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Athos Holy Mount

Greek Manuscripts
18.27 Tetraevangelon, Psalter, Thekaras, etc.
Iviron Monastery, Cod. 809
Paper, 22.2/23.5 x 16.1/18 cm, ff. 502



The Original New Testament

Scribe. Theophilos Iviritis.

While manuscript production on Mount Athos was limited during the Byzantine era, the opposite was true in post-Byzantine times, particularly in the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth. During this time numerous scribes were at work, either alone or in organized scriptoria, and many of their manuscripts survive today (see the entries nos. 18.10, 18.28 and 18,29).

One such systematic, industrious and prolific scribe was the writer of this manuscript, the monk Theophilos Iviritis, also known as 'the unfortunate' or 'the ragged', whose activity is attested over a period of at least 30 years, from 1518 to 1548, and of whose work 29 manuscripts survive, some in the same monastery and the rest in other monasteries on Athos or outside. He lived a turbulent life, and was forced to wander from place to place. In his wanderings he spent a while at the Kosinitsa Monastery on Mt. Pangaion, where he continued his activity, as four manuscripts - all liturgies - which used to belong to the monastery attest (nos. 289, 290, 291, 296); of these, two (nos. 290 and 291) are today in the Duj ev Centre in Sofia, where they have been given the numbers 139 and 181, following the well-known looting of the monastery by the Bulgarians in 1917. Theophilos, however, distinguished himself for his virtuous life, which led the Church to pronounce him a saint (hosios) and commemorate him on 8 July. Theophilos, who had specialized in the copying of religious and liturgical manuscripts, used to write long notes at the end of these, from which we learn a great deal about his life and other events.

Iviron Cod. 809 is the oldest of his extant manuscripts.

Scribe's note. At the end of the manuscript:

'This was finished in the month of April in the year 7026 (= 1518) in the hesychasterion of John the Forerunner, which is attached to the Holy Monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos...
This book was completed, with God's help, through the labours of the unfortunate, ragged Theophilos.'

At another point in the manuscript:

'I beseech all who come across this book not to dare cut it up shamelessly, in order to take it apart and remove either the Gospels or the Psalter or Thekaras or any other office or part, or even a single leaf, but let it remain intact, just as it was written and bound by me. Should the binding become worn, may it be rebound just as it is now. If anyone should act against what I say, the curse of my sinful unworthy self be upon him. And may whoever owns this take care not to leave it lying idle on the shelf but always make full use of it; for this is why the book was written, so that he might not suffer the same condemnation as he who hid the talent. And if he should neglect his own salvation, let him give the book to another who cares greatly about being saved so that he might use it to gain the riches of heaven and to pray for my wretched self, who is responsible for a thousand wicked deeds and is unworthy of either heaven or earth. May the Lord have mercy upon me and deliver me from eternal damnation; therefore, I beseech you, all the holy fathers, to pray for me.'

Decoration. The manuscript is illuminated with 4 illustrations.

Bibliography: Lambros 1900, p. 227. Vogel - Gardthausen 1909, pp. 146-7. Politis 1957 (2), pp. 365-79. Politis 1963, p. 125. RGK 1981, no. 139. Atsalos 1990, pp. 84-5 and n. 262-4 and 266. "Checklist" 1994, pp. 29, 57.

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16th century

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