Elements of identification of 16th century Slavonic mss – University of Copenhagen

CC18 > Programme > Thursday 14 April - Session A > Elements of identifica...

Marta-Cristina Ursescu, Oana-Mihaela Căpăţînă, Ana-Maria Andrei: The Ornament: Elements of identification of the origin of a 16th-century Slavonic manuscript. 

Romanian literature has developed in the shadow of Slavo-Byzantine Christianity, because of the contact that Romanians had with the Slavs since the fourth and fifth centuries.

The literature of Slavic nations (Russians, Bulgarians and Serbs) starts in the tenth-eleventh centuries and is translated mostly from Byzantine literature; the above-mentioned nations have been under the cultural and even political tutelage of Byzantium. Therefore, the Slavic literature that circulated in our country between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries is actually Byzantine literature.

The old Slavonic language, which Cyril and Methodius and their disciples used for the translation of sacred books, became the 'ecclesiastical language' of all Orthodox Slavic nations, being also used in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Slavonic books in the Romanian principalities of Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania.
Slavo-Byzantine motifs merged with local elements in the artistic achievement of fifteenth and sixteenth century manuscripts from Moldova. This combination led to the appearance of decorative Moldavian style. The cornerstone was laid by a talented copyist, calligrapher and miniaturist - monk Gavril Uric - from Neamt monastery. He is the one who produced the famous manuscript with ornaments and miniatures: The Four Gospels of Oxford (1429).

The Wallachian decorative style uses, besides the