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Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817 - 1900) Mkhitarian on the island of St. Lazarus. Venice Oil on canvas, 1843 68 x 100 cm (26.77
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Title: Mkhitarian
Description:

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817 - 1900)
Mkhitarian on the island of St. Lazarus. Venice
Oil on canvas, 1843
68 x 100 cm
(26.77" x 39.37")
House Museum Saryan, Armenia


Mechitarists

The Mechitarists (Armenian: Մխիթարեան, also spelled Mekhitarists), are a congregation of Benedictine monks of the Armenian Catholic Church founded in 1712 by Mechitar of Sebaste. They are best known for their series of scholarly publications of ancient Armenian versions of otherwise lost ancient Greek texts.

Their eponymous founder, Mekhitar, was born at Sebaste in Ottoman Empire in 1676. He entered a monastery, but was concerned about the level of culture and education in Armenia under Turkish rule at that period, and sought to do something about it. Contacts with Western missionaries led him to become interested in translating material from the West into Armenian and setting up an order to facilitate education.

Mechitar set out for Rome in 1695 to make his ecclesiastical studies there, but he was compelled by illness to abandon the journey and return to Armenia. In 1696 he was ordained priest and for four years worked among his people.

In 1700 he went to Constantinople and began to gather disciples around him. Mechitar formally joined the Latin Church, and in 1701, with sixteen companions, he formed a religious institute of which he became the superior. They encountered the opposition of other Armenians and were compelled to move to the Morea (Peloponnese), at that time Venetian territory, where they built a monastery in 1706. In its inception the order was looked upon merely as an attempted reform of Eastern monachism. Filippo Bonanni, S.J., writes at Rome, in 1712 when the order received its approval, of the arrival of Elias Martyr and Joannes Simon, two Armenian monks sent by Mechitar to Pope Clement XI to offer the most humble subjection of himself and convent (Ut ei se cum suis religiosis humillime subjiceret). There is no mention, at the moment, of the Benedictine Rule. The monks, such as St. Anthony instituted in Egypt (quos St. Antonius in Aegypto instituerat), have begun a foundation in Modon with Mechitar (Mochtàr) as abbot.

On the outbreak of hostilities between the Turks and Venetians they migrated to Venice, and the island of San Lazzaro was given to them in 1717. This has remained the headquarters of the congregation to this date; Mechitar died there in 1749, leaving his institute firmly established.

The order became very wealthy from gifts. The behaviour of the abbot Melkhonian caused a group of monks to leave in disgust and elect their own abbot, first at Trieste and then in 1810 at Vienna. They also established a printing press. The work of printing of Armenian books was by this time of great financial importance and the Venetian Republic made considerable efforts to encourage their return, but in vain.,

In 1810 all the other monastic institutions in Venice were abolished by Napoleon, but the Mechitarists were exempted by name from the decree.

Lord Byron visited the monastery, and his companion John Cam Hobhouse has left this account of the visit on Wednesday November 13, 1816:

Byron and I then went in [a] gondola to [the] establishment of St Lazare. It was some time before we were let in – the brothers were at prayer, but when we walked into their church one of them bowed out and most courteously showed us about. Unfortunately the key to the library was not to be found – the keeper of it was out. We saw the neat galleries and little chambers of the fathers, with Armenian letters over them. Our conductor showed us a man’s dictionary of Armenian and Latin – told us there were about forty frati and eighteen pupils, some few from Armenia, but mostly Constantinople. One has been in London and talks English. The youths learn Latin, all of them, and some Greek – also German and French some – and all Italian – English will now be taught.
Those who please of the pupils enter the order (they have revenues on the mainland). Zanetto said Napoleon despoiled them, but our conductor contradicted this, and said that he gave a decree from Paris saving this brotherhood from the fate of the other monasteries on account of their patriotic labours for their countrymen. We saw their press, where eight men are employed, when we saw them on an Armenian Testament. They are now on a translation of Rollin. Their average is four books a year. They are all for the use of the Armenian nation, and all printed, as our guide said, in the literal (=literary/classical) Armenian. They are shipped for Constantinople, and there sold.

The dining-hall set out there looked like a Cambridge dining-hall – and the establishment is about 100 years old founded by one [Mechitar], whose picture is in the refectory. It did our hearts good to see the place. We are to return and see the library. They are all Catholics.

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Goback 20 / 48 Forward
Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817 - 1900) The Descent of Noah Mount Ararat Oil on canvas, 1889 128 x 218 cm National Gallery of ArmeniaIvan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817 - 1900) Mkhitarian on the island of St. Lazarus. Venice Oil on canvas, 1843 68 x 100 cm (26.77\\\" x 39.37\\\") House Museum Saryan, ArmeniaIvan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817 - 1900) Ships of Columbus Oil on canvas, 1880 140 x 170 cm (55.11\\\" x 66.92\\\") Private Collection
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