Exhibitions/Oct 31, 2016

Holy Books: The Ethiopian Garima Gospels

Holy Books: The Ethiopian Garima Gospels, Allard Pierson Museum, November 3–March 26, 2017

From 4 November 2016 through 26 March 2017 the Allard Pierson Museum will be presenting the photo exhibition Holy Books: the Ethiopian Garima Gospels. The Garima Gospels are ancient illuminated manuscripts containing the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and a set of canon tables: the system designed by Eusebius of Caesarea (c.263–339) charting parallel passages in the gospels. Radiocarbon dating recently revealed that the manuscripts were written between the 4th and 7th centuries—a sensational discovery, as they were previously believed to be centuries younger. Moreover, the Garima Gospels are the earliest known example of a complete set of the four evangelists’ portraits.

The Gospels were named after the legendary monk Abuna Garima, who allegedly founded the Garima Monastery near what is now Adwa in Ethiopia in the fifth century AD. The manuscripts are still kept there and never leave the monastery. The photographs in this exhibition show details of the beautiful illustrations before the restoration, among other things. The canon tables are exquisitely illuminated as well. In 2006 the manuscripts were restored and rebound. Both text (in the Ethiopian language Ge’ez) and pictures illustrate the unique character of Ethiopian Christendom as a part of the Late Antique Mediterranean and reveal influences from the Classical world, ancient Egypt and other parts of Africa. The Garima Gospels are extremely important for biblical and other studies.

On 3 November the Allard Pierson Museum will host a symposium on the Garima Gospels that will end with the festive opening of the photo exhibition, which was created by Judith McKenzie and Miranda Williams (University of Oxford). The photographs on display were made by Michael Gervers (University of Toronto) during several visits to the Garima Monastery.

At the symposium there will be talks by international scholars. The morning session will be entitled The Garima Manuscripts Revisited, the afternoon session The Later Legacy of Ethiopian Art and Architecture to the Present.


Symposium registration is required.

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