Bishop Drtad Balian was the Bishop of Caesarea/Gesaria/Կեսարիա (modern-day Kayseri in Turkey) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Living during the time of famous hierarchs like Khrimian Hayrig and Malachia Ormanian (the author of the monumental ecclesial-national history the Azgabadum/Ազգապատում), Bishop Balian is a somewhat forgotten figure. In addition to the work of shepherding his flock during a tumultuous period that included the Hamidian Massacres (1894-1896), the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 and the Second Constitutional Era, including the “Counter-Revolution” of 1909, Bishop Balian transformed the education of the region. One of his first acts after being elected primate of the Diocese of Gesaria in 1887 was to improve the old monastery school, known as Zharangavorats Varzharan, at Surp Garabed Monastery outside of the city in the village of Efkere. He created a “high school” and significantly improved the quality of the curriculum, hiring highly qualified teachers. The school remained open until 1915.
As Bishop of Gesaria, Bishop Balian was also the abbot of the Surp Garabed/Սուրբ Կարապետ Monastery—many of the dioceses of historical Armenia and the provinces of the Ottoman Empire where Armenians had lived for centuries were administered not from churches in the big cities, but from the oldest and most renowned monasteries of the region. For instance, Mkrtich Khrimian, eventually known affectionately as “Hayrig” (a diminutive form of father), in his early years served as the Prelate of Van, where he was also the abbot of the famous Varakavank. Surp Garabed in Gesaria was not as famous as its counterpart in Mush, but it too had a venerable history, dating to at least the twelfth century. This Saturday, the Armenian Church commemorates the “Beheading of John the Baptist,” who is known as the Forerunner, in Armenian Garabed. Many churches were named for St. John the Baptist, and a few important monasteries were known as Surp Garabed. Surp Garabed in Gesaria was one of these, and one that was first mentioned in a manuscript in 1206. As an old and important monastery, it contained an impressive library with over 2000 printed books and over 200 manuscripts.
Bishop Balian, born on September 30, 1850 in Talas, received an excellent education at the Mesrobian School in Smyrna/Izmir, and then joined the Brotherhood of St. James in Jerusalem, where he became a Vartabed in 1881 and served as the director of the printing-house and library until his election as Prelate of Gesaria in 1887. Coming from this academic background, we can understand his emphasis on education. He also wrote several books, including a book on Armenian Monasteries that gives many of the details about the monastery of St. Garabed mentioned above. In addition to this book on monasteries, Bishop Balian also clearly took advantage of the impressive library at Surp Garabed Monastery in Gesaria, because he catalogued the manuscripts there. He paid particular attention to the manuscripts with impressive illustrations (known as illuminations). In addition to the manuscripts at Surp Garabed, he catalogued monasteries at the nearby St. Daniel monastery. A small catalogue of the manuscripts in these monasteries was published in 1963 by the Mkhitarist fathers in Vienna. Bishop Balian left Gesaria for Manisa, near Smyrna/Izmir in 1910 to be with his family. He continued his scholarship there until the war between Turkey and Greece forced him to flee to Greece in 1922. He died in Athens on July 2, 1923.
Beyond the small catalogue published in 1963 by the Vienna Mkhitarist Brotherhood, while Bishop Balian was still Primate of the Diocese of Gesaria, he published a larger Catalogue of Armenian Manuscripts in Turkey. While this work is more ambitious, the smaller work is closer to the usual form a catalogue of manuscripts takes. Of course, a catalog is simply a complete list of items—the Zohrab Information Center’s catalog, available online, continues to grow as new books and donations are added to the system. Libraries and scriptoria (where manuscripts were copied) have produced catalogs for centuries—the famed ancient Library of Alexandria had a catalog produced by Callimachus. Known as the Pinakes, Callimachus compiled it around 235 BC, and it is known as the first library catalog in history. Catalogs of manuscripts of specific monasteries and libraries are incredibly important for scholars. Not only do they help reconstruct the reading practices of specific sites and therefore produce a history of scholarship, a good catalog of manuscripts also notes the specific titles that might have been bound together in a single volume, whether there are illuminations, and what the colophons—statements at the end of the text by scribes or later owners—say. Catalogs of manuscripts like Balian’s of St. Garabed and St. Daniel monasteries are therefore invaluable sources!
