Monday, January 31, 2011

The Armenian Matenadaran Manuscript Museum

On 19 Jan 2011, or last Wednesday I visited the Armenian Matenadaran Manuscript Museum in Yerevan at the recommendation of one of the host nation's coordinators. He was kind enough to assist me with directions, calling ahead for a tour guide, arranging a taxi and even assisting me by opening the taxi door! He has been extremely kind and helpful during this trip. The Matenadaran is impressive from the outside with large stone statues representing the great Armenian philosophers, historians, mathematicians and artists with a large one in the center representing Mesrop Mashtots.

The start of the museum trip was a little confusing due to the language barrier and the initial structure of the ancient manuscript museum but once I met the tour guide it was wonderful. She was very knowledgeable and perhaps just as important; she was open to my questions and had a great sense of humor. She was so tiny that she could simply lean over the cases while I had to bend at the waist! On an interesting note upon approaching the tour guide area I noticed an older woman sitting at the desk knitting on some very pretty color work. I could not see the pattern at first and assumed it must be some intricate pattern unique to the area. Imagine my surprise and sheepish embarrassment when I saw the knitting chart, it was Spiderman! With her next work charts, Donald and Daffy Duck on the desk next to her. I am glad the language barrier prevented me from commenting my initial impression to the woman before seeing her chart, though even if I had mentioned it I would have been happy to laugh at my silly mistake. I think it so interesting when you travel to find that a new country you find so different can be at the same so similar.

The tour and entrance fee cost about 2,500 drams, the equivalent of about 8 dollars and what I learned from the tour experience was worth so much more. Whenever traveling I always try to pay for a tour led by a citizen of the country you are in, you learn so much! At the Matenadaran I learned all about the miniature art detailed on the various ancient manuscripts and the rules associated with the art and the penalties for breaking these rules. For example in Armenia you will not find a religious manuscript with an image the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) because in the Bible Jesus was the only one to see both the father and Holy Ghost together. When viewing the story of Genesis you can determine the country where the art was created based on whether the serpent has a human face or wings (characteristic of Greek or roman) or is represented simply by a serpent. Another way to identify the story of Genesis as coming from Armenia is if Adam and Eve are clothed or naked. In Armenia prior to eating the fruit of the tree of good and evil many miniatures represent them as clothed rather than naked. The Armenian thought process is that prior to the tree they were clothed in godliness and afterwards there were stripped bare, and often darker in skin though this darkening of the skin is not the current position of the Armenian church (as I was instructed).

I also learned of Armenia's strong religious heritage. One miniature in the museum demonstrated a battle and I was told at the time of this war the Persians were battling against Armenia and found that the best way to win the war was to convert the Armenian people to their religion. This religion was described to me as "aboriginal" the tour guides way of describing it is no longer an active religion. The tour guide explained that there was nothing dangerous in the religion the Persians were seeking to gain recruits for the bases of the belief was be good, do good and think good. By saying nothing dangerous I believe she meant nothing to contradict God however the Armenian's refused to convert unlike other neighboring countries that have since disappeared or been absolved into larger countries thereby losing their culture and history. She cited proudly that the Armenian people have never forsaken their faith and they belief that their current existence as a culture, country and people is credited to this faith in God. The guide was also very proud of their belief in an apostolic faith rather than Catholicism and the use of icons. She showed me several gospels with an ancient floral design in the margin as a seed and as the book progresses it becomes bigger and bigger. She said that the Armenians consider this to be the tree of knowledge and unlike the gospels of other religions that place icons in the margins the Armenians use this tree of knowledge to demonstrate as you read your knowledge grows and expands. She also explained how each of the four main apostles were represented by an ox/bull, lion, bird and a human face and that this is how they identify each gospel.

During the day I learned the origins of several different alphabets including the Armenian alphabet which is based on 36 different letters that each also represents a number. The alphabet was introduced around the 5th century and is arranged into 4 rows of 9. The 1st row represents 1-9, the second 10-90 and so on until they reach the 36th character. After the 36rh character a special character is introduced to continue increasing as the Armenian alphabet does not have a zero character. I also learned of the Armenian belief that National Spirit is worthy of more respect than any other politics. This was demonstrated in a work of miniature that shows one of their great scholars sitting on a chair near their King. The scholars chair was much larger to demonstrate that he is worthy of more respect than the politician. The Matenadaran also had secular books, though the predominant amounts of manuscripts are biblical. The tour guide indicated that the presence of these secular books is unique because at the time many Christian Churches had forbidden the translation of secular texts. Unlike these other Churches the Armenian Church allowed the copy and translation of secular texts which provides Armenian researchers with increased insight into the history of their country. I also viewed manuscripts on medicine, science and music and learned that the Armenians and their neighboring countries were some of the first to complete dissection and vivisection, believe that the earth was round and had a strong belief in herbal medicines. Unlike their western neighbors some scientists were expulsed by the Armenian Church for their scientific beliefs no one was killed for their beliefs.

