About the Vatican Archives


DOCUMENT IMAGES ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________

This archive represents 6 of the document images available from the Vatican Archives. To view the complete listing of documents, ftp to

Host: sunsite.unc.edu Location: /pub/academic/history/vatican archives

I have renamed the files here for easy identification. The original file names are listed in this portion of the original index reposted below, as "orient#"



A WIDER WORLD, I; How the Orient Came to Rome

The scholarship done in the curia was not limited to Greek and Roman texts. The popes took a serious interest in Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament and still the hole language of the Jews. Christian scholars at Rome, as elsewhere in Europe, were captivated by the Cabalistic mysticism of some Jewish commentators on the Bible. Important members of the Curia, like Giles of Viterbo, believed as fervently as any rabbi that each letter of the Hebrew alphabet concealed deep theological mysteries. As the sixteenth century progressed, however, detailed knowledge of the real languages and cultures of the Near East grew, and facts began to displace myths. The Vatican developed one of the greatest collections in the world of Hebrew books, both handwritten and printed. Texts in Arabic and many other languages, from old Church Slavonic and Armenian to Syriac and Coptic, accumulated beside them. The Vatican became a center of what the humanists liked to call "trilingual" scholarship: the study of the Bible in its three great languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Rome, moreover, negotiated regularly with Christian churches and non-Christian powers all over the Mediterranean world and beyond, and individuals and small communities from Eastern Christian churches lived in and visited the city. During the sixteenth century the authorities took advantage of these opportunities for scholarship. Even as the Counter-Reformation damaged some areas of study, it promoted others. Rome became one of Europe's most productive centers of Oriental printing and study.

THE STUDY OF EASTERN LANGUAGES; From Mythology to Philology

The church had long encouraged, in theory, the study of languages that might prove useful in converting unbelievers. But as late as the fifteenth century, it had amassed little expertise. The converted Jew Flavius Mithridates impressed the pope and cardinals on Good Friday 1481 simply by his ability to pronounce long passages in Hebrew and Aramaic. In the course of the sixteenth century, Rome became a center for the study of Near Eastern and other little-known languages. Christians (and a few non-Christian prisoners) from the Slavic world, Armenia, Mesopotamia, North Africa, and Ethiopia came to Rome, often on ecclesiastical business. They found eager students who wanted to learn their languages, inventive printers who could cut type following their scripts, and papal support--especially for the publication of the Bible in Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, and other languages. Meanwhile the library amassed extraordinary holdings from many languages and from many cultures. The Church Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-45) brought delegates to Italy from many churches and cultures. The books they brought with them proved instrumental to the growth of the Vatican Library and of near-eastern studies in Europe.


======================================================================== The Gospel of Luke 20: 1-8 In Arabic Cairo A.D. 993

This tenth-century Egyptian codex was donated to Pope Eugene IV by the Egyptian delegates at the Council of Ferrara-Florence. Translated from a Coptic original, it is one of the earliest Arabic versions of any part of the New Testament, none of which can be dated before the late eighth or ninth centuries. The text displayed is from Luke 20. Vat. ar. 18 fols. 79 recto orient04 AH.05

======================================================================== Psalter In Ethiopic Fifteenth century

How this Ethiopic Psalter came into the Vatican Library in the late fifteenth century is still a matter of uncertainty. According to one hypothesis it was brought by the Ethiopian delegates at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, probably from the Ethiopian convent in Jerusalem, but according to another it was donated by Giovanni Battista Brocchi from Imola, who accompanied a Franciscan mission to Ethiopia in 1482. The first folio of the codex shows the First Psalm between two strapwork bands. The manuscript is widely held to have inaugurated Ethiopic studies in Europe and to have been borrowed by Johannes Potken in 1511. It would thus have provided the text on which he based his "Psalterium," published two years later. See Renato Lefevre, "Su un codice etiopico della `Vaticana,'" _La Bibliofilia_ 42(1940):97-107. Vat. etiop. 20 fol. 1 recto orient05 AH.06

======================================================================== Psalterium David et Cantica aliqua Edited by Johannes Potken In Ethiopic Rome: M. Silber 1513

