1700 Years of Armenian Christian Art

Treasures from the Ark: 1700 Years of Armenian Christian Art

Vrej Nersessian


240 pages

PDF file size: 117 MB


Armenia was the first country to recognize Christianity as the official state religion in 301 AD, twelve years before Constantine’s decree granting tolerance to Christianity within the Roman Empire. Ever since, Armenia has claimed the privilege of being the first Christian nation, and the wealth of Christian art produced in Armenia since then is testimony to the fundamental importance of the Christian faith to the Armenian people.

This extensive new survey of Armenian Christian art, published to accompany a major exhibition at The British Library, celebrates the Christian art tradition in Armenia during the last 1700 years. The extraordinary quality and range of Armenian art that is documented here includes sculpture, metalwork, textiles, ceramics, wood carvings and illuminated manuscripts and has been drawn together from collections throughout the world.

In his authoritative text, Dr. Vrej Nersessian, Curator at The British Library, charts the development of Christianity in Armenia. This fascinating history is essential to an understanding of the art and religious tradition of Armenia, a country in which the sense of the sacred extends well beyond the purely religious, infiltrating the entire fabric of Armenian affairs to create a fascinating culture.

This sumptuously illustrated book will be of immense value to anyone with an interest in Byzantine art and culture, the history of Christianity, and the history of Armenia and the Middle Orient.

Table of Contents

  • Message from His Holiness Garegin II
  • Message from the Archbishop of Canterbury
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction by Professor Robin Cormack
  • Chapter One: The Conversion of Armenia to Christianity
    • The Land
    • The Spread of Christianity in Armenia
    • The Date of Armenia’s Conversion to Christianity
    • Apostolicity and Christian Missions
    • Monasticism and the Role of the Armenian Monasteries in Armenian Christianity
  • Chapter Two: The Christological Position of the Armenian Church
    • The Council of Chalcedon
    • The Armenian Church and the Council of Chalcedon
  • Chapter Three: The Armenian Church within Christendom
    • Armenian-Byzantine Church Relations
    • Armenian-Byzantine Church Relations at the Time of the Armenian Cilician Kingdom
    • The Armenian Church and the Papacy at the Time of the Armenian Cilician Kingdom
    • The Armenian Church in Contemporary Times
  • Chapter Four: Sacred Art in Theology and Worship
    • The Holy Scriptures
    • The Theology of Armenian Christian Art Portraits
    • The Canon Tables: Theology of Colour and Ornamentation
    • The Nature of Image Veneration in Armenia
  • Notes
  • Catalogue
    • Sculpture
    • Metalworks
    • Textiles
    • Carved Wood
    • Ceramics
    • Firmans
    • Manuscripts
  • Bibliography
  • Exhibition Catalogues
  • Lenders to the Exhibition
  • Index

About the Authors

Dr. Vrej Nersessian is Curator of Armenian Collections at the British Library. His previous publications include Catalogue of Early Armenian Books (The British Library, 1980), Armenian Illuminated Gospel Books (The British Library 1987), Armenia (World Bibliographical Series vol. l63; Clio Press, 1993), A Bibliography of Articles on Armenian Studies in Western Journals 1869-1995 (Curzon Press, 1997) and the Bible in the Armenian Tradition (The British Library, 2001). He is curator of the exhibition Treasures from the Ark: 1700 Years of Armenian Christian Art.