Georgian Manuscripts in the European Depositories (National Library of France)

Georgian manuscript tradition was not created in a closed space. Founded in the depth of Christianity it was closely connected with medieval eastern Christian space. Cultural and political interest brought Georgian scribes to historical Syria-Palestine as early as 5th century and later - to Byzantium, in the 10th and 11th centuries founded own Georgian monasteries at the Mount Athos (Iviron), Jerusalem (Monastery of the Cross) and Bachkovo (Petritsoni, in present-day Bulgaria) [Menabde, 1980]; it also provided the spread of Georgian manuscripts in big monastic centers of the Christian East. Even today these collections are kept at the Mt. Athos, Sinai and Greek patriarchate book depositories of Jerusalem. From the late Middle Ages great interest of the Europeans for the Christian East led to the appearance of the Georgian manuscripts in the old depositories of Europe of which one of the important scientific centre is the National Library of France.

In the National Library of France the first copy of Georgian manuscript book entered in the first half of the 18th century. Since that time this fund had been gradually filled by missioners, political figures or private persons. Nowadays this collection hosts 32 entries, two of which are French manuscripts - catalogues compiled by Victor Langluas and Leon Feer while making an inventory in 1865 and 1897. Naturally, to conduct such kind of work was an extremely difficult task because the compilers had to date and establish the origin of cultural monuments practically unknown to them. It should be mentioned that great assistance in this matter was rendered by French expert in Georgian studies - Marie Brosset. Even today some entries of this collection are supplied with Brosset's interpretations to say nothing about scholarly publications of the monuments [Brosset, 1830, 113-128; 1833; 1834,1837] .

In 1908 the first short printed French catalogue appeared. Its compiler, French Armenologist Frederic Makler was based on already existed manuscript catalogues of the Collection, Brosset's notes and A.Khakhanashvili's descriptive data [Makler,1908, Khakhanashvili, 1898]. However, the catalogue failed to avoid inaccuracies especially when it concerned the issues of the essence, date and origin of those manuscripts which had not been scientifically studied and based only on the suppositions expressed by some scholars.

The first and the only scholarly description existed in Georgian language till now which regards the precise essence, date and historical and philological issues of another order belongs to Eqvtime Taqaishvili who published this work in 1933 in Paris [Taqaishvili, 1933]1[1]. This publication deals with 28 Georgian entries kept at the Library's funds. By this description Georgian scholarly society got acquainted with this collection. It became quite obvious that it contained rather significant item of gerogian manuscript books the study of which would essentially fill the research results of not only old Georgian writing but generally, the history of Christian writing. Such opportunity has been given to Georgian historical and philological science since the seventies of the 20th century after the assistance of the residents of France Nino and Kalistrate Salias and under the leadership of Helen Metreveli, the director of the Institute of Manuscripts on the basis of agreement with the Library the Institute of Manuscripts (currently National Centre of Manuscripts) got the microfilms of all manuscripts from the Georgian fund of the National Library including those new fragments, particularly, 1 page of Lectionary and 4 pages of Ioane-Zosime's Aiadgari, (liturgical book) which entered the Library's funds  bind as one manuscript since the second half of the 20thcentury. In the identification of these fragments special role is played by French Kartvelologist Bernard Outtier [Outtier, 1972; Outtier, 1984; Outtier 1973] who later found one more Georgian written leaf while working on the Armenian manuscript at the Library, dated it and defined its essence. This is a fragment of the 10th-century liturgical composition which currently represents the 31st entry of the collection[2]. While working at the National Library H.Metreveli defined the meaning of this collection and set her mind on the necessity of its special study. Familiarization with its conclusions and tasks is possible on the basis of the material kept at the Archive Fund of the National Centre of Manuscripts [H.Metreveli's arch. NN 511-514]. After delivering the microfilms she herself led the scholarly research in this direction.

Eqvtime Taqaishvili's description and research results of Georgian scholars were known in France only for the narrow circle of Kartvelologists and because of a language barrier they were not accessible for a wide scholarly society. For this very reason it became necessary to compile new web catalogue in French language where the errors like Makler's would be corrected and both authentic results of manuscripts study and bibliography connected with each entry. On the basis of agreement between the National Library and National Centre of Manuscripts we were given an opportunity to work on the description and cataloging of the Georgian collection at the National Library of Paris in April-June of 2009 [3]. While doing this work we aimed at putting into the catalogue an accurate technical description of each manuscript, date and essence, supply with complete bibliography and remarks existed for today in order to present for a general public the research results obtained by Georgian historical-philological and foreign schools of Georgian studies, the meaning of a Georgian manuscript book as a phenomenon reflecting the dialogue of cultures. With account of the fact that the catalogue was designed for web page after the end of the work it was supplied with digital pictures of separate pages or fragments of the covers.

