Each manuscript, like a person, has its own fate. The fate of the ancient Armenian manuscripts is that of the Armenian people themselves: exile, loss, regaining of the homeland. The fate of “Arvestagir” (“The Moush Homilarium”), the largest Armenian manuscript written on vellum, is a difficult one as well. At the end of the 12th century Astvatsatur, the son of Vasus and Ripsime and the owner of the town of Baberd, ordered to compile a book of speeches, sermons, eulogies, letters, rules and chronicles of lives of Armenian saints, which came to be known as “The Moush Homilarium”. The manuscript was written by the scribe Vardan Karnetsi and illuminated by the artist Stepanos. 660 pages of vellum, 70.5 by 55.5 centimeters in size and weighing about 27 kilos, were used to write this huge manuscript. In 1202, during the attack of the Seljuk Sultan, Baberd is destroyed.
The owner of the manuscript, Astvatsatur, is killed, and his possessions are looted. The Turkish Judge of the city of Hlat seizes the manuscript under the pretext that Astvatsar was his debtor. In 1206 the priests of the Saint Arakelots Monastery in the city of Moush learn that the Judge is selling the manuscript. After prolonged negotiations, which take almost a year, they buy the manuscript for an enormous sum of money in those days – 4000 barats (silver coins), and carefully preserve it in the monastery for seven centuries.

In the 19th century the monks of Mekhitarist Order from Saint Lazarus Island (Venice) visit the Church of Saint Arakelots and take 17 pages of the manuscript with them as a relic. They are still being kept in the monastery of the Mekhitarists on Saint Lazarus Island. Yet later the fate of the manuscript was no less dramatic. In 1915, during the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, two sisters, splitting the manuscript in half, save it from Moush taken by the Turks and carry it to Eastern Armenia. One of the sisters gets to Holy Etchmiadzin and gives her half of the manuscript to the monastery, the second sister falls ill and dies on the way. Before her death, she manages to bury her half of the manuscript in the courtyard of the monastery in Erzurum (now eastern Turkey). The second half is later found by an officer of the Russian Army. He takes it to Tiflis and donates it to the Armenian Charitable Association. The two parts of the divided manuscript were combined together again only 14 years after the Genocide in Etchmiadzin. Today both halves of the manuscript are kept in Erevan, in the Museum of Books Matenadaran named after Mashtots. The first half weighs 15.2 kilos, the second half – 12.3 kilos. Today the manuscript has only 627 pages. Seventeen of them are kept in Venice, in the museum of the Order of Mekhitarist Order on Saint Lazarus Island. One page is in Vienna; it also belongs to the Order. The rest of the missing pages are lost.


CoNtact Us
Go home