Made in Edessa as a gift for the Pope's consecration to Rome: one of the few surviving examples of Armenian book illumination

Armenian Bible

Edessa (Armenia) — 16th century

Armenian Bible

Armenian Bible

Edessa (Armenia) — 16th century

  1. 26 full-page miniatures and splendid bordures enrich the biblical text, which is arranged in two columns

  2. The lively décor of the manuscript makes liberal use of gold leaf, including burnished gold backgrounds

  3. It was presented to Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758) by Patriarch Abraham Bedros I Ardzivian (1679-1749) in 1742

Armenian Bible

Alternative Titles:
  • Bibbia Armenia
  • Vangeli Armeni
  • Die Armenische Bibel
Armenian Bible – Ms. 3290 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
Armenian Bible – Ms. 3290 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

Armenia was one of the first Christian kingdoms in history and was able to remain an independent realm despite being surrounded by Muslim territories due to its mountainous territory and the fierceness of Armenian knights. The country also has its own artistic traditions with influences from Byzantine art, which endured even after the fall of Constantinople roughly 150 years before this work was created in the early 16th century. Armenian was one of the first national languages that the Bible was translated into, which was completed in the 434 by a group of Armenian scholars who had journeyed to Constantinople to acquire authoritative texts in Greek. The Armenian Bible includes 26 full-page miniatures with rich opaque and the generous use of gold leaf. It is considered to be one of the most important European Bibles and is protected by a ribbed silver binding with rosette patterns and a Greek cross.

The Armenian Bible

A wonderful parchment manuscript with the text of the Gospels originated in the vicinity of Edessa at the beginning of the 17th century. 26 full-page miniatures enrich the biblical text, which is arranged in two columns. Upon first glimpsing the luminous paintings, one can hardly believe that they are already centuries old. Actually, this is one of the only examples of Armenian illumination to have survived to the present. In fact, the patron of the manuscript is unknown, but some conclusions can be drawn about its previous owners. In the year 1742, Patriarch Abraham Bedros I Ardzivian (1679-1749) gave it to Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758) on the occasion of his consecration in Rome.

Luminous Miniatures

The miniatures, designed according to the rules of Armenian illumination, distinguish themselves through their particular luminosity and fineness. It is astonishing how radiant the colors are and the intensity boasted by the gold backgrounds. As such, there is a six-figure Adoration scene playing out before unpretentious urban architecture and in whose background shines the golden heavens. Nevertheless, the bordure decorations boast rich gold as well and small marginal scenes illustrate the text additionally. The beginning of each Gospel is designed in an exceptionally splendid manner, as exhibited with a full-page miniature of the corresponding Evangelist.

Dating: an Open Question

Unfortunately, the question of the year of origin of the Armenian Bible cannot be answered with certainty. Nevertheless, on the first page there is a note indicating that the manuscript originated in Mesopotamia in the year 1614, but it is missing a precious colophon as a means for dating. An additional clue was found by researchers at the end of the Gospel of John, where a date is entered. Since its ink is different from what the rest of the text was written in, this notation is suspect and not suitable for the determination of a date of origin.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Bibbia Armenia
Vangeli Armeni
Die Armenische Bibel
Size / Format
614 pages / 11.6 x 8.5 cm
Date
16th century
Illustrations
26 full-page miniatures
Content
Gospels
Previous Owners

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Armenian Bible“

Bibbia Armena
Armenian Bible – Ms. 3290 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
Armenian Bible – Ms. 3290 – Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
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Bibbia Armena

Publisher
Imago – Castel Guelfo, 2020
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