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The monastery of VATOPEDE is the largest and richest of all on Mount Athos. The original building was erected by Constantine the Great, and it is said to be of such extent, its towers and domes rising above the walls, that it did not appear smaller than the upper ward of Windsor Castle. It was thrown down in the fifth century by Julian the Apostate, and rebuilt by Theodosius the Great, out of gratitude for the escape of his son, who had fallen overboard from his galley in the Archipelago. In 862 it was burnt by the Saracens; and was again rebuilt in 1300, at the instigation of St. Athanasius the Patriarch. The chapel is dedicated to the "Preservation of the Girdle of the Blessed Virgin.' This is sent, one
half to Greece and one-half to Asia Minor, whenever the plague is raging there. So sacred and potent a relic as this is of great advantage to the pockets and purses of the good monks, and probably reconciles them not a little to the visitations of the plague among their neighbours. It came originally from a good distance; for (and we beg this may not be looked at by any incredulous eye), after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, St. Thomas went up to Heaven to pay her a visit, and inquire after her welfare, and then she presented him the girdle to take to earth, as a guarantee of his having absolutely been her guest, and as a reward for his faith and devotion. The Blessed Virgin has also shown her love to the monastery in giving them plenty of corn, wine, and oil. The library is lean, but the kitchen and refectory overflow with her liberality.
KILIANTARI is the last monastery on the north-east of the promontory, and contains about fifty monks.
"In the library they had no great number of books, and what there were were all Russian or Bulgarian. I saw none which seemed to be of great antiquity. On inquiring, however, whether they had not some Greek MSS. the agoumenos said they had one, which he went and brought me out of the sacristy; and this, to my admiration and surprise, was not only the finest MS. on Mount Athos, but the finest that I had met with in any Greek monastery, with the single exception of the golden MS. of the New Testament at Mount Sinai. It was a quarto Evangelistarium, written in gold letters on fine white
vellum. The characters were a kind of semi-uncial, rather round in their forms, of large size, and beautifully executed, but often joined together, and having many contractions and abbreviations, in these respects resembling the Mount Sinai MS. This magnificent volume was given to the monastery by the Emperor Andronicus Comnenus about the year 1184; it is consequently not an early MS., but its imperial origin renders it interesting to the admirers of literary treasures, while the very rare occurrence of a Greek MS. written in letters of gold* would make it a most desirable and important acquisition
On this subject our readers will thank us for transcribing a passage in Sir Frederick Madden's short but very instructive and interesting introduction to Shaw's Illuminated Manuscripts. "The process of laying on and burnishing gold and silver appears to have been familiar to the Oriental nations from a period of remote antiquity, and although there are no instances of its use in the Egyptian papyri, yet it is not unreasonable to believe that the Greeks acquired from Egypt or India the art of ornamenting manuscripts thus, which they possibly conveyed to the Romans. Among the later Greeks the usage became so common, that the scribes or artists in gold were called Xpvooypapoi, and seem to have constituted a distinct class. Pliny is silent as to the practice in his time, therefore we may suppose it commenced among the Latins at the end of the second century. The luxury thus introduced was origi. ginated by writing on vellum stained of a purple or rose colour, the earliest instance
By some writers Ovid is supposed to allude to purple vellum in his first Elegy de Tristibus, 1. 5, but the passage has certainly been misunderstood. By a comparison of this with the corresponding passages in Martial, lib. iii. ep. 2; Tibullus, lib. iii. v. 1, and Lucian, De Philosophis Mercenariis, it is evident that the substance of the volume
to any royal library, for, besides the two above-mentioned, there are not, I believe, more than seven or eight MSS. of this description in existence, and of these several are merely fragments, and only one is on white vellum: this is in the library of the Holy Synod at Moscow. Five of the others are on blue or purple vellum, viz. Codex Cottonianus, in the British Museum, Titus C. 15, a fragment of the Gospels; an octavo Evangelistarium at Vienna; a fragment of the books of Genesis and St. Luke, in silver letters, at Vienna; the Codex Turicensis of part of the Psalms; and six leaves of the Gospel of St. Matthew in silver letters, with the initials in gold, in the Vatican. There
may possibly be others, but I have never heard of them. Latin MSS. in golden letters are much less scarce, but Greek MSS., even those which merely contain two or three pages written in gold letters, are of such rarity that hardly a dozen are to be met with; of these there are three in the library at Parham. I think the Codex Ebnerianus has one or two pages written in gold, and the tables of a gospel at Jerusalem are in gold on deep purple vellum. At this moment I do not remember any more, although doubtless there must be a few of these partially ornamented volumes scattered through the great libraries of Europe."
