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Reflections on Armenia and the Christian Orient. Studies in Honour of Vrej Nersessian


Librarian among scholars Scholar among Librarians.

This volume is dedicated to the Reverend Dr Nerses Vrej Nersessian, international authority on the Christian Middle East and former curator of the Christian Middle East section at the British Library for more than thirty years. He is Archpriest of the Armenian Church in London as well as a colleague, mentor and close friend of so many. His career and upbringing as an academic, churchman and family man spans India, the Middle East and England.

During his long years as a curator, by vigorous, relentless effort not only did he succeed in putting a strong new focus onto the study of the cultures of the Christian Orient, but also made his department a focal point for international scholars. He curated exhibitions of huge popular success at the British Library, including the unique ‘The Christian Orient’ (1978) and ‘Treasures from the Ark’ (2001). From the beginning, when he joined the British Library in 1975, rst as a curator of the Armenian manuscripts and brie y afterwards, as the curator of the Christian Middle East section, his focus was ‘to see the treasures of the collections represented in international exhibitions’:

‘I made sure that every exhibition would take note of the library’s collection and make sure that it was represented. I facilitated, selected, wrote the captions, couriered the loans to the exhibitions and returned them. There was no longer any room for institutions to plead ignorance or lack of expert support. My greatest contribution was to open the collections of the Christian Orient to the wider world.’ (Vrej Nersessian).

This volume is by way of a Festschrift for his seventieth birthday and a celebration of his unique career. During the preparation of this work, it quickly became obvious that an interview would be a useful tool for helping us to become acquainted with the thinking and personal history of Vrej Nersessian and to hear his views on crucial problems concerning the academic world’s stance towards Christian Orient Studies, as well as on some of the problems Armenia is facing today. His voice shines through the interview pages. 

Among contributors are famous specialists on the area: Ewa Balicka-Witakowska, Robert Phenix, Sebastian P. Brock , Robert W. Thomson, Azat Bozoyan, Raymond H. Kévorkian  and others, who present their new scientific findings specially in honor of Vrej Nersessian. One can see full list of contributors and their articles here: http://www.booksfromarmenia.com/blog/sites/default/files/toc.pdf

The book is available from our website at the link http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=1422&cur=USD.









Nerses Lambronatsi "Commentary on twelve prophets" (facsimile edition)

People who love old books, specialists in Armenian language, Theology have an excellent chance to have the facsimile edition of a book written in 12th century, published in 1826 in Constantinople. The author, Nerses Lambronatsi (1153-1198) is the famous clergyman of the Armenian Church, who lived in the territory of Cilicean Armenia and played a notable role in the ecclesiastical life. He was one of the pioneers of unity of the Latin and Armenian and Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches. Besides his treatment of Biblical text authentic for the Armenian Church, his standpoint is interesting also in this aspect of ecclesiastical unity. He relates the idea of unity of Churches to the idea of peace, as the commandment of Christ.

This edition is equipped with a foreword about Lambronatsi, his time and his heritage.

This edition of Lambronatsi's  important book is initiated by the Bible Society of Armenia with the aim to support the research of Biblical texts, to benefit from the understanding of the Bible by medieval fathers. Another important incentive to publish the facsimile edition of the book is to make this rare book of 19th century edition available for contemporary book lovers, specialists and libraries. 

The book is covered with crimson gilded cover with nice crimson flyleafs and the cream paper. The print run is very small.

The book can be acquired by visiting http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=1283&cur=USD



Survivors (Photo Album) 2005-2015

Nazik Armenakyan’s documentary photography project.

Ten years in the making, 'Survivors' is an ambitious photographic narrative about surviving victims of the Armenian genocide, which includes portraits, interior scenes, witness testimonies and archival photographs. The project shows the significance of photography in forging an understanding of 1915 and its impact on individual identities.

The eponymous photo book published in 2015, encompassing over forty duotone and color photographs and thirty-five firsthand testimonials published here for the first time, summarizes the project. Noted French-Armenian philosopher and literary critic Marc Nichanian, has authored an extensive introduction, which expounds upon the issues of representing and perceiving the experiences of the survivors. The editor of the book, art-historian and photography curator Vigen Galstyan, looks at Armenakyan’s photographs as a dialectical platform between the aftermath of the Catastrophe and the present. With its design and conceptual framework, ‘Survivors’ is not merely a collation of images and witness accounts, but a form of narration and an art object in its own right. It transcends the edges of the photograph’s visual field, becoming a means for analyzing, unearthing and relating the past.


