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Manuscript Collections of Meteora Monasteries, Greece

One of the ironies of writing a blog on offline resources worldwide is that it’s difficult to include anything that isn’t at least described online in some depth.  This is the problem that confronted That’s Not Online! when Vassiliki Veros (@VaVeros on Twitter) suggested a post on the manuscripts of the Meteora Monasteries in Greece.  It’s easy enough to discover that there is a significant collection of manuscripts contained within these monasteries.  Finding out what the collection consists of is another matter, though it might be easier if you speak Greek (That’s Not Online! speaks English, French and Spanish).  Worth it, though, because the world (or our readership) should know that this place exists:

Image by Heiko Gorski.

Lovely!  But what’s inside?

First, some background: The Meteora monasteries are a complex of six Eastern Orthodox monasteries built on top of natural sandstone rock pillars in central Greece.  The peaks were inhabited by ascetic monks from the 9th century onward.  Building began in earnest during the 14th century, as increasing numbers of Orthodox monks sought refuge from Turkish invaders.  Wikipedia states that the monasteries are now on the UNESCO World Heritage list and primarily serve as a tourist attraction.

According to Daniel B. Wallace of the Centre for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, there are 63 Greek New Testament manuscripts at Meteora, with most being found at Metamorphosis, one of the six monasteries.  Wallace’s article suggests that the cataloguing records for these manuscripts is incomplete.

New Testament manuscripts are only part of the story, of course.  This local tourist site claims that the Meteora monasteries own about 1200 manuscripts in total, produced between the 9th and 19th centuries.  These are primarily of a theological nature but contain some works on philosophy, grammar, alchemy etc., as well as works by ancient authors, and many are beautifully illuminated.  In addition to the manuscripts, there are documents such as golden bulls, metropolitan documents, and patriarchal sigils, as well as printed books, some dating to the 15th century.

Some thumbnail-sized scans of illuminated manuscripts are available through the Digital Content Library of the University of Minnesota.  If other digital images exist, they are not easily found.

Posted on March 24th, 2011
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