The conducted work made it possible to evaluate both the meaning of the collection and the state of its study. In the first place it should be mentioned that at first glance not numerous collection contains an extensive period of the history of Georgian manuscript - these books and fragments of spiritual and secular content of the 7th to 19th centuries give an opportunity to conduct wide complex investigation. This time we will single out several earlier manuscripts and fragments essential from the viewpoint of  reglamentation of the ecclesiastic-monastic life of the Jerusalem period of Christian culture and study of earlier editions of the monuments.

Of particular attention is one leaf (16x14.5) of the 7th-century "Khanmeti" Lectionary which is a part of Geo.30. This fragment is a part of that oldest presumably of Palestinian origin Lectionary which was a part of the library of Georgian scriptorium at the Mt. Sinai since the 10th century. As early as 1883 it was described by A.Tsagareli [Tsagareli, 1888]. At the end of the 19th century the manuscript contained 29 leafs. In the same epoch it seems to be taken from the Mt. Sinai in unbind state. The 27 leafs of the Lectionary except the first and last ones appeared in Austria, to Professor at the University of Graz Hugo Schuchardt [Schuchardt, 1928], who gave it together with other manuscripts to the University. A.Shanidze studied the Graz manuscript and published the text of the "Khanmeti" Lectionary [Shanidze, 1929:310-353; Shanidze, 1944]. Later it became known that the last leaf which has preserved the name of the 10th-century Sinai figure Ioane-Zosime's colophon, was kept in Great Britain, at the library of Selly Oak College [Pearson, 1954:43; Garitte, 1960:239-259], and the first leaf is kept in the National Library of France which, as was mentioned above, was identified and presented to scholarly society by B. Outtier [Outtier, 1972:393-402; Outtier, 1973:173-175]. By uniting the research results of the fragments kept at the three different centers abroad, it became possible to study textual and editorial peculiarities of concretely this earlier Lectionary as well as the ties existed between scriptoriums of Christian East and reveal their dependence on archaic. As the colophon existed on the leaf kept in Birmingham informs, the Lectionary was put into the book cover for the third time in 983 by the known Sinai scriber and editor IoaneZosime. This fact indicates that this earlier liturgical booc of Jerusalem tradition even at the end of the 10th century when in Georgian liturgy the texts of Constantinoplean editions intensively introduced, represented a vital book. It is also interesting to note that the text had been subjected to language editing, tried to erase verb suffixes "kh" which was no longer in use, the text itself was not even scraped away as it usually occurred in scriptoriums in order to save writing material  the sheets written earlier were reused for second writing. The texts of archaic redaction in the majority of cases are preserved in the lower layers of palimpsest.

It is on palimpsest leaves that the same Geo.30 is rewritten on four unevenly cut leaves of small size (15.4x13.3 cm), that Ioane-Zosime's "Iadgari" fragment - Recalling Barnaba [4]. It should be mentioned that the lower layer of the palimpsest is Syrian. The text was identified by B.Outtier [Outtier,1984:73-79]. The existence of Syrian-Georgian palimpsest evidences the collaboration between Georgian and Syrian spiritual persons which was quite natural in the life of medieval oriental scriptoriums.  Despite the fact that Greek was an official language, this did not prevent from developing the literature in national languages even in such monastic centers which were under the influence of the Great Church of Constantinople. At close scrutiny of the history of medieval Christian writing, we can clearly see that in parallel with the unity in Orthodoxy in the countries of Christian East, national literary traditions start to develop which meet the requirement of a single church but at the same time they preserve the right of traditional choice. For that very reason today while studying the history of Christian culture and Byzantine thinking great importance is attached to the literary activity of those nations which in accordance with Constantinopolitan tradition of spiritual life and writing in conditions of unification did not give up and sink into oblivion the knowledge and culture gained from the depth of Christianity - historical Palestine. Such written traditions are Gerogian, Syrian, Christian Arabic, Armenian, and Coptic. European orientalists were well aware this fact and directed their attention to Georgian studies.

