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The Treasures of Holy Echmiadzin. 1700 years of Christianity in Armenia
June 21, 2000 - August 27, 2000

The exhibition in the State Hermitage Museum features examples of manuscripts, metal objects, carved stone and embroidery. A peculiar common feature of the works of Armenian art is the fact that they bear inscriptions containing information about the time of creation, authors, those who commisioned or owned these works of art or restorers. The art of making books as well as architecture occupied a central place in the spiritual life of the Christian Armenia. Books were spreading and protecting Christianity, language and history. Manuscripts of the 13th - 16th centuries displayed at the exhibition are wonderful examples of the art of making books in Armenia that was notable for the high quality of parchment, skillful calligraphy, combination of different types, sizes of types, ink of various colours, usage of gold and rythmical composition of pages with texts. Mount of the books were made of silver and gold, were decorated with precious and semiprecious stones of different colours. Two of the four mounts on display are the only golden mounts preserved till today.
A substantial group of monuments on display consists of the reliquaries with relics of Christian and Armenian saints. Among these are a particle of the Holy Cross, the Cross of the king Ashot Erkat, hands of the saints Thaddeus, Grigory the Enlightener, Jacob Mtsbinsky (Nizibinsky) and other relics of the Church of Armenia. There is a legend connected with the name of Jacob Mtsbinsky telling that he let down a piece of the Noah's Ark represented at the exhibition in the reliquary of 1698 from the Ararat mountain. A wonderful example of a reliquary is a masterpiece of the medieval plastics in metal called "Hotakerats Surb Nshan" (A Holy Cross from the cloister in Hotakerats) where a particle of the Holy Cross of Our Saviour is kept. It was made in 1300 in Vaiots-Dzor by the commission of Eachi Proshian.
A unique example of a reliquary that synthesizes all types of reliquaries - a tryptich, a hand and a cross - is the reliquary of St. Ovanes Karapet (John the Baptist) made of gold and precious stones. The exhibition also features objects used for religious services executed in different art centres (Vaspurakan-Van, Bardzr, Aik-Karin (Erzrum), Ani (Middle Ages), Tokat (Eudokia), Sabastia, Van, Caesaria, Constaninopol, Tiflis (In the 15th - 19th centuries), Nort-Dzhuga) in the 10th - 19th centuries. Quite rich is the exhibiton of the liturgy attire of the Armenian Church, bishop's attire in particular. All parts of the garments are artistacally and skillfully, sometimes even uniquely, made examples of Armenian needle-work. Croziers and finger decorations of the priests are also beautiful samples of jewellery art represented at the exhibition.


The Skevr reliquary
Larger view


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Related Links:
The official homepage of the State Hermitage Museum: www.hermitagemuseum.org

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