|Tsʻutsʻak hayerēn tsʻeṛagrats Vanutsʻ S. Karapeti ew S. Daniēli i Kesaria||Compiled by Bishop Drtad Balian, this is a list of the manuscripts in the collection of Surp Garabed of Gesaria and the nearby monastery of St. Daniel. In Armenian. At the Library of Congress.|
|Mayr tsʿutsʿak dzeṛagratsʿ Srbotsʿ Hakobeantsʿ||The meticulous and incredible 11-volume catalogue of Armenian manuscripts in the collection of the Monastery of St. James, compiled by Archbishop Norayr Pogharean. In Armenian.|
|Armenian Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery||Many Armenian manuscripts ended up in private collections or public museums around the world. In America, the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore holds several beautifully illuminated Armenian manuscripts. Sirarpie Der Nersessian, one of the great figures in Armenian art history, prepared this beautiful book full of illustrations, highlighting and discussing the Armenian manuscripts in the collection.|
Catalogs like Bishop Balian’s are so important because the two monasteries of St. Garabed and St. Daniel no longer exist. His and similar catalogs, such as the collection of colophons by Catholicos Karekin Hovsepian, therefore help reconstruct the intellectual life of Armenia before the Genocide. In some cases, such as a description of an important manuscript on the khaz system of musical notation that was held at the Monastery of St. Daniel, these publications and catalogs are the only information we have about certain manuscripts. However, even when the libraries still exist, for the reasons stated above, catalogs of manuscripts are incredibly important and valuable sources of scholarship.
This is especially true for the giant collections of manuscripts at institutions like the Matenadaran, the Monastery of St. James at the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem, and the Mkhitarist Brotherhood on the Island of San Lazzaro in Venice. These three institutions have the largest three collections of Armenian manuscripts in the world, respectively. We have mentioned them before as incredible stewards of these precious Armenian manuscripts and of the Armenian Christian tradition more broadly. Each of them has relatively complete catalogs, which are invaluable sources in their own right. First, for scholars who cannot easily visit these collections, the catalogs provide some important basic information about the manuscripts. Second, as mentioned earlier, often several texts were bound into a single volume. Therefore, if one was interested in a particular text, the catalog helps locate, say, the commentaries on the writing of St. Gregory of Nazianzus within a particular manuscript. Finally, given the size of these institutions—the smallest of these three, in Venice, has over 3000 complete manuscripts and another 2000 fragments—the catalogs are simply indispensable in using the libraries and locating texts. There are still many unpublished Armenian texts, meaning they exist only in manuscript form. Therefore, in many cases, the catalogs are the only published accounts of some Armenian texts!
Nearly a century after Bishop Drtad Balian was the director of the library and publishing house at St. James Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem, Archbishop Norayr Pogharean (Bogharian) began the project that would become his life’s work: an exhaustive catalog of the approximately 4000 manuscripts held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This collection of manuscripts is the second largest in the world, second only to the Matenadaran in Yerevan. In 1950, then Father Bogharian was appointed as the Librarian of the Manuscript Library, held at the St. Toros Church behind the Cathedral of St. James. According to a short biography prepared by S.P. Cowe, he held the post of “manuscript keeper” since December 1949. He was consecrated a Bishop on July 8, 1951 and was made an Archbishop by Catholicos Karekin I in 1973. As Michael Stone notes in a 1969 article on the library, at the time there had been a few earlier attempts at cataloging the impressive collection, most recently the first attempt at a comprehensive catalog by Archbishop Artawazd Surmeyan, the first volume of which was published in 1948. Bishop Bogharian modified, updated, and continued this work. Eventually, in 1966, the first volume of Bogharian’s catalog was published. From 1966 on, as Bishop Bogharian meticulously catalogued the manuscripts, additional volumes were published. Eventually, the project was completed with the publication of Volume 11 in 1991. These 11 volumes are not merely listings of the manuscripts themselves, but a detailed examination of the illuminations, colophons, included texts, and other details in each manuscript in the collection. The catalog is an invaluable resource and an incredible legacy left by Bishop Bogharian, who passed away in 1996.
In addition to these major Armenian collections, Armenian manuscripts have found their way to numerous libraries, museums, and private collections around the world. Universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles and Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, have significant holdings of Armenian manuscripts. The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. are two of the museums in the United States that have Armenian manuscripts in their collection. Sirarpie Der Nersessian, one of the great figures in Armenian Art History, prepared books that are not only catalogs of the manuscripts in these two collections, but brilliant art historical studies in their own right. Some of the catalogs for these collections, or in some cases even digitized versions of a selection of the manuscripts are available online. This guide from the library of the University of California, Berkeley, can point you to catalogs and manuscripts available online. Catalogues, as a way of organizing and presenting information of libraries and collections of manuscripts are phenomenal sources and ways to access forgotten or difficult-to-find texts in the Armenian Christian and Armenian literary tradition!
Follow the Zohrab Information Center on Instagram @zohrabcenter for more images of beautiful manuscripts mentioned in the catalogs described this week! Don’t forget to like us on Facebook! And check out @vemkarofficial, the new Instagram of Vemkar. Join us there for a weekly “ZIC Challenge.”