YEREVAN—A 15th century manuscript, said to have healing prayers, that journeyed from Western Armenia to Yerevan, to France and then the United States—Iowa and California—has found its way back in Armenia, when the Dadaian family, which was entrusted with its safe keeping a century ago, donated the rare artifact to the Matenadaran.
During a special ceremony on July 18, Helen Parnagian (Hrepsima Dadaian), presented the Gospel to Matenadaran officials on her and her brother, Hriyr Dadaian’s behalf. Joining her in Yerevan at the ceremony were her children, Roxanne Makasdjian of San Francisco and Christopher Parnagian of New York, their spouses and children, as well as the grandson of Hriyr Dadaian, Raffi Dadaian, Helen’s first cousin, Maguy (Dadaian) Kouyoumdjian of Paris, France, and Helen’s second cousin, Hasmik Martirosyan of Yerevan.
The story of the manuscript is traced to the Godarich village in the Charsanjan district of Western Armenia, which was home to the St. Kevork Church, a pilgrimage site for the local Armenians and Kurds alike.
The book was commissioned by Khjan Alexan, who dedicated it to his brother, Gabriel. The current version of the book is adorned with an ornate silver cover, which was added in 1753.
The Dadaian family resided in the village of Lusadaritch in Charsanjak Province. During the years of the Genocide, the men of the family were dispersed around the world. Some were in the US, while others were fighting alongside General Antranig or had been killed during the Genocide or had perished.
Yeghsa Dadaian, the wife of Sarkis, who was the eldest of the six Dadaian brothers, became the matriarch of the family. She fearlessly gathered the five women and six children of the Dadaian clan and led them out of Lusadarich village in 1915, travelling east for three years, until they reached Yerevan in 1918 on the eve of Armenia’s Independence.
While in Yerevan, Yeghsa met a man from the Godarich village who was extremely ill and asked her to care for her. During that time, he presented Yeghsa with the gospel and asked her to keep it safe until his recovery. Unfortunately, the man did not survive and Yeghsa was left with the manuscript.
Two years later, three teenage Dadaian boys, one of them Yeghsa’s son John, left for America to join an uncle who had settled in Davenport, Iowa. Soon after, Yeghsa and her daughters went to France, and she took the Gospel, wrapped in silk and hand embroidered cloth, with her. In 1934 she took the precious book with her when she crossed the Atlantic to reach America to be with her son in Iowa.
Yeghsa passed away in Iowa. Her son John inherited the manuscript and upon his death, his wife Araksi moved to California, fervently guarding the book. Araksi passed away in 1990 and the book was inherited by her children, Hriyr and Hrepsima (Helen). They decided it should go back to Yerevan where the Dadaian family originally came into possession of the ancient manuscript