The book is available here http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=1290&cur=USD


Kristapor Kushnaryan "Armenian Mododic Music: The History and Theory" (in English)

This book has been the main textbook of monody in Soviet musical educational institutions for a long period and still has not lost its value. Kushnaryan analyses the musical features of over 300 folk and religious songs. The texts of the folk songs in the musical examples are quoted in Armenian. The interesting feature of the work is its classical approach. The development of music is placed firmly in the context of the progress of the other branches of art, such as literature, architecture and the minor arts. The book breaks new ground, with an eye both for the large issues and for the detail in the music discussed.

There are a very large number of recordings of religious monodies: merely one collection of hymns (Sharaknots) is a weighty tome consisting of a thousand folio pages. The recordings are in the Armenian notation.

There are a very large number of recordings of religious monodies: merely one collection of hymns (Sharaknots) is a weighty tome consisting of a thousand folio pages. The recordings are in the Armenian notation.

In the first part monodic music is considered as one of the phenomena of the history of Armenian culture. This part reviews the main stages of
development of monody. Here of course arise all the basic problems concerning its compositional side. The author’s intention is that the first part should serve as an introduction to the study of Armenian monodic music as a whole.

The second part is devoted to a special theoretical subject and deals with one of the basic problems of the theory of Armenian music, that of its modes.

The main riches of Armenian peasant song are concentrated in the ethnographic studies of Komitas and Spiridon Melik‘yan, those two indefatigable musical folklore researchers. These contain collections of songs of all the many  genres of the old peasant music: epic and ceremonial songs, working songs (mainly of the peasants in the fields), everyday and lyric songs, dancing songs, jocular and children’s songs.

The book may be acquired from BooksFromArmenia; http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=1287&cur=USD

or from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Armenian-Monodic-Music-history-theory/dp/9939850212/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1462541663&sr=8-1&keywords=kushnaryan

Khosrovik Targmanich, "Dogmatic Works" (in Russian)

Khosrovik Targmanich, "Dogmatic Works" (in Russian), Ankyunacar Publishing, 2016 April

The beginning of 8-th century was decisive for the Armenian Church and its theological system. Byzantine Empire, which, 200 years after the Council of Chalcedon was fluctuating between rejection and acception of Chalcedon Council, at the end of 7-th century took a decision to favor Chalcedon Council. And this move was grounded by the works and commentaries of Maximus the Confessor, Leontius Byzantine etc. The policy of the Byzantine Empire did not stop on Christological disputs but took a form of forceful conversion of non-Chalcedonian Churches into Chalcedonian theology. 

Though with the strenghtening of Arab influence the political situation did not allow to go far in forceful measures, the theological dispute was imposed on Armenian and Syriac non-Chalcedonian Churches, and in some dioceses of the Armenian Church, which appeared under Byzantine political rule, conversion to Chalcedonian theology took place. In these circumstances Catholicos St. Hovhan Odznetsi has to react properly, and substantiate clearly the reasons why Chalcedonian Christology was not acceptable for the Armenian and Syriac Chruches, a task that he solved brilliantly.

That is why the Manazkert Council (726) was summoned where Armenian and Syriac bishops together formulated 10 clauses, which clearly stated the Chistological position of the two Churches. One of the leading thelogians, after the Catholicos was Khosrovik Targmanich (the Interpreter). His five epistles, composing the contents of this book, were written most probably after the Manazkert Council and are addressed to different people. The first is addressed to a Chalcedonian bishop, probably in a territory under Byzantine influence. Here Khosrovik shows different understandings of basic theologicial terms wherefore differences in Christological understanding follows. This is the main work in this collection and the author reminds the basic definitions of such terms as "hypostasis", "persona", "nature" etc., taken both from pre-Chalcedonian fathers of the Church and philosophers. To understand the importance of these definitions it is enough to say that debates about the exact definitions of these terms are still going on among theologians of different denominations, and most of them are unaware about the views of the Armenian Church expressed by St. Hovan Odznetsi, Khosrovik and others.

The other epistles are addressed to Syriac and Armenian bishops, explaining the attitude of Manazkert Council towards sufferableness vs insufferableness of Christ's body, or mortality vs immortality of Christ's body, which was the ground for division in Syriac Church between followers of Julian and Severius.

