The Armenian Gospel of War

The Armenian Gospel of WarThere are written pieces of evidence that only in the 19th century, the Armenian population saved the Gospel of Zeytun four times during the pogroms of Christians, punitive campaigns of Turkish pashas against rebellious people of Zeytun, and from natural disasters.

During raids on Zeytun, the Gospel was being taken out from its temple for Armenian warriors to take an oath on it to fight to the last drop of their blood.

Zeytuntsi Harutyun Ter-Ghazaryan, who had found shelter in Marash after being expelled from his homeland in 1915, was able to take the Gospel out of the “fire” and pass it on to his sisters. By that time, among Armenians, this manuscript was known as the “Gospel of War”. If we count the four cases we mentioned earlier, this would be the fifth event of the salvation of the sacred scriptures.

During the retreat from Marash, Armenians got shot at by the Turks, and one of Harutyun’s sisters dropped the Gospel. Later, the Gospel was found by one Turk and was handed over to the leader of Marash.

This was the sixth case of the salvation of the Gospel. But after that, eight pages containing miniatures created by Armenian manuscript illuminator Toros Roslin disappeared from it.

The Gospel of Zeytun was created by Roslin by the order of Catholicos of all Armenians Konstantin the First Bardzraberdtsi. Under the patronage of Konstantin, Roslin created many other works as well that would be included into the treasury of the Armenian miniature art.

Twenty years later in New York, Archbishop Garegin Hovsepyan discovered the disappeared pages of the Gospel in the Goethe Museum. After long trials, the court decided that the pages belonged to the Cilician Catholicosate, but Catholicos Aram I was obliged to transfer them to the Goethe Museum for storage. This episode is considered the seventh salvation of the manuscript.

Thirty years later, in the 1970s, one Turkish Armenian who wished to remain anonymous, risking his life, became the owner of the Gospel of War and delivered it to the Catholicos of All Armenians Vazgen I in Etchmiadzin. Vazgen I then presented the book to the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts – Matenadaran. And this is the eighth salvation of the parchment manuscript.

But the story of the Gospel of War may have a continuation. The brilliant works of Toros Roslin – the eight pages with miniatures – will return to the Gospel, and all the pages together will form the last, ninth page of the salvation of the Gospel.


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