Yerevan Matenadaran – a unique storage of ancient manuscripts, a museum and the Institute of Mesrop Mashtots under the government of the Republic of Armenia is one of the treasures of world culture. The manuscripts stored here are of primary importance for studying the history and culture of Armenia, Transcaucasia, a number of other countries. The most ancient monuments of this unique collection date back to the 5th century, when the foundations of the Armenian national writing were laid.
The history of Matenadaran is very long. It dates back to the 5th century. At the residence of the supreme patriarch of Armenia the first writings were kept. In the following centuries, its funds were enriched with hundreds of manuscripts, and it became the country’s richest book depository.
The most favourable conditions for the Matenadaran were created in 1828, after the annexation of Eastern Armenia to Russia: the onset of a peaceful time in the history of Armenia made it possible to put in order funds, issue catalogues of manuscripts and begin to study the works of ancient Armenian authors. The establishment of Soviet power in Armenia brought a new period in the history of that unique place.
Today Matenadaran is a research institute of ancient manuscripts. Here, a lot of work is done to successfully study and publish primary sources, their scientific storage and restoration. Matenadaran also performs museum functions.
In 1957 the new construction was made on the north-eastern slopes of Yerevan and now we enjoy the view which faces the facade to one of the most beautiful highways of the city – Mesrop Mashtots Avenue. It is sustained in the style of medieval Armenian architecture. On the square, in front of the building, a monument (author G. Chubaryan) Mesrop Mashtots (361-440) is installed – an outstanding scientist and thinker of ancient Armenia, the creator of the Armenian alphabet (405).
To the left of the sculpture of Mashtots, on the basalt wall, the Armenian alphabet is carved (despite the past 15 centuries, it has not changed and continues to serve the needs of the Armenian language and literature), on the right is a bas-relief: an eagle and a sword, personifying the wisdom and strength of the people.
On the wall the first sentence is also carved. It was written by Mesrop Mashtots: “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand the dictum of the mind”.
In the years of timelessness, when Armenia was losing independence in the fight against formidable enemies, the national script and culture became an important factor in the struggle against spiritual enslavement and assimilation.
The facade of the Matenadaran is adorned with monuments to the outstanding figures of science and culture of ancient and medieval Armenia – the historian-writer of the 5th century Movses Khorenatsi, thinker and mathematician Anania Shirakatsi, a lawyer and a fabulist of the 12th century Mkhitar Gosh, a philosopher of the fourteenth century Grigor Tatevatsi, a poet of the 13th century.Frick, a miniature painter of the 13th century Toros Roslin.
Armenian manuscripts shared the plight of their creators. Some of them keep on themselves traces of fires, saber blows and blood. In an hour of hard trials they were rescued as a rare relic; hid in caves, buried in the ground, redeemed from captivity.
As a result of foreign invasions, wars and looting, many valuable monuments of the Armenian manuscript culture were lost (only the Seljuks in 1170 destroyed over 10,000 manuscripts). The survived number is approximately 25,000 manuscript volumes. They are kept in different, museums and book depositories of the world: in Jerusalem, Venice, Vienna, Paris, London. The Yerevan Matenadaran has over 11,000 volumes and 3,000 fragments.
Among the surviving Armenian manuscripts the most ancient is the 7th-century Gospel written on parchment. Only fragments were preserved (many of them in the form of protective leaf sheets attached to the covers of manuscripts). One of them was buried in the ground, and the subsoil water for centuries cemented it.
There are also palimpsests in the Matenadaran’s collections – manuscripts written repeatedly on parchment according to the previously erased text. One of them, the Sanasaryans Gospel, was written in 986. Based on paleographic features, the lower layer of the record dates back to the 5th century.
In addition to the manuscript fund, there is an archival department in Matenadaran, where more than 100,000 documents of the 14 – 19 centuries are picked: letters, decrees, contracts, bills and letters containing rich material on the history of political and socio-economic life in Armenia and neighbouring countries.
In the department of the old printed literature the first Armenian printed book is kept. Its name is the “Explanatory Calendar”. And it was published in 1512 in Venice by the first printer Hakob, and the first Armenian magazine – “Azdarar” (“Bulletin”). It was published at the end of the XVIII century in Madras (India).
The Matenadaran library also contains rare books, magazines and newspapers published in the 16th-20th centuries.
Matenadaran Ticke Pprice
• Adult Ticket – 1000 Drams
The explanations are given in 8 languages (Armenian, Russian, English, Italian, Spanish, French, German and Arabic).
• Explanations in other languages for groups up to 10 persons – 2500 Drams
• Explanations in other languages for groups up to 30 persons – 5000 Drams
Taking photos – 2500 Drams ( No flash allowed)
Matenadaran Opening Hours
The Matenadaran works every day besides Sundays, Mondays and holidays, from 10.00 to 17.00