The book has extensive foreword, footnote annotations and detailed index.

This is the first Russian translation of this work from Grabar. Translated by Khachik Grigoryan, edited by Svetlana Samuelyan.

Publised by Ankyunacar Publishing, in April 2016.  Interested readers can acquire from BooksFromArmenia.com

Ani: The millennial capial of Armenia

The album-catalogue entitled "Ani: the Millenial Capital of Armenia" includes reproductions made from the 120-year-old glass-plates representing the architecture of Ani and examples from the are archeological collection of Ani with their passport data, historical essays and analytical texts referring to the material in Armenian and English.

In 885, Armenia's independent statehood was restored, and Ashot I Bagratid was proclaimed king of the Armenians. Ani became the capital of Armenia in 961. Bagratid kings Ashot III and Smbat II carried out extensive work to fortify the defensive system of the city and to build new walls aroud Ani.

Ani was built within the principles of city architecture. The principal street extended from the Main Gate to the Citadel, and the secondary streets intersecting with it, connected the centre with the living quarters.

In the 11th century Ani was a city of about 100,000 inhabitants that had commercial-economic and cultural links with numerous countries in the East and in the West.

In 1236 the Mongols captured and destroyed Ani. The greater part of the inhabitants had to flee in large masses to foreign countries: the Crimea, Galicia, Poland, Southern Russia and elsewhere. Ani as a city survived until the 14th century.

This interesting book is available at http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=1231

Armenian Manuscript Fragments in Vienna

This is one of the good examples of comprehensive presentation of a small part of Armenian heritage in one of the European cities, where Armenian Catholic Congregation of Mechitarists have established their presence since 18th century.

From the preface of the book

More than a century has passed since the day when the first volume of theCatalogue of the Armenian Manuscripts of the Mekhitarist Library in Vienna appeared. It was excellently prepared by the eminent Armenologist, member of the congregation Father Yakovbos Dashian. After a long interval of about 70 years, the congregation got the opportunity to publish the second impressive volume of the work compiled by Father Hamazasp Oskian. Finally, another 20 years passed until the Catalogue was completed by Father Augustinus Szekula. This three-volume imposing work has often been recognized in Armenological literature as one of the most perfect Armenian manuscript catalogues ever published. 

Most of the material presented here (old guard-leaves of manuscripts or separate fragments) is referred to by the authors of the Viennese Catalogue. They have provided brief data about them, sometimes citing longer or shorter passages. What we have attempted to do is to give a bit more information about those fragments, with their bilingual (Armenian and English) description and complete transcription of the texts.

The fragments are presented in the following way. If they are guard-leaves of manuscripts, we have indicated, according to the Catalogue, the number of the given manuscript (in the case of single fragments, their numbers), its title, date, place, number of folios, material and dimensions, the name of the scribe (as well as of the painter or binder, if known) and of the patron. Then, after the description of the fragments, a separate table specifies the text they contain, the script and the number of columns (1 or 2), the material and the dimensions of the fragments (the size of the guard-leaves sometimes does not coincide with the manuscript).

Every fragment is presented with its photograph.

The links for acquisition http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=911

The book is composed by Gohar Muradyan and Aram Topchyan.

The publication of the book is initiated by the Manuscript Center "Vestigia" at Graz University (head – Erich Renhart) in cooperation with publishing house "Ankyunacar".


Bishop Karapet Ter-Mkrtchyan "The Blessing of the Holy Myron"

In Armenia, Chrisitanity has been sealed and imbibed with the fragrance of the Holy Myron.

Church Fathers called the blessing of the Holy Myron as "sacrament of the Myron", "sacrament of oil", "sacrament of the Holy Spirit". The veneration of the Armenian nation towards the Holy Myron comes from the depths of centuries.

The Holy Myron as an important element of the distribution of the Holy Spirit's graces and of the Armenian identity at the same time has a great role in the life of the Armenian nation. It is appropriate to quote Catholicos Vasken I: " We believe that in every drop of this blessed Myron there is a ray of light of the divine glory, because every time the old Myron is mixed with the new one. Every newly blessed Myron includes a part of the Myron blessed by St. Gregory the Illuminator".

Nowadays, there are numerous works and studies of different volumes about the canons of making and blessing the Holy Myron, however, there were not many at the beginning of the 20th century. 