Is it not very singular that these rich and remarkable manuscript treasures have remained so long unsought for and unknown, and even that travellers who have previously visited Athos have returned with the assurance that there was nothing there of the least consequence or value? We have ourselves heard this assertion confidently made by those who did
of which is recorded by Julius Capitolinus, in his life of the Emperor Maximinus the Younger, to whom his mother made a present of the poems of Homer, written on purple vellum in gold letters. This took place at the commencement of the third century. For upwards of a hundred years this practice seems to have continued of rare occurrence, but towards the end of the fourth century we learn from a well-known passage of St. Jerome that it had become more frequent. It was however confined solely to copies of the Scriptures and devotional books written for the libraries of princes, and the service of monasteries. The celebrated Codex Argenteus of Ulphilus, written in silver and gold letters on a purple ground, about A.D. 360, is perhaps the most ancient existing specimen of this magnificent mode of caligraphy, after which may be mentioned the copy of Genesis at Nice, and the Psalter of St. Germain de Prés, with a fragment of the New Testament in the Cottonian Library (Titus, C. xv.) all executed in the fifth and sixth centuries. The taste for gold and purple manuscripts seems only to have reached England at the close of the seventh century, when Wilfrid Archbishop of York enriched his church with a copy of the Gospels thus adorned; and it is described by his biographer Eddius (who lived at that period or shortly after), as "inauditum ante seculis nostris quoddam miraculum "—almost a miracle, and before that time unheard of in this part of the world. But in the eighth and ninth centuries the art of staining the vellum appears to have declined, and the colour is no longer the same bright and beautiful purple, or violet, or rose-colour of the preceding centuries. It is rare also to meet with a volume stained throughout; the artist contenting himself with colouring a certain portion, such as the title, preface, or cover of the mass."'c
was of papyrus (charta) unstained, which was rolled up for the sake of ornament or preservation in an outer covering of parchment dyed purple or yellow.
b "Yet if we may credit an anecdote of the reign of Henry V. the Bible sent over by Pope Gregory to St. Augustine, and preserved at Canterbury at that period, contained several leaves stained of a purple or rose colour." See Wanley's Catalog. Libr. Septent. p. 173.
"See the Nouveau Traité de Diplomatique, tom. ii. p. 98-101. In the British Museum are two manuscripts of this description worthy of notice. The first is in the royal library, marked 1 E. VI. and was executed unquestionably in the eighth century by the Hiberno-Saxon school of art. It is a copy of the Gospels in folio; several of the leaves of which are stained of a beautiful rose-colour (visible by holding them to the light), with inscriptions on them in gold and silver capital letters an inch in height. The second instance occurs in the Cottonian Collection, Tib. A. II. and is a copy of the Gospels, given by King Athelstan to the church of Canterbury. The three first leaves are stained of a purple colour, with titles in gold and silver."
not stop to drink of the waters of knowledge, but only hastily lapped the stream as they ran along.
We now pass to the monastery of XENOPHOU.
"The library consists of fifteen hundred printed books, nineteen MSS. on paper, eleven on vellum, and three rolls on parchment, containing liturgies for particular days. Of the MSS. on vellum, there were three which merit a description. One was a fine quarto of part of the works of St. Chrysostom, of great antiquity, but not in uncial letters. Another was a quarto of the four Gospels, bound in faded red velvet, with silver clasps. This book they affirmed to be a royal present to the monastery. It was of the eleventh or twelfth century, and was peculiar from the text being accompanied by a voluminous commentary on the margin, and several pages of calendars, prefaces, &c. at the beginning. The headings of the Gospels were written in large plain letters of gold. In the libraries of forty Greek monasteries I have only met with one other copy of the Gospels with a commentary. The third MS.
was an immense quarto Evangelistarium, sixteen inches square, bound in faded green or blue velvet, and said to be in the autograph of the Emperor Alexius Comnenus. The text throughout on each page was written in the form of a cross. Two of the pages are in purple ink powdered with gold, and these there is every reason to suppose are in the hand-writing of the imperial scribe himself; for the Byzantine sovereigns affected to write only in purple, as their deeds and a magnificent MS. in another monastic library, of which I have not given an account in these pages, can testify. The titles of this superb volume are written in gold, covering the whole page. Altogether, although not in uncial letters, it was among the finest Greek MSS. that I had ever seen perhaps, next to the uncial MSS. the finest to be met with anywhere."
The negociation for the purchase of these treasures was very amusing, evincing great skill, temper, and experience in the traveller.
