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Athos Holy Mount

Illuminated Manuscripts
5.15 The Romance of Barlaam and Ioasaph
Early 13th c.
Iviron Cod. 463
Parchment, 23 x 17 cm, ff. 135


The Original New Testament

This is an early copy, which lacks its ending, of the well-known edifying romance of Barlaam and Ioasaph, and is considered to be the best of its kind and one of the finest illuminated manuscripts on Mount Athos. It has already been dated to the period of Latin rule, when the text seems to have been particularly popular with readers in the West. This view is supported by the existence of the French translation alongside the Greek text. It is illuminated with 80 miniatures, the first of which is a full-page depiction of St John Damascene, who is considered to be the author of the text (fol. 1v). The other 79 miniatures are inserted in the text in long rectangular frames before the passages to which they refer. In all, some 200 continuous episodes are depicted, i.e. one to three in each miniature, and the illustrations fall into two categories: those which refer to the action of the heroes of the romance and illustrate the parables the monk Barlaam relates to Ioasaph; and those inspired by the Christian teaching incorporated in the text, which is based on myths associated with the childhood of the Buddha. The miniatures are in almost perfect condition, except for the last few, which are slightly effaced, and that on folio 126v, which is completely destroyed. In addition, above the title of the text at the beginning (fol. 2r) there is a decorative headpiece in the form of a capital Π accompanied by a small initial O with flora motifs. The later binding of this precious codex consists of cardboard covered with deep green leather. Overall, the manuscript is in good condition.

Bibliography: Lambros 1900, p. 149. Der Nersessian 1937, pp. 23-5, pls. I-XXI. Weitzmann 1963, pp. 105-7. Xyngopoulos 1966, p. 77. Thesauroi 1975, pp. 307-24, figs. 53-132. Galavaris 1995 (2), pp. 29, 252-3, figs. 182-4.

Index of exhibits of Monastery of Iviron
13th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

Icon of the Mother of God and New Testament Reader Promote Greek Learning
Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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