The Armenian Letter Art
“To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding” – this sentence from the Proverbs of Solomon was the first sentence written in the Armenian alphabet.
Armenia’s application for the inclusion of the element “The Armenian letter art and its cultural expressions” in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List was unanimously approved on December 11, 2019 during the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO in Bogotá, Colombia.
“Armenian letter art and its cultural expressions” constitutes the centuries-old art of Armenian letters, Armenian scripts, the rich culture of decorating letters and its various uses.
The element is based on the Armenian alphabet created in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots, following the ‘one-letter-for-one-sound’ principle. The element is also distinguished by its wide range of ornamental scripts, generally classified by their shapes: knots, birds, animals, people, and mythical or imaginary creatures.
Since their invention, Armenian letters have not only served their primary function to create written heritage, but also as numbers, cryptographs, riddles etc. Today, the letters are also used in handicrafts.
Armenian letter art has penetrated almost all layers of society, particularly folk art. The element is practiced across the Armenian territory and is integral to the cultural identity of Armenian people. Its bearers and practitioners include artists, carpet weavers, embroiderers, sculptors, linguists, calligraphists, jewellers and others. Educational institutions at all levels are involved in transmitting the related knowledge and skills to future generations, and several youth centers accord great importance to teaching Armenian letter art.