Georgian collection of the National Library keeps one more very important manuscript of Jerusalem tradition. It is Geo.3 - known as Parisian Lectionary big volume (387 leaves) and format (page size: 36x25 cm), rewritten in Nuskshuri script, the 10-11th century manuscript. The book is not full, therefore main colophon not come down to us and correspondingly, the place of rewriting is unknown. On 237v scribe's Monazona's inscription is read in which she mentions spiritual father Stephane. According to E.Taqaishvili this must be a well-known figure of the second half of the 10th-century Stephane Sananoisdze-Chkondideli [Taqaishvili, 1933:262]. According to the data existed about Stephane Sananoisdze, the episcope of Chkondidi who took care of  Jerusalem Georgian books and monastery of the Cross  [Kekelidze, 1980:178-179]. If we link this scribe with the name of Stephane Sananoisdze proper, it becomes quite natural for the Lectionary of Jerusalem tradition to be rewritten under spiritual guidance of such figure. No matter where it had been rewritten the book was intended for one of the monasteries of Georgia and it was stored there. An Italian inscription performed on the cover of the manuscript informs that the book was taken away in 1731 from Georgia by the Father of Kapucin missionaries. The book is dressed in the 16th century typical stamping skin cover[5]. At present this extremely significant manuscript has been restored[6]. For the purpose of investigation of Jerusalem ecclesiastical practice and calendar, the manuscript immediately became the focus of attentions of European scholars. In 1923 it was published by H.Goussen [Goussen, 1923]. Later Mikheil Tarkhnishvili together with other manuscripts of Gerogian Lectionary published this most important liturgical monument [Tarkhnishvili,1959-1960]. The manuscript of the National Library was also issued in Georgia [Georgian...1987; Georgian...1997][7].

For the study of special attitude towards Jerusalem tradition and cultural-political relations with Palestine one more Georgian manuscript - the Gospel Geo.28 from the National Library provides us with interesting material. This is a book embellished with the miniatures of Evangelists and performed in Nuskhuri script with the use of gold ink on high quality parchment. The name of a scribe is Mal Davitisdze. Complete organization of the manuscript - making up the pages, proportional and equilibrium distribution of the lines and margins, the cover embellished with gold and silver, which according to the colophon (5v-6r)[8]  the Gospel had, makes it quite clear that this book had been specially ordered and fulfilled. This fact is not accidental because the colophons and inscriptions attached to it inform that the Gospel was rewritten in Georgia and donated to the Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem with which Georgia and ecclesiastical persons of the Middle Ages had a close connection. Monastery of the Cross in Jerusalem was one of the most important manifestations of the medieval Georgian culture and state status in the Christian East. The concern about the monastery was not ceased even during the disintegration of the united Georgia and political hardships (14th-18th centuries)[9]. Landownership of the Monastery of the Cross established in the late Middle Ages financially supported the functioning of this important centre existed in Jerusalem [Khutsishvili, 2006] and the patronage and renovation of ecclesiastical antiquities kept in it was the concern of Georgian pilgrims came to the Holy land [Metreveli, 1962]. The Geo.28 also bears the trace of such concern. According to the colophons attached to 247r/v, the book cover of the 16th-century Gospel was updated by the Urbnisi archbishop Evlase[10] and in the 18th century - by a certain Andria Vaznidze. According to paleographic features the manuscript is dated by E.Taqaishvili as the 13th century [Taqaishvili, 1933: 294] and H.Metreveli transfers the date of its rewriting to the 12th century [Metreveli, 2007: 278]. We are not concerned here with the in-depth analysis of the mentioned issue; but only add that the paintings of the Gospel in many ways yield to the 12th century highly artistic miniature art of the Gospels[11]. Two facts attract our attention: the first concerns with the scriber's inscription (231v) according to which Crusade clerks could use both Constantinopolitan and "Georgian" calendar. Generally the Jerusalem Law was mentioned in "Georgian" [Kekelidze, 1980-579]. Another noteworthy issue is the memorials attached to it by the Crusaders (246v)[12]. It should be noted that such memorials are added to one more manuscript from the Monastery of Cross (H1667) which is an expression of close relations between Georgians and the Roman Catholics in Jerusalem, namely the members of Templier Order [Metreveli, 1962:56].

Thus, this manuscript from the National Library provides interesting material for the study of history of European's activity in the Christian East.

[1] This work by Taqaishvili is a bibliographic rarity. It was republished by G.Sharadze [Sharadze, 1980:236-296].

[2] This is the only manuscript we do not have a microfilm. The description and text prepared by us is published in the journal "Mravaltavi", #23 of the National Centre of Manuscripts.

