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Unknown Heroines of Mush

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#1 Yervant1


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Posted 01 July 2013 - 10:18 AM

Unknown Heroines of Mush

Updated: June 25, 2013

By Joseph Dagdigian

In Venice, in 1512, manuscript lover Hagop Meghapart printed the first
Armenian book, the Urbatagirk prayer book, giving birth to the art of
Armenian printing. Prior to this Armenian manuscripts were laboriously
hand written, copied, and illustrated by scribes. Last year, 2012,
Armenians celebrated the 500th anniversary of Armenian printing with a
number of events. One of these events was the establishment of a
monument commemorating the heroic rescue of the Msho Jarntir, Homilies
of Mush, manuscript in Armenia's capital of Yerevan.

During the 1915 Genocide of the Armenians, Turkey not only was intent
on destroying the Armenian population in Western Armenia, it also
attempted to erase from the Turkish occupied Armenian homeland any
remnants of Armenian civilization - including cultural monuments,
libraries, monasteries, and manuscripts. Two women, both from Mush,
whose names as far as I know are unknown, determined that a priceless
Armenian manuscript which they found in the ruins of Mush's Surb
Arakelots Monastery must be rescued. The manuscript was huge, 22
inches wide and 27 inches long, weighing 61 pounds. The women divided
the manuscript into two parts, each endeavoring to transport their
half to the relative safety of Eastern (Caucasian) Armenia. Probably
not knowing if they, their families, Mush, or even Armenia would
survive the horrors of the Genocide, they determined that this
religious, cultural, and literary treasure must live to see another
day. It is not even known if these women were literate. This book was
and is a part of Armenia's cultural heritage. One woman succeeded in
delivering her half of the book to Holy Echmiadzin. The other woman
did not survive her journey. Reaching Erzurum, she buried her half of
the manuscript in a monastery there, and subsequently died. Later a
Russian soldier found this half of the book and ultimately both halves
of the book were reunited in Armenia's manuscript repository, the
Matenadaran, in Yerevan.

In the Matenadaran's display room the Msho Jarntir - Homilies of Mush,
the largest manuscript in the Matenadaran's collection, is on display
next to the smallest manuscript in the Matenadaran's collection. These
and numerous other ancient manuscripts may be viewed by visitors, and
photographed (without flash) for a small fee.

The monument commemorating the rescue of the Homilies of Mush may be
seen on the greenway near the intersection of Teryan and Moskovyan
streets in Yerevan. The monument depicts the Msho Jarntir and two
women rescuers.

A homily is a story or sermon intended to set a moral example without
delving into detailed religious or theological issues. The Homilies of
Mush was written in the Avag Monastery in Yerzinga, Western Armenia,
around 1200-1202. It was commissioned by a man named Astavatsadur,
perhaps a wealthy merchant, who was killed during the Mongol - Tatar
invasion of Armenia. Through a series of events the manuscript ended
up in Mush. It miraculously survived the Genocide, and was rescued by
two women - cultural heroes of Armenia.
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