In this regard, "Blessing of the Holy Myron" by bishop Karapet Ter-Mekerthchian published at the beginning of the 20th century was the most comprehensive study.

The text of the book is in three languages: Armenian, English, Russian. Contains many color photographs.

Bhe book can be acquired by visiting  http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=1187


Archbishop Maghakia Ormanian "The Church of Armenia" (in English)

This is the third edition of the English translation of Ormanian's book "The Church of Armenia". The history of the Armenian Church is alomost identical to the history of the Armenian nation, at least in recent 2000 years. In this book not only the history of the Church and the nation is reflected but also more in depth information about the Armenian Church: her theology, literature, administration, liturgy. The book addresses many questions that people have about the Armenian Church. The English edition is useful for English-speaking Armenians as well as English-speaking persons generally. The new edition of the book has many color illustrations directly connected to the text. The book gives exact and general information about the Church of Armenia to the reader who wants to know better this old Oriental Church.

This book is a "bestseller" among visitors to Armenia who are seriously interested in one of the most ancient Churches of the World, who still preserves its authenticity in the Christian World and authority among Armenians.

"Ankyunacar Publishing" 2015

To acquire the book, please visit http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=861




THE task of writing an Introduction to Mr. Gregory’s translation of Mgr. Ormanian’s book upon the Church of Armenia is not free from difficulty; nor is it made the less difficult because the Bishop who should have written it, had his life been spared, was a man of such wide and various learning as the late Bishop of Salisbury, Dr. Wordsworth. Yet in that Church there is much that is interesting to all Christians, and perhaps especially to members of the Church of England. For the history of the Church of Armenia is a witness to certain great principles of ecclesiastical life. It is a protest against the assumed infallibility and universality of the Church of Rome. For the Church of Armenia believes that “no Church, however great in herself, represents the whole of Christendom; that each one, taken singly, can be mistaken, and to the Universal Church alone belongs the privilege of infallibility in her dogmatic decisions.” She takes her stand then upon the national character and prerogative of Churches. She holds, as the Church of England holds, that it is a fraternity of Churches tracing their pedigree backwards to an Apostolical origin, developing themselves on separate lines, yet knit together by a common creed and by spiritual union with the same Divine Head, which constitutes the true ideal of the Universal Church.

The Church of Armenia claims descent from the Apostles St. Bartholomew and St. Thaddaeus. Whether it is or is not true that “Armenia was the first state in the world to proclaim Christianity as its official religion,” there is no doubt that Armenia as a whole was converted to Christianity at the very beginning of the fourth century A.D. by the preaching of St. Grigor Partev (Gregory the Parthian), better known as St. Gregory the Illuminator. He became the first Catholicos of Armenia. He ruled and organized the Armenian Church, and it is curious to notice that he died in the year of the Council of Nicaea, A. D. 325. 

From St. Gregory’s day to the present the Church of Armenia has pursued an independent course. In her early history she resisted the controlling influence of the Churches of Caesarea, of Antioch, of Constantinople. In later times she has been subject to aggressions from the Greek, the Syrian, and the Latin Churches, and in some degree from missionaries of the various Protestant denominations. But although individual secessions from her communion have taken place, she has never compromised her separate national life. The quote Mgr. Ormanian, she has “always understood the meaning of union in the true and strict sense of term. She has desired to see its establishment on the basis of a spiritual communion between the Churches, of mutual respect for their several positions, of liberty for each within the limits of her own sphere, and of the spirit of Christian charity overruling all.”

One special merit of the book now recommended to English readers is that it is an appreciation of the Church of Armenia not from without, but from within. The author, as having himself been the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, is entitled to put forward the case of his own Church. It is thus that he claims a hearing for his repudiation of the Eutychian heresy so frequently associated with the Church of Armenia. It is thus too that he dwells with authority upon the unfailing tolerance characteristic of that Church in all the ages.

Not only is the Church of Armenia a standing instance of a Church developing on her own historical lines, but her independence is exemplified in numerous aspects of her past and present history. It will be enough to instance her recognition of three, and three only, Oecumenical Councils, the small number of the dogmas upon which she insists as necessary to salvation, her estimate and use of the sacraments, her hierarchical system, the strong influence of her laity in deliberation and administration, the dependence of her clergy upon voluntary offerings, her so-called dominical festivals, her special hagiology, and the democratical spirit which has endeared her to the nation.

