The Matenadaran (the depository in Armenian) is considered to be the center of Armenian spiritual culture, enlightenment and science – one of the world’s largest depositories of ancient manuscripts. The first reference to it dates from the 5th century. The matenadaran was then in Etchmiatsin Catholicosate, at the former capital of Armenia, Vagharshapat. The works of Armenian historians, philosophers, mathematicians, lawers, poets, miniaturists, geographers, astronomers, doctors and others representing various branches of science and literature, were created and kept there as well as at the libraries in Armenia’s monasteries and universities. To better preserve the treasures and to make them available to the philologists, historians and other scientists the Etchmiatsin Matenadaran was moved to Yerevan, where the Matenadaran was built from 1945 to 1957 on the picturesque hill near educational and research institutions. There the latest scientific achievements created ideal conditions for preserving manuscripts. All the materials in the scientific preservation and bibliographical sections are processed, described and studied, and then become accessible to scientists, scholars and the general public. Matenadaran is not only one of the world’s largest depositories of ancient manuscripts but also the Institute for their study, carrying out important research work.
The Matenadaran’s collection now runs into more than 17,000 wonderful ancient, medieval and modern documents. The manuscripts are amazing in the artistry shown by the scribes who wrote them. The intricate ornament, subtle and exquisite miniatures are bright and dazzling in their many colors, undimmed by the passing times.
Unique manuscripts pertaining to all branches of knowledge, to ancient and medieval Armenia, the peoples of the Middle and Near East, North Africa, Greece and Rome make Matenadaran a real treasure-house of world culture. Among the treasures of the repository are scientific treatises on history, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, theatre, clerical and secular laws, works of Armenian poets, written in ancient Armenian, Greek, Arabic and Persian, Georgian, Latin, Ethiopian, Hebrew, Assyrian, Old Slavonic and others languages. There are the works of great scientific significance of ancient Greek scholars and scientists, which no longer exist in the original and have come down to us only in Armenian translations and some unique works on music – the earliest writings with special musical symbols, the khaz, deciphered just recently.
Some of the items of the Matenadaran treasures are displayed in a special exhibition hall.
The museum’s address:
53 Mashtots Ave., Yerevan, Armenia