This lavishly illuminated copy of the Four Gospels is the most important Armenian manuscript in the Library’s collection.
Where does it come from?
It was commissioned for the monastery of Awag Vank’, near Erzindjan (modern Erznka) in Armenia, and created there. Like so many manuscripts from Armenia, these Gospels’ travels tell a story of their own. An inscription in the manuscript dated 1605 comments on the persecution of Christians, noting that ‘... we have been destroyed from the foundations, and we have fled and come to the metropolis Constantinople, and we have brought this wonderful Gospel with us’.
What is a canon table?
These Gospels include beautiful illuminations of the canon tables. Canon tables display a marginal cross-referencing system which provided a concordance or index to episodes in the Gospels. They enabled readers to locate parallel passages in different Gospels, and so compare and contrast the various accounts. Here the concordance numbers are enclosed between architectural columns flanked by trees and plants and surmounted by numerous birds including peacocks and partridges. The Canon Tables were devised by Eusebius of Caesarea (d.339) and appeared within ornamental frames or arcades as early as the 6th century.
What alphabet is used in this manuscript?
The text in the Awag Vank’ Gospels is written in the distinctive curvilinear shapes of the Armenian alphabet, devised in 405 by the Armenian monk Mesrop Mashtots. The invention of the alphabet was the beginning of Armenian literature, and has helped to reinforce both religious and national unity through Armenia’s turbulent history.
- Article by:
- The British Library
An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Christianity.
- Article by:
- Erica C D Hunter
- Christianity, Living Texts
Dr Erica Hunter explores the multiple translations of the Bible made in Eastern Christianity, including those in languages such as Syriac, Coptic, Armenian and Ge’ez.