[3] Electron catalogue compiled by us in French has been published on the web page of the National Library: http:///archivesetmanuscrits.bnf/cdc.html

[4] The text is identified by senior researcher of the National Centre of Manuscripts, Lili Khetsuriani who was studying Ioane-Zosime's literary activity in a course of years [Khetsuriani, 1968]. Ioane-Zosime's calendar was studied and published by Belgian Kartvelologist J.Garitte [Garitte, 1958].

[5] Analogical cover of the same century on which ornament of Geo.3 is repeated is kept in the funds of the National Centre of Manuscripts (A 85).

[6] Restoration works have been performed by Jak Sikri, the restorer of the National Library who presented his report on this theme in September, 2009 at the I International conference devoted to the Georgian manuscripts in the National Center of Manuscripts.

[7] Colophon-inscriptions are published [Taqaishvili, 1933:294-295].

[8] Colophon inscriptions are published [Taqaishvili, 1933:294-295].

[9] Georgians activities in Jerusalem were finally finished in the 18th century [Shanidze, 1980:69-139].

[10] The Archbishop Evlase updated several books in the Monastery of the Cross in the years 1570-1572 [Tsagareli, 1988:64. 88-89, 168, 182].

[11] As an example we present the Gospels of H 1667- Jruchi the second, Q 908-  Gelati, A1335 - Vani

[12] The texts of memorials are published [Taqaishvili, 1933:295; Metreveli, 2007:278-280].


Taqaishvili E.
Georgian manuscripts in the National Library of Paris and the sign of 20 Georgian mystic writing. Paris, (In Georgian).
Kekelidze K.
History of the Old Georgian Literature. Vol.I. Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
Menabde L.
The Centers of Old Georgian Writing, Part II. Tbilisi. (In Georgian)
Metreveli E.
One more manuscript from the monastery of the Cross for commemoration of the Crusaders. Philological and historical studies. 1. Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
Utie B.
One page of Georgian Khanmeti Lectionary in Pariz.Proceedings.Series of language and Literature. I. (In Georgian).
Parizian manuscript of Georgian Lectionary (readings of the Old and New Testaments).Text prepared for publication by K.Danelia, S.Chkhenkeli and B.Shavishvili. Investigation and glossary supplied by Korneli Danelia. Vol.I, part I. Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
Georgian …
Parizian manuscript of Georgian Lectionary (readings of the Old and New Testaments).Text prepared for publication by K.Danelia, S.Chkhenkeli and B.Shavishvili. Investigation and glossary supplied by Korneli Danelia. Vol.I, part II. Tbilisi. (In georgien).
Shanidze A.
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Khanmet Lectionary. Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
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Return. Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
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Ioane Minchkhi’s Poetry. Text was prepared for publicationand supplied with investigation by Lela Khachidze. Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
Khevsuriani L.
To the composition of Sin.34. Mravaltavi. IV.Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
Khevsuriani L.
On autographic list of Giorgi Mtatsmindeli’s version of Markhvani. Literary studies. XXII.Tbilisi. (In Georgian).
Khutsishvili N.
Landownership of the Jerusalem Monastery of the Cross in Georgia. Artanuji. (In Georgian).
Brosset M.F.
Chronique géorgienne. Paris.
Brosset M.F.
Mémoires inédits relatifs à l’ histoire et à la langue géorgienne. Paris.
Brosset M.F.
Élemants de la langue géorgienne. Paris.
Brosset M.F.
Notice sur le Dictionnaire géorgien de Soulkhan-Saba Orbéliani. Journal Asiatique.
Garitte G
Le calandrier palestino-géorgien du Sinaiticus 34 (X e siècle). Bruxelle.
Garitte G
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Gussen H.
Über georgische Drucke und Handschriften. Die Festordnung und den Heiligenkalender des altchristlichen Jerusalems hetreffend, B. Kühlen, Mönchen-Cladbach.
Outtier B.
Les Feuilles géorgiens de Lectionnaire Hanmeti à Paris. Le Muséon, LXXXV, 3-4
Outtier B.
« Notule sur les versions orientales de l’histoire Philothée (CPG 6221) in Antidoron, Hommage à Maurits Geerard pour célébrer l’achevement de la Clavis Patrum Graecorum, I, Cultura, Wettem.
Pearson M.
Oriental Manuscript Collection of Great Britain and Ireland.London.
Tarkhnichvili M.
L’église de Jérusalem (5-8e siècle), traduit et édité par Michel Tarkhnichvili, Corpus scriptorum christianorum, scriptorum ibérica, t.9,10,13-14, Louvain.
Tsagareli A.
Archive Fond of the National Centre of Manuscripts. E.Metreveli’s archive NN 511–514.