University of Chicago Library, Goodspeed Manuscript Collection Ms. 949, New Testament. Gospels (Red Gospels of Ganjasar). Armenia, 12th or 13th century.


Four gospels in Armenian. Section numbers in the margins against the text. Concordance numbers in the lower margins. Pentecostal lection numbers. Formerly Goodspeed Ms. Arm. 47.

The Red Gospels of Ganjasar, as the manuscript is commonly known, was named both for the predominant red pigment of its miniatures, and for the monastery in which its two earliest-known owners lived as members of the community

  1. fol. 3r
    Additions: Agreement (fragmentary) for the celebration of masses, dated 1281 (Armenian Era 730).
  2. fols. 8v-15v Canon tables bound out of order. The sequence now reads: I-II (fols. 10v-11r); III-IV (fols. 8v-9r); V-VII (fols. 12v-13r); VIII-X (fols. 14v-15r).
    Note: Blank (fols. 9v-10r, 13v-14r).
  3. fols. 17r-84r Matthew (incomplete, gospel begins with the last word of 8:34).
  4. fols. 85r-139r Mark.
  5. fols. 140r-237r Luke.
  6. fols. 238r-310r John.
  7. fols. 310r-310v Reading: The Woman taken in Adultery.
  8. fols. 311r-313v Colophon (incomplete) noting the acquisition of the manuscript by the brothers Grigor and Vardan, dated 1237 (Armenian Era 686).


11 full-page miniatures include evangelist portraits (Matthew missing) and depictions of events from the life of Christ. Painted by the artist Abas (his undated signature, fols. 4r, 139v).

Miniatures in the margins number 3, a harvester (fol. 179r), Christ on a donkey (fol. 213r), and a boy in a tree (fol. 280r). Marginal vignettes of arabesques, floral designs, and birds.


  1. fol. 1vVirgin Mary, Annunciation: Virgin Mary seated, foreground right; angel stands, at left.
    Note: Blank (fol. 1r).
  2. fol. 2rScenes displayed in 5 registers. Christ, Nativity: Virgin Mary lies on pallet inside stable, foreground; Christ Child in manger next to her, nuzzled by ox and donkey; six angels in background. Magi, Adoration: Midwives bathe Christ Child, at right, star overhead; Joseph dreams, seated on floor, at left; three magi, at center, flanked by angels, approach Christ-child carrying gifts. Shepherds, Beholding star: Shepherd plays pipe, at right; other shepherds gaze skyward; flock of sheep below them.
  3. fol. 3vChrist, Baptism: John the Baptist on riverbank, at left, baptizes Christ, at center, standing in river; dove of Holy Spirit descends from hand of God extended from star-filled sky; disciples and angels on either bank, in background.
  4. fol. 4rChrist, Transfiguration: Christ, at center, on mountain within star-filled mandorla, Elijah at left, Moses to the right; disciples Peter, James, and John, in foreground below.
  5. fol. 5rChrist, Entry into Jerusalem: Christ, at center, seated on donkey led by disciple; other disciples, at right; in foreground, people lay robes in Christ's path, others hold palm branches, at left; trumpeters playing in city tower, and a crowd watches from Jerusalem's walls, in background.
  6. fol. 6vChrist, Crucifixion: Christ crucified on cross, at center, flanked by Virgin Mary and disciple John; at left, personification of Church, accompanied by angel, holds chalice into which water and blood flow from wound in Christ's side; Synagogue personified, at right with attendant angel, turns away from scene; skull on mound at foot of cross; sun, moon, and angels in upper corners.
    Note: Inscription bordering miniature, in part illegible.
  7. fol. 7rChrist, Ascension: Christ seated within star-filled mandorla ascends to heaven flanked by angels, two of which blow trumpets; Virgin Mary and witnesses stand below the scene, gaze skyward.
    Note: Blank (fols. 7v-8r).
  8. fol. 16vEvangelist, Matthew, Portrait: Matthew writing, seated on bench; angel symbol above.
  9. fol. 84vEvangelist, Mark, Portrait: Mark writing, seated on bench; lion symbol above.
  10. fol. 139vEvangelist, Luke, Portrait: Luke writing, seated on bench; ox symbol above. Prayer: Remember the painter Abas, the unworthy priest
  11. fol. 237vEvangelist, John, Portrait: John writing, seated on bench; angel stands behind him; eagle symbol above.

Canon Tables

Citations of concordant gospel sections are framed with architectural columns that support headpieces of floral, foliate, and geometric designs, on which large birds (peacocks?) stand. The signatures of the artist and his pupil who created the tables, Ignatios and Yovsep‛, and a prayer that the lord remember them are found on fol. 13r.


The headpiece of Mark's gospel opening contains an image of the Deesis, Christ enthroned, the Virgin Mary on his right, and John the Baptist at his left (fol. 85r). Headpieces of Luke and John's gospel openings are of multi-colored floral, foliate, and interlace motifs (fols. 140r, 238r). Large marginal arabesques (200-215 mm).


The major initials of Mark (60 mm), Luke (145 mm), and John's (215 mm) gospel openings are formed by multi-colored floral, foliate, and interlace motifs.


Church, a metaphorical figure in the scene of Christ's crucifixion (fol. 6v), captures in a single chalice blood and water pouring in separate streams from the wound in Christ's side. It has been argued that this depiction is representative of the liturgical practice of the Georgian and Greek churches in which Eucharistic wine and water are mixed, rather than Armenian practice in which wine and water are kept separate. (Alice Taylor, "Armenian Illumination under Georgian, Turkish, and Mongol Rule," in Treasures in heaven: Armenian illuminated manuscripts, pp. 85-103).

