peak in Cilician Armenia with the artist T’oros Roslin in the mid-13th century. Together with the library of Johann Jakob Fugger, this manuscript has been part of the library of the dukes of Bavaria and hence of today's Bavarian State Library since 1571.

Last updated: July 28, 2017