"I asked the monks whether they were inclined to part with these three books, and offered to purchase them and the parchment rolls. There was a little consultation among them, and then they desired to be shown those which I particularly coveted. Then there was another consultation, and they asked me which I set the greatest value on. So I said the rolls, on which the three rolls were unrolled, and looked at, and examined, and peeped at by the three monks who put themselves forward in the business, with more pains and curiosity than had probably been ever bestowed upon them before. At last thay said it was impossible, the rolls were too precious to be parted with; but, if I liked to give a good price, I should have the rest. Upon which I took up the St. Chrysostom, the least valuable of the three, and while I examined it saw from the corner of my eye the three monks
nudging each other and making signs. So I said- Well, now what will you take for your two books, this and the big one?' They asked 5,000 piastres; whereupon, with a look of indignant scorn, I laid down the St. Chrysostom and got up to go away; but after a good deal more talk we retired to the divan, or drawing-room as it may be called, of the monastery, where I conversed with the three exiled bishops.* In course of time I was called out into another room to have a cup of coffee. There were my friends the three monks, the managing committee, and under the divan, imperfectly concealed, were the corners of the three splendid MSS. I knew that now all depended on my own tact, whether my still famished saddle-bags were to have a meal or not that day, the danger lying between offering too much or too little. If you offer too much, a Greek, a Jew, or an Arminian immediately thinks that the
In this monastery there are three Greek bishops living in exile, but what their misdeeds have been, or other cause of their being banished by the Patriarch, the author did not learn; but we cannot help thinking that the exile of Mount Athos is after all somewhat better off than his brother the exile of New Zealand, the difference being that one is fed by the monks, and the other may very possibly feed the savages. Had one or two of the old governors remained in this island, and the mistakes of the administration gone a little further, it is not impossible that one might have heard of the native corporation of New Zealand giving a public dinner in celebration of a victory, in which a bishop might have been served up at the first course, as a pièce de resistance, and the inferior clergy as side-dishes. The Missionaries and Dissenters, as a facetious acquaintance once observed, would probably have been eaten cold at a side table.-REV, GENT. MAG. VOL. XXXII.
desired object must be invaluable; that it must have some magical properties, like the lamp of Aladdin, which will bring wealth upon its possessor if he can but find out its secret; and he will either ask you a sum absurdly large, or will refuse to sell it at any price, but will lock it up and become nervous about it, and examine it over and over again privately to see what can be the cause of a Frank's offering so much for a thing apparently so utterly useless. On the other hand, too little must not be offered, for it would be an indignity to suppose that persons of consideration would condescend to sell things of trifling value -it wounds their aristocratic feelings, they are above such meannesses. By St. Xenophou, how we did talk!-for four mortal hours it went on, I pretending to go away several times, but being always called back by one or other of the learned
committee. I drank coffee and sherbet and they drank arraghi; but in the end I got the great book of Alexius Comnenus for the value of twenty-two pounds, and the curious Gospels, which I had treated with the most cool disdain all along, was finally thrown into the bargain; and out I walked with a big book under each arm, bearing with perfect resignation the smiles and scoffs of the three brethren, who could scarcely contain their laughter at the way they had done the silly traveller. Then did the saddle-bags begin to assume a more comely and satisfactory form. After a stirrup-cup of hot coffee, perfumed with the incense of the church, the monks bid me a joyous adieu; I responded as joyously in short every one was charmed, except the mule, who evidently was more surprised than pleased at the increased weight which he had to carry," &c.
We pass over two or three visits, as those to Russico (where had been a vellum MS. of Homer), and Xeropotamo, and St. Nicholas, the smallest of all the monasteries, to come to the monastery of ST. DIONISIUS, which we are told, as regards the antiquities it contained, was the most interesting of all:
"The church, a good-sized building, is in a very perfect state of preservation. Hanging on the wall near the door of entrance was a portrait painted on wood, about three feet square, in a frame of silvergilt, set with jewels. It represented Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of Trebizonde, the founder of the monastery. He it was, I believe, who built that most beautiful church a little way out of the town of Trebizonde, which is called St. Sofia, probably from its resemblance to the cathedral of Constantinople. He is drawn in his imperial robes, and the portrait is one of the most curious I ever saw. He founded this church in the year 1380, and Neagulus and Peter, Waywodes of Bessarabia, restored and repaired the monastery. There was another curious portrait of a lady; I did not learn who it was very probably the Empress Pulcheria, or else Roxandra Domna (Domina?), wife of Alexander, Waywode of Wallachia, for both these ladies were benefactors to the convent. I was taken as a pilgrim to the church, and we stood in the middle of the floor, before the KOVOσTασis, while the monks brought out an oldfashioned low wooden table, upon which they placed the relics of the saints which they presumed we came to adore. Of these some were very interesting speci
mens of intricate workmanship and superb and precious materials. One was a patera, of a kind of china or paste, made, as I imagine, of a multitude of turquoises, ground down together, for it was too large to be of one single turquoise. There is one of the same kind, but of far inferior workmanship in the treasury of St. Marc. This marvellous dish is carved in very high relief, with minute figures or little statues of the saints, with inscriptions in very early Greek. It is set in pure gold, richly worked, and was a gift from the Empress or imperial Princess Pulcheria. Then there was an invaluable shrine for the head of St. John the Baptist, whose bones and another of his heads are in the cathedral at Genoa. St. John Lateran also boasts a head of St. John, but that may have belonged to St. John the Evangelist. This shrine was the gift of Neagulus, Waywode or Hospodar of Wallachia. It is about two feet long and two feet high, and is in the shape of a Byzantine church. The material is silver-gilt, but the admirable and singular style of the workmanship gives it a value far surpassing its intrinsic worth. The roof is covered with five domes of gold; on each side it has sixteen recesses, in which are portraits of the saint in niello, and at each end there are eight others. All the windows are en
The word "dome" is used by Mr. Curzon in the sense of "cupola," not of "duomo."-REV.