While touring the visit I tried very hard to understand what the different types of miniature art meant, which seemed to surprise the tour guide. I learned that there are two types. The first type is ‘elite’ or ‘aristocratic’ and is characterized by gold, deep intense color and rules regarding how it must fit within the page border and a Romanesque flair for details. The second type is ‘country’ and does not typically have borders or use gold and has less details and color. Within these two categories you may see miniature art that is a combination or type of ‘country’ or ‘elite’ that breaks the rules. Such as an ‘elite’ miniature art that does not follow normal border requirements, or a ‘country’ miniature art that has a detailed border. These "innovations" were typically frowned upon and considered to break the rules. Visit here for more details:

Perhaps the most interesting part of the museum to me was the largest manuscripts in their collection. The manuscript called "The Homilies of Mush" weighed over 25 kilograms and its parchment was made from over 660 sheep. During the Genocide two women tried to save the manuscript by stealing it while fleeing the area. However the size (about 2 feet by 4 feet when opened) and weigh made it impossible and they slit the binding stealing only the half of the manuscript they could carry. The two women were caught and the manuscript half was taken by the Turks. Later the twentieth century a Russian had found the half that the women could not carry and provided it to the Matenadaran; this half is currently on display. The half taken from the two women who tried to preserve it was brought to the Armenians by a Turkish man and offered for sale it was purchased but the condition is so poor it cannot be displayed. This manuscript in particular spoke to me like none of the others because of its relation to the recent Genocide. I cannot imagine having to pay for a document that rightly belonged to my country and which had been taken by force from women who were most likely killed and the document in such bad shape that there was no doubt it had been badly abused. The idea seems so foreign and shocking to me that it makes me grateful to be an American, so privileged and blessed. That is the wonder of travel...learning about the big world so that you can appreciate your little world better.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Language Barriers

So I checked the spelling on the previous post and it looked something like this:

"I really love vintage pictures...even if they are not vintage."

Turns out my spell check is checking for spelling in Deutsch not the questions is how to fix it! It gave me a nice laugh and groan of frustration.

Vintage Photo Tutorial

So I really love vintage pictures...even if they are not vintage. I like taking a picture, aging it then pretending that I am a glamorous woman who really lived in the 1940's, or that the people I love are so well loved that I have preserved their pictures through time. If you love vintage pictures to then check out designer digitals new tutorial at The technique on this video seemed a little easy so I started looking up other tutorials and found a great link source at Check out my tutorial results!

Inspired by:
So I hope you will have fun checking out the photo editing links...especially Stacy if she reads this because she has Photoshop and I only brought Elements with me to Germany and cannot have as much fun as I would like *sob*...please feel sorry for me *grin*. Also to those of you who ask...I still do love my husband (he questioned the past tense) it just looked better on the comic strip like that!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Sweetest of Sweethearts

When I first met Shaun I must say I did not find him very sweet! It was only after several months that I began to realize the depth of his character and quiet strength. I often call these traits "sweet" which I think does not lend enough credence to what I am trying to convey with the word as "sweet" is used much too often.

I saw these character traits in Shaun while visiting Armenia when he saw a little puppy outside of the hotel door. There are stray dogs all over the city but this dog in particular is so sweet! He lays outside of the hotel often switching to different positions. I saw him today after returning from the museum and remembered that Shaun had mentioned how upset he was to see him the night before and that he had no food to give him. I quickly hurried upstairs to leave my bags so I could walk to the store to pick him up some food. I admonished myself as I ran to the store for possibly being silly but knew how much it would please Shaun and he is such a sweet little puppy.
We have since given the puppy more of food (his little tail wags each time!) and wish it was possible to take him home. I am happy I have such a thoughtful person for a husband who encourages and assists me in helping others less fortunate, even the world's little puppies...

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Duds for Eggs

Since we have moved Eggs needs new dog tags! I think I may have found the perfect tag, how cool is this mustache tag? I found it on Etsy (of course). When I showed it to Shaun this morning he liked it as well so little Egg may be sporting mustache tags very soon... I wonder if he will like them?

The Streets of Armenia

The sidewalks and streets here in Armenia are amazing. Unlike the streets in the U.S. each sidewalk has a different and distinct concrete tile design. I may be hit by a car before the week is over because I never look up.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Second Day in Armenia

Shaun and I spent our second day in Armenia visiting the Genocide memorial, the Yerevan stadium and several outdoor markets. The best market was near Republic Square and featured all kindsMy new painting of beautiful things! We purchased some items for my mom and some paintings for ourselves. The biggest surprise I have found in this city is all the art out on the streets, and the prices are simply amazing. Near the entrance to the market however there were various Yerevan residents who had spread blankets on the ground, old card tables and even the ledges on the various fountains and had spread various odd collections of items out for sale. Old records, door knobs, old wheels from sPictures taken from the market entrancetrollers, various head lamps for cars, electrical wire and even coins of different nationalities including American quarters and nickels. It was a very strange site that I have never seen before. The experience at the market was great and we even had a lot of fun haggling, though some we did not even try to haggle with. One Yerevan resident after seeing that I was American tried to sell me a tea cup for 20,000 the equivalent of 60 US dollars and the amount 5 adults would pay for a very expensive meal in the city...I walked away.
The most meaningful day to me, was the Genocide memorial. While there were beautiful monuments I found the best monument was a garden of trees that had been planted each with a plaque nearby detailing the person, country or organization that had given the memorial tree in honor of the victims oThe Genocide Tree Memorialf the 1915 genocide, some even bearing individual and family names. The plaques were from Greece, Russia, America, Iran, Canada, Romania and other countries. Some plaques detailed individual names such as Bob Dole and other Senators and Presidents. The overall effect was very moving and seemed much more meaningful in it's simplicity than some of the larger more showShaun withing the genocide monument and tribute to the lost Armenian tribes.y structures. As we left we past a grandmother with her two granddaughters they were all holding hands and walking amongst the various graves. The littlest granddaughter aged around four reached out and touched one of the gravestones, and the other aged around six, touched the face etched into the tombs head stone while the grandmother spoke. One of the members in our party remarked that she was most likely passing on the history to the next generation. This remark and the site of the little family really touched made me want to take the time to write down my memories so my grandchildren know their history and where they came from which is many times more important than any other schooling one receives.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...