The Armenian Bible is considered among one of the most significant bibles in Europe. Written and illuminated in the sixteenth century, the manuscript features twenty-six lavishly illuminated full-page miniatures consistent with the Armenian rules of book painting, representing one of the few example that survived time reaching modern days.
Written in a bolorgir style script in a two-column structure, the manuscript displays an annotation on the first leaf indicating that the work was created in 1614 near Edessa, Mesopotamia.
Iconographic Apparatus: a Profusion of Gold
In terms of iconographic apparatus, the manuscript displays a profuse use of gold both in the full-page miniatures (fols. 1v-26r) – featuring great finesse of execution and vividness thanks to the colors used – and in the border decorations.
The beginning of each gospel is provided with a full-page miniature of the related evangelist (Matthew fol. 27v, Mark fol. 110v, Luke fol. 162v, and John fol. 244v).
Interestingly, the Armenian Bible is lacking a colophon – a precious dating element – which makes the dating process more difficult. At the end of John's Gospel a date has been added with a different ink from the rest of the text, leading to consider the annotation somewhat suspect.
Armenian Bible: a Gift for a Pope
Although the commissioner remains unknown, what is certain is that the manuscript was donated by Abraham Petros Ardzivian, first Catholic patriarch from Armenia, to Pope Benedict XIV, on occasion of the consecration of the former in 1742.
It was later brought to Bologna as it belonged to the private collection of Cardinal Lambertini (Pope Benedict XIV), who was originally from Bologna and who donated it to his hometown.
Unlike most manuscripts, the Armenian Bible has retained its original binding which features silver covers both featuring a Greek cross. Additionally, the binding is characterized by a flap and mesh straps – fastened to the back cover – ending with a rosetta-shaped decoration.