This Psalter, probably based on the preceeding manuscript [Vat. etiop. 20], was the first book ever to be printed in Ethiopic, the first book to be printed in Rome in any oriental language other than Hebrew, and the first Psalter to be printed in any language other than Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. Having learned Ethiopic from Thomas Walda Samuel, an Ethiopian pilgrim from Jerusalem staying at Santo Stefano Maggiore in Rome, Johannes Potken had Ethiopic types cut at his own expense by the printer Marcellus Silber from Regensburg. On his departure from Rome two years after the publication of the Psalter, Potken took the fonts with him to Germany. Potken's edition includes canticles from the Song of Solomon and ends with an Ethiopic syllabarium and a brief comment on it. In the foreward Potken describes how he learned Ethiopic, which he insistently but erroneously calls Chaldean. He goes on to tell of his decision to publish the Psalter and to inform the reader about the land of Prester John. The page on display shows the First Psalm and the beginning of the Second Psalm under a woodcut lacework headpiece. R.G. Bibbia IV 936 fol. 2 recto orient06 AH.07

======================================================================== The Tale of Bayad and Riyad In Arabic Spain Early thirteenth century

This fragment of the medieval love story of Bayad and Riyad may have been taken from Tunis by the troops of Charles V. It is one of the rarest and most singular Arabic manuscripts in the Vatican collection. Written in "maghribi" script, it was probably copied in Spain in the first half of the thirteenth century from an eastern manuscript of the Baghdad school. The miniaturist, however, adapted the original illustrations to a wastern setting and changed oriental architectural details to Spanish ones. This codex remains one of the only known examples of Muslim figurative painting in Spain. In the page shown here, we see Bayad receiving a letter from Riyad in the house of three women. The appearance of the house is clearly western rather than eastern. See Ugo Monneret de Villard, "Un codice arabo spagnolo con miniature," _La Bibliofilia_ 43(1941):209-23. Vat. ar. 368 fols. 23 recto - 22 verso orient10 AH.13

======================================================================== Fragment of a Quran, Sura 33: 73-74 In Arabic Spain or northwest Africa Thirteenth century

One of the first Quranic manuscripts to enter the Vatican Library, this codex comes from a "madrasa" or mosque school in Tunis and was probably taken when the troops of Charles V captured the city in July 1535. A fine example of the "maghribi" script typical of northwest Africa and Muslim Spain, the manuscript also contains good illuminations. It is only a fragment of the Quran, from sura 33:31 to sura 35:45 (part 22). The pages shown here bear the last two verses of sura 33 (verses 73-74). Vat. ar. 214 fols. 24 recto - 23 verso orient11 AH.15

======================================================================== Four Gospels In Bohairic Coptic and Arabic Copied by Georgis Cairo 1205

This manuscript is one of the finest surviving Coptic codices of the Middle Ages. Copied in Cairo, it was once in the library of the monastery of Saint Anthony in the desert near the Red Sea south of Suez. It was taken back to Cairo in about 1506 and, thirty years later, was transferred to the church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Alexandria. There is was purchased by Girolamo Vecchietti in 1594 for the director of the Medici press, Giovanni Battista Raimondi. It was left to the Vatican Library, together with Raimondi's other Coptic manuscripts, on his death in 1614. This codex includes both a Coptic version of the Gospels, translated from the Greek and written in an uncial script, and an Arabic translation. The manuscript begins with Eusebius's epistle to Carpianus and also contains the Eusebian and Ammonian canon tables. In the Byzantine tradition each Gospel is preceded by a historical preface stating when and where the Gospel was written, making the codex of particular interest. The manuscript is richly illustrated and illuminated, partly by the scribe Georgis and partly by another artist. The ornamentation frequently shows Islamic influence, but the illustrations are Byzantine in style. The pages on display show the opening of the Gospel of Mark (verses 1-3) on the right. On the left is the Evangelist writing the first word of his text, and beside him stands the archangel Michael. See Jules Leroy, _Les Manuscrits coptes et coptes-arabes illustres_ (Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1974), 148-53. Vat. copt. 9 pp. 146-47 orient14 AH.72


***** END NOTE: This file has been edited for use on computer networks. This editing required the removal of diacritics, underlining, and fonts such as italics and bold. kde 02/93.