LYTURGIA ARMENA Lyturgia Armena [with] Ministerium Missae

Rome, Typis Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1677


Folio, 2 works in one, pp. (ii) 20, (ii) 30, separate t-ps, portrait of St. Gregory on verso of first. Text in Armenian in red and black throughout, double column, titles and imprints in Latin. Printer’s device to both title-pages, woodcut floriated initials, two quarter to half page woodcuts illustrating text, typographical borders and ornaments in red and black. General age browning and light foxing, tear to lower outer corner of p.3 (first work) not affecting text, closed tear to lower margin of p. 11 (first work) and of p. 7 (second work), light waterstains to some upper outer corners and lower margins at gutter, wormholes to upper blank margin close to gutter. A good large copy in contemporary vellum over boards, faint ms inscription to upper cover, small hole to lower, a few marks and scratches.

A beautifully printed edition, with fine woodcut ornaments and illustrations in black and red, of this important Armenian missal. It is composed of two parts, which may be found together or separate: the ‘Lyturgia Armena’, which contains the parts of the liturgy which were repeated by the priest; and the ‘Ministerium Missae’, the parts recited by the deacon and choir. This edition was realised by the Propaganda Fide Polyglot printing press, an important adjunct to the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide. Established by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 to organise missionary work on behalf of the various religious institutions, the congregation needed to mass-produce catholic literature in the various native languages that missionaries would encounter. The Polyglot press was set up in 1626, and among the 28 Armenian books printed in the XVII century, only four were for liturgical use – including this missal.

The Armenian liturgy is patterned after the directives of Saint Gregory the Illuminator (‘Enlightener’, previously known as Grigor Lusavorich, c. 239 – c. 330 AD), represented in a large woodcut here. Founder and patron saint of the Armenian Church, he is widely credited with converting king Tiridates the Great to Christianity and spreading that religion throughout the country. This liturgical text was composed between the IV and the V century and, around the same time, the Armenian alphabet – almost exclusively employed in the pages of this book – was developed. The book includes prayers by St. Athanasius and John Chrysostom and received several additions in the course of the ages.

The Armenians separated from the Catholic Church in the VI century. Following the schism, single Armenian communities – for example, the Dominican native missionaries called ‘United Brothers’ in the XIV century and the Catholic Armenians of Poland in the 1630s – attempted a reunion with the Church of Rome. Particularly in the XVII century, the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide took advantage of this situation and promoted an intense missionary activity in Armenia aimed at reconverting the population. Around the same time, a college for the Armenians was established in Rome, which welcomed and provided an accommodation for merchants and pilgrims. In support of the missionary activity and the education of the growing community of Catholic Armenians in Rome, the first edition of the Armenian liturgy was published in 1642. Scholars report that this edition was not appreciated by the Armenians due to the variations from their actual rite, and it was therefore scarcely used. Thus, these new editions of the ‘Lyturgia Armena’ and ‘Ministerium Missae’ were produced in Rome by the Propaganda Fide printing press in 1677.


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