Tuesday, July 20, 2010

World's first illustrated Christian bible discovered at Ethiopian monastery

The world's earliest illustrated Christian book has been saved by a British charity which located it at a remote Ethiopian monastery.

The incredible Garima Gospels are named after a monk who arrived in the African country in the fifth century and is said to have copied them out in just one day.

Beautifully illustrated, the colours are still vivid and thanks to the Ethiopian Heritage Fund have been conserved.

Abba Garima arrived from Constantinople in 494 AD and legend has it that he was able to copy the gospels in a day because God delayed the sun from setting.

The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of the country, which is in the Tigray region at 7,000 feet.

Experts believe it is also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages....

Though the texts had been mentioned by the occasional traveller since the 1950s, it had been thought they dated from the 11th century at the earliest.

Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650 - which tantalisingly overlaps the date Abba Garima arrived in the country.
Apropos of Ethiopia, an Abyssinian member of our congregation recently told us about a monastery she'd visited several times in Eritrea. According to local tradition, the monastery's founding saint wished to settle atop a sheer plateau, but couldn't climb the necessary cliff. He prayed to the Archangel Michael, who kindly sent a giant python. The snake first offered to take them up in its jaws, but the monks would have none of it. So the helpful python, doubtless rolling its eyes, reversed directions and took them up in its tail.

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