letters, with twelve fine miniatures; a small quarto New Testament, containing the Apocalypse; and some magnificent folios of the Fathers of the eleventh century; but not one classic author. Among the manuscripts on paper were a folio of the Iliad of Homer, badly written, two copies of the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, and a multitude of books for the church service. Alas! they would part with nothing. The library was altogether a magnificent collection, and for the most part well preserved: they had no great number of printed books. I should imagine that this monastery must, from some fortunate accident, have suffered less from spoliation during the late revolution than any of the others; for, considering that it is not a very large establishment, the number of valuable things it contained was quite astonishing," &c.
riched in open-work tracery, of a strange sort of Gothic pattern, unlike anything in Europe. It is altogether a wonderful and precious monument of ancient art, the production of an almost unknown country, rich, quaint, and original in its design and execution, and is indeed one of the most curious objects on Mount Athos; although the patera of the Princess Pulcheria might probably be considered of greater value. . . . . I next proceeded to the library, which contained not much less than a thousand manuscripts, half on paper, and half on vellum. Of those on vellum the most valuable were a quarto Evangelistarium, in uncial letters, and in beautiful preservation; another Evangelistarium, of which three fly-leaves were in early uncial Greek; a small quarto of the Dialogues of St. Gregory-diaλoyo гpeyopiov Tov Beoλoyov-not in uncial The last and very successful visit was to the monastery of ST. PAUL, where four monks separately spoke Italian, French, German, and English ! There was also, mirabile dictu, a clean bedroom and not a single flea. Here the honourable traveller was at the height of honour. He was introduced as one who could speak ninety languages (and his breaking down in German did not diminish his reputation as a polyglot of stupendous power), as the nephew of most of the kings of Europe, and as one who had performed a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. So he tells us he held up his head and assumed the dignified humility of real greatness, as we see in our own country in the manners of some gentlemen belonging to the " upper House."
At this monastery the little select library of the guileless fathers suffered some gentle decrease of its stores.
"There was only one Greek manuscript, a duodecimo copy of the Gospels* of the twelfth or thirteenth century. The Servian and Bulgarian manuscripts amounted to about two hundred and fifty of these three were remarkable; the first was a manuscript of the four Gospels, a thick quarto, and the uncial letters in which it was written were three-fourths of an inch in height: it was imperfect at the end. The second was also a copy of the Gospels, a folio, in uncial letters, with fine illu
minations at the beginning of each Gospel, and a large and curious portrait of a patriarch at the end; all the stops in this volume were dots of gold; several words also were written in gold. It was a noble manuscript. The third was likewise a folio of the Gospels in the ancient Bulgarian language, and, like the other two, in uncial letters. This manuscript was full of illuminations from beginning to end.† I had seen no book like it anywhere in the Levant. I almost tumbled off the steps
* The author in speaking of the monastery of St. Sabba observes, "It is remarkable how very rarely manuscripts of any part of the OLD Testament are found in the libraries of Greek monasteries. This was the only manuscript of the Octoteuch that I ever met with either before or afterwards in any part of the Levant." p. 204. The author says he purchased, among other manuscripts at St. Sabba, the Octoteuch of the tenth century, which he esteems one of the most rare and precious volumes of his library.
"The Greek monks have a singular love for the devil, and for everything horrible and hideous. I never saw a picture of a well-looking Greek saint any where, and yet the earlier Greek artists, in their conceptions of the personages of Holy Writ, sometimes approached the sublime, and in the miniatures of some of the manuscripts written previously to the twelfth century, which I collected in the Levant, there are figures of surpassing dignity and solemnity. Yet in Byzantine and Egyptian art that purity and