Ancient Georgian Gospel included in UNESCO document list

Paris, December 7, 2017

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The international UNESCO “Memory of the World” register has published a new world heritage list for 2017, which includes an ancient Georgian manuscript of the Gospel, reports News-Georgia.

Memory of the world is a program for the protection of the world documentary heritage, created in 1992. The decision to include the Georgian manuscript among the 78 documents on the new list was made at the committee meeting in Paris in October.

The manuscript is a palimpsest—a manuscript written on parchment on top of already-existing records. Scientists have dated the oldest of the texts on the manuscript to the 9th-10th centuries.

The UNESCO decision was celebrated at the Georgian National Archives today. The event was attended by experts and representatives of the clergy and public officials. The manuscript itself was presented in the hall.

The Gospel arrived at the Georgian National Museum in 1924 from the Church of the Mother of God in the village of Tortiza in the Shida Kartli region. In old descriptions, the manuscript is referred to as a Gospel of the 14th century.

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During the study of the parchment it was found to be a palimpsest of three layers. The upper two layers are a Gospel of one of the most famous Georgian Church figures, George Mtatsmindeli, also known as George the Athonite and George of Iveron (1009-1065). He translated several editions of the Bible in Georgia, serving as a link between Georgian and Byzantium.

Identification of the third layers is not completed yet.

The Gospel contains writings in three different Georgian scripts, dating to the 9th-10th, 12th-13th, 14th, and 16th-17th centuries, as well as miniatures and headpieces done in approximately the 14th century.

In 2011, the Memory of the World list was enriched by a collection of about 1,000 Byzantine manuscripts from Georgia, some of which date to the 5th century. The most ancient manuscript of the Byzantine period was also included in 2015.


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