It is probable that no other book gives so clear an account of the Church of Armenia in so brief a space as that of Mgr. Ormanian. If I do not mistake it, it will create in the minds of Anglican Churchmen not only a keen sympathy with the Church of Armenia, but a stronger confidence than ever in the strength of their own ecclesiastical position as accordant with the spirit and practice of the Christian Churches which are not merged in the Church of Rome, and as justified not only by ecclesiastical history, but by the Spirit and Will of Jesus Christ Himself.


March 16th, 1912

To acquire the book, please visit http://booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=861


La Jérusalem Nouvelle et les Premiers Sanctuaires Chrétiens de L'Arménie

The author is a very reliable guide through the documents. The book therefore starts with Eusebius’ dedication sermon at Tyre, connecting the church with the Temple – not the Jerusalem Temple on earth but its model, the one in heaven. Synagogues were also connected with the heavenly Temple, although the author does not say so. The Beth Alphaa mosaic, for instance, has angels on the nave floor and in the picture of the sanctuary (see cover of Strata), and the simplest explanation is that this synagogue too represented the heavenly Temple. It was also true of Constantine’s church on Golgotha. But the area, which was known as Golgotha long before, already had a building on it – the Temple of Aphrodite: this being the principal reason for pulling the shrine to Aphrodite down. During the clearing of the site an unexpected event took place. The Tomb of Christ was discovered, and the author accepts the statements of Eusebius (Vita Const. 3.30.4) and Sozomen, who lived in about 400 CE (Hist. Eccles. 2.1.5), that inside it were pieces of the cross. She thus rejects as legendary their finding by Helena. The rock, now revered as the site of Golgotha, as Gibson and Taylor have said, is far too small for three crosses, and a wider area for Golgotha is also implied by calling the Martyrium, to use the words of Egeria, the ‘Great Church built by Constantine on Golgotha behind the Cross’. So what is the Rock of Calvary containing the cross itself? The author, judging perhaps from the unsuitability of the site, thinks that it must commemorate another miracle, and suggests Cyril’s luminous cross which extended fromtheMount of Olives to the Anastasis. But there is no need to suggest such a miracle. The cross may have been there since the first arrangement of Golgotha. In my mind it served as a focus for the whole Golgotha area, and, according to Egeria (Itin. 37.5) the people who looked at this cross during Holy Week thought simply of the suffering Christ.

Vałaršapat, or Ēĵmiacin, the present seat of the patriarch, had been ruined and burnt to the ground by the Persians in the 360s. The city included four holy places, according to the Vision of St. Gregory: the Mother Church, the places where the first virgins were martyred and the oil-press where they lived. St. Sahak rebuilt the churches and dedicated them between 414 and 417 CE. But at almost the same time (417 to 435 CE according to Charles Renoux) the Armenian Church adopted the calendar of Jerusalem. This meant a change in the church year, but it also implied a need to get some parallel holy places linking Vałaršapat and Jerusalem. So the four churches were given parallels from Jerusalem. The church farthest to the east, St. Hrip’simē, was the Eleona. The oil-press was the church of Gethsemane, which is Aramaic for ‘oil-press’. TheMother Church was the Basilica of Constantine, now the Holy Sepulchre, and the one to the south, St. Gayanē, was Holy Sion. The book ends with a study of theMother Church of Ēĵmiacin. Anahit Sahinyan was the only archaeologist allowed to excavate the church, and he was working in the 1950s, since when there have been many improvements to archaeological method. Sahinyan concluded that the present church was founded at the end of the 5th century. Garibian de Vartavan shows that very little is known about the history of the church, apart from the fact (or legend) that it was founded by the first missionary to Armenia, St. Gregory the Illuminator. If this is true it ranks as a famous church, but the history of its restoration and repairs is almost completely lacking. At the beginning of the 5th century St. Sahak did some repairs (which are unknown), in 487 CE VahanMamikonean had to do some more repairs to stabilise the church, and by 618 the Catholicos Komitas changed the wooden roof into one built of stone. This is all the information available and highlights how great our need is for comparable studies on other famous Armenian churches, I hope by someone as reliable as Garibian de Vartavan.

This is an excellent book, not least because it fearlessly offers new and convincing interpretations of the documents.

To acquire the book visit http://www.booksfromarmenia.com/item.php?item_id=952&cur=USD

John Wilkinson

Former Director, British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem