The Mekhitarist congregation will be celebrating the bicentenary of its foundation in Vienna in 2011. To mark the occasion, the Vienna monastery – one of the largest centres of Armenian culture outside of Armenia – will present the facsimile of an invaluable manuscript: Codex 543 from the monastery’s own library.
The small-format manuscript – one of the finest and most beautiful of Armenian manuscripts dating back to the 15th century – measures 135×85 mm, has 240 pages and was set down in 1432 at the Armenian Monastery of Saint Anthony near Caffa on the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea. The manuscript contains several writings by Catholicos Nerses IV Shnorhali (1102-1173), including his opus magnum “Jesus, Son Only-Begotten of the Father”, a sublime elegiac poem.
Nerses Shnorhali (the Gracious) descended, on his mother’s side, from the noted princely Armenian family of Pahlavuni which had given the country several statesmen but also 7 catholicoi who succeeded each other from 1065 to 1202.
Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali -theologian, poet and musician- became an industrious writer in the field of theology, poetry, hymn, homily, prayers, sacred music, lettres, educational writings, parables, riddles, etc.
He was a pioneer of church union. After many years of preparation (correspondence and meeting with Byzantine Emperor Manuel I, Patriarch Michael and Prince Alex), he hoped to accomplish the union with the Greek Church, but did not have the time to carry it through.
Codex 543 comprises “11 full-page miniatures, 11 text-inserted miniatures, 24 border miniatures, 3 decorated pages, 3 title bars, zoomorphous and vegetal border decoration as well as swash letters…
Taken as a whole, the small codex presents itself as an illuminated manuscript of delicate, meticulous beauty.
Two versions of the Codex 543 facsimile will be published as limited edition:
Complete facsimile – limited to a numbered edition of only 300 copies, printed on parchment with manually retraced ornaments, gilding. Hand bound in sheepskin on wooden boards, with blind embossing and two metal fasteners, packed in a casket made of cherry wood and accompanied by a digital edition on CD and the commentary.
2. Partial facsimile – colour print with added gold on parchment, hand bound in imitation leather, together with the digital edition.
The facsimile manuscript is accompanied by a commentary in German and English.

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