Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Armenian Manuscript

manuscript in armenian script

aremenian manuscript

armenian illuminations

illuminated manuscript

armenian manuscript page

12th cent. manuscript page

manuscript illuminations

4 illuminated miniatures

medieval manuscript

manuscript - armenia


illuminated page

illuminated page

Lviv manuscript detail

detail from medieval manuscript

2 illuminated manuscript details

You will be doing yourself a favour by clicking to enlarge these images - the detail is exquisite (the manuscript measures 32cm x 30cm [13 x 12 inches]).

This late 12th century illuminated manuscript in Armenian script is online in the Digital Library of Poland. [or: direct link to 800+ thumbnails = big pageload] {Thanks to Tomasz for the translation help!}

Whilst this exceptional Gospel work is in the Armenian language, it was actually produced in a Lviv scriptorium (in the west of modern Ukraine, not too far from the Polish border) in 1198. [modern Armenia is on the opposite side of the Black Sea] [wikipedia: Ukraine, Armenia, Lviv]

The complex history of the region is fairly baffling - the Kingdom of Armenia (which was the Kingdom of Cilesian Armenia at the time the manuscript was produced) never extended further west than the eastern side of the Black Sea as far as I can tell. Conflating language and country perhaps? Please enlighten me via a comment or email.

I feel fairly confident that this work is known (at least in Germany) as the Lemberg Gospel (Lemberg was the German name for Lviv). The manuscript was rediscovered at the end of hostilities in 1945. [Das Lemberger Evangeliar - translation]

Ornamental Arts in Armenian Manuscripts is an excellent site from Hayknet which is associated with the Yerevan Academy of Fine Arts and has a large gallery of manuscript decoration motifs and if I'm understanding correctly, plates 41-45 are indicative of the style of the probable illuminator of the Lemberg Gospel (Grigor). [see the essay]

{The commentary above should not be considered authoritative in any way. It's not so much 'slap dash' as much as the sources were difficult to judge in terms of veracity and translation was very much a problem. I was, and remain, unsure about the facts as stated and visitors are encouraged, at the very minimum, to read through the comments below... March 2014}


A.G. said...

god, it's beautiful.

π2 said...

Excellent. Nice coincidence: just minutes after seeing this, I ran into a Arabic cosmographical treatise [via (in Greek)].

peacay said...

I remember the Book of Curiosities. I liked it so much I posted it here AND at Metafilter.

Anonymous said...


Karla said...

Gorgeous (not to mention I love the Armenian script, which one doesn't run across too often). The Lviv/Lemberg link was a surprise since of course Armenians bring to mind Turks, not Poles/Ukrainians.

peacay said...

Karla, what I didn't put in the post - because I am on very very shaky ground as to the facts - is that I got an inkling from the sites that I visited (not linked for various reasons) that the scribes/illuminators from Armenia 'got around'. After thinking about it the last day or so, I think that Grigor might have been visiting Lviv (and I'm sure there are Turkish/Islamic motifs and patterns in the pages we see here).

About all this I'm not certain but *I think* that the manuscript was actually made for a Polish bishop or high clerical figure so Poland/Ukraine are not essentially contributory influences, if you follow.

Karla said...

Sounds like a dissertation waiting to be written, if you follow me. Or just a fun sleuthing job! (and now back to the salt mines of my own dissertation... why can't I do all these other things too??? why don't I know Armenian? or Polish? or Turkish?)

waldemar said...

History of the Armenian Manuscript from National Library in Warsaw


peacay said...

Thanks very much Waldemar! That's a very worthwhile link here. english version.

claus said...

The political background to this manuscript is quite interesting, as it was composed during a time of intensified negotiations between Roman Catholics and Armenian Catholics (not to be confused with the Armenian Apostolic church) which led to a formal union between the Kingdom of Cilicia (on the Turkish south coast) and the Roman Catholic church in 1195.

Why this manuscript originated in Lviv, I can't say - probably the city already had a sizeable Armenian Catholic community. At least it had so in later centuries, after the fall of the Kingdom of Cilicia in 1375. The Armenian Catholic community in Lviv numbered up to 5,000 people. The Armenian Catholic church of Poland was constituted here (by the "Union of Leopolis" (the Latin name of Lviv) in 1620), and the Catholic diocese of Lviv celebrated mass according to Armenian and Roman rites.

Unknown said...

The religious, illuminated manuscript creators in that century in Europe were certainly the prominent artists and intellligensia of their day. They devoted their lives to faithful transcription and inspirational embellishment of prominent documents.

Thank you for sharing this.

Tamarae said...


peacay said...

SYbil, although this entry is over 2 years old now, I very well remember that I spent a long time looking into the background of this work and unless you can provide some evidence (other than a landing page repository link) then I remain confident that the (single) manuscript seen above IS, in fact, Armenian in origin.

Unknown said...

This manuscript of Lviv/Lemberg (written in the famous monastery of Skevra in the Cilician kingdom) wasn't rediscoverd in 1945. On the contrary: it was lost and considered to be missing with many other manuscripts formerly held in the Armenian church of Lviv. It was rediscovered by Prof. G. Prinzinh (Mayence) in Gnesen in 1993. See the whole history of the rediscovery, research of theitinerary from Cilicia to Poland, art and history of the gospel manuscript by G. Prinzing - A. Schmidt, Das Lemberger Evangeliar. Eine wiederentdeckte armenische Bilderhandschrift des 12. Jahrhunderts, (Sprachen und Kulturen des Christlichen Orients, 2), Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag 1997

Andrea Schmidt, Prof. ordinaire, Université de Louvain, Institut Orientaliste, Belgium

peacay said...

Thanks for your help Andrea. I always knew that my understanding of the facts in this case were not solid.

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