A highlight of any visit to Armenia, Matenadaran, officially the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts - is a museum, repository of manuscripts and a research institute in Yerevan.
It holds one of the world's richest depositories of medieval manuscripts and books which span a broad range of subjects, including history, philosophy, medicine, literature, art history and cosmography in Armenian and many other languages. The display rooms feature a stunning array of hand-chosen manuscripts that give an excellent glimpse into the rest of the collection.
With over 23,000 manuscripts and 500,000 additional documents, some of the most obscure and ancient texts from the early medieval age can be found at the Matenadaran. There are manuscripts in other languages, from Greek to Ethiopian, and some works by renowned foreign authors that were almost lost to history, and only saved by their Armenian translations at the Matenadaran.
Matenadaran was established in 1959 on the basis of the nationalized collection of the Armenian Church, formerly held at Echmiadzin. Its collection has gradually risen since its establishment, mostly from individual donations. The building was built from 1945 to 1958 in gray basalt and it was influenced by the 11th century Holy Apostles Church of Ani, the grand capital of Bagratid Armenia.
The statues of Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet and his disciple Koryun, are located below the terrace where the main building stands. The statues of the six historical Armenian scholars, Toros Roslin, Grigor Tatevatsi, Anania Shirakatsi, Movses Khorenatsi, Mkhitar Gosh and Frik, were erected on the left and right wings of the building's exterior. They each represent one field: manuscript illumination, philosophy, cosmology, history, jurisprudence, and poetry, respectively.
An open-air exhibition is located near the entrance of the building. On display there are khachkars from the 13th-17th centuries, a tombstone from the medieval Noratus cemetery, a vishapkar (dragon stone) dated 2nd-1st millennia BC, and a door from Teishebaini (Karmir Blur, an Urartian archaeological site).
The Mashtots Matenadaran Ancient Manuscripts Collection was inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Program Register in 1997 in recognition of its world significance.
Are you planning to visit Matenadaran? It takes about 45-60 minutes (without the Persian manuscripts) to complete the guided tour of Matenadaran. Phoenix Tour will gladly reserve your preferred language guided tour. With that reservation, you can skip the line at the ticket office and avoid the guide availability issue.
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