Armenian Relics of Cilicia at Greek Museum

From Museum of the Catholicosate – Antelias–Lebanon

The Benaki Museum–with the support of the Armenian Orthodox Church of Greece and thanks to the initiative of the Karabet Kalfayan family–has organized an exhibition entitled "Armenian Relics of Cilicia." The exhibition deals with the history and art of the Armenia’s of Cilicia–from the time of the foundation of the medieval kingdom of Lesser Armenia in the 12th century until the great persecution of 1915. On display are some 80 objects from among the treasures of the Armenian church of St. Sophia in Sis–Cilicia–brought with the caravan of refugees all the way to Aleppo and then to Antelias in Lebanon–where the Catholicosate of Cilicia sought refuge and has its See today. This material is complemented by three important man’scripts dating from the period between the 12th and the 14th centuries–from the Armenian Monastery of the Mekhitarists in Venice.

The main thematic groups of the exhibition comprise illuminated man’scripts of the 13th to the 17th centuries–coins dating from the 12th to the 14th centuries–incunabula of the 16th to the 18th centuries–church silver and hieratic vestmen’s of the 13th to the 19th centuries–all of which define the identity and mark the historical vicissitudes of the Armenian people. In the older objects–dating from the 13th-14th centuries–and chiefly in the man’scripts–is reflected the East Christian world in Byzantine and Crusader times–a world to which the Armenian kingdom also belonged. In the silver works of this period may be traced the influences left on Armenian art by the brief contact between the kingdom of Cilicia and the medieval West–when the Muslim threat and the missionary zeal of Rome led the leadership of the Armenian Church to adopt a policy favorable to union with the Latin church.

The later works of Ottoman times reflect the fruitful union between Armenian artistic tradition and trends of Ottoman art–mainly that of the 18th and 19th centuries. At the same time–they present common stylistic features with Greek liturgical objects–a result of the co-existence of the two peoples–as much in the towns and villages of Asia Minor as in the large urban centers such as Constantinople and Smyrna.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue containing rich photographic material and contributions by Tom Sinclair–assistant professor in the Department of Turkish Studies of the University of Cyprus–Helen Evans–curator of the Byzantine Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York–Ioanna Rapti–of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes of the Sorbonne–and Anna Ballian–curator–Department of Post-Byzantine Art in the Benaki Museum–who is also the curator of the exhibition and editor of the catalogue.

An English and Greek catalogue has been produced by OLKOS Publications.

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