Physical Description


Parchment. 265 x 200 mm.

Number of Leaves

316 leaves of which 1 front (newer parchment) and 1 back (paper) are flyleaves. The leaf following fol. 295, overlooked during the manuscript's initial foliation, has been designated fol. 295b. Flyleaves conjoint with pastedowns.


[i] + 1-295, 295b, 296-313 + [i]. Modern foliation in Arabic numerals in pencil.


215 x 135 mm (fol. 86r).


2 columns of 19 to 20 lines. Ruling with hard point.


Written in erkat’agir script in black ink.

Text Divisions

Titles in red.


Several miniatures suffered water damage which caused pigment to smear. Edges of all leaves are dry and some are cracked. Lower corners of a number of leaves have been reinforced. Margins trimmed presumably during rebinding, thus marring a number of marginal miniatures and vignettes. Dirt and grease stains.

Binding Description

Bound in dark brown leather over boards. Nail holes and several silver nails remaining along outer edge.

Covers (front and back) blind tooled in a repeating geometric pattern of diamonds with stamped rosettes at main points. Central motif set within a narrow rectilinear rosette-filled frame.



Written and illuminated in either the 12th or 13th century in Armenia, possibly at Ani, a historic site now located in Turkey. The artist Abas, who painted the miniatures, signed the scene of Christ's Transfiguration (fol. 4r), and the Evangelist Luke's portrait (fol. 139v) in Greek and Georgian. To the latter image, he added a third signature in Armenian, and a prayer. The painters who created the canon tables, Ignatios and his pupil Yovsep‛, added signatures and a brief prayer (fol. 13r).


According to the oldest extant colophon (fols. 311r-313v) dated 1237 (Armenian Era 686), the manuscript was acquired by the brothers Grigor and Vardan, who were priests under Abbot Yovhanēs at the Monastery of Ganjasar in the Xach‛en Canton of Armenia's Arts‛akh Province. Prayers recorded for Grigor and Vardan (fols. 83v, 139r, 236v).

An agreement (fol. 3r) dated 1281 (Armenian Era 730) between Marcpan and Mamikon and the clergy of the Monastery of the Holy Theotokos (Surb Astuacacin) at Shikayk‛ar indicates the former were owners who donated the manuscript to the monastic foundation in exchange for the celebration of masses in memory of certain family members. Those named include Hasan, Sewadē, and Mamaxat‛un.

The inscription of Xach‛luec‛i Yovanēs Baghtasar Yakobeanc‛, dated December 20, 1915, recounts the manuscript's capture and his recovery of it from the Kurdish village of Haytar-Ōghli. Also described is the flight of Armenian residents from Alashkert, the present-day Eleskirt, Turkey, to the village of Gēch‛rlu (fol. 236v).

Belonged to Mushegh Dawit‛ean who purchased the manuscript at Alashkert from Xach‛luec‛i Yakobeanc‛ for 10 Russian rubles on July 7, 1916. Additionally, he states that Turks had captured it in 1914 during one of the Russo-Turkish conflicts (his inscription, fol. 83v).

On an unknown date, the priest Hayrakan bought the manuscript for "one red ox and many other things," from Sewaday, son of Vaxtank. Hayrakan's grandfather (of the same name) had formerly owned the manuscript, and it is noted, "evil hands" had destroyed his colophon (fols. 236v-237r).

Bishop Sargis wrote an inscription for the priest Eghiay, who purchased the manuscript as a memorial to his soul and those of his parents Martiros and Jumli (fol. 139v).

Belonged also to Xawch‛a Sawar Gharberdec‛i, son of Astuacatur and Kulshat. In his undated inscription (fol. 84r), Gharberdec‛i refers to a famine and plague in the city of Karuc‛, the present-day Kars, Turkey, wherein he may have resided.

Other entries consist of brief prayers (fols. 8v, 15r), an inscription dated 1275 (Armenian Era 724) (fol. 15v), and partially legible notation (fols. 2v, 4v, 5v, 6r, 11v, 12r, 16r).


Acquired by the University of Chicago from R. Stora and Company (New York), September 1941.


  1. Sirarpie Der Nersessian, "Armenian Gospel Illustration as seen in manuscripts in American Collections," in New Testament Manuscript studies: the materials and the making of a critical apparatus edited by Merrill M. Parvis and Allen P. Wikgren. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, c1950), pp. 140-141, and pl. II.
  2. Merrill Mead Parvis, The Story of the Goodspeed Collection ([Chicago:] s.n., 1952), pp. 25-26.
  3. Erroll F. Rhodes, An Annotated List of Armenian New Testament Manuscripts, Annual Report of Theology 1 (1959), p. 134 (1038).
  4. New Testament manuscript traditions. An exhibition based on the Edgar J. Goodspeed Collection of the University of Chicago Library, the Joseph Regenstein Library, January-March, 1973. University of Chicago. Library. Dept. of Special Collections. Exhibition catalogs ([Chicago: s.n., 1973]), 36, no. 66.
  5. Avedis K. Sanjian, A catalogue of medieval Armenian manuscripts in the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 226-237.
  6. Treasures in heaven: Armenian illuminated manuscripts, edited by Thomas F. Mathews and Roger S. Wieck (New York: Pierpont Morgan Library; Princeton, N.J.: distributed by Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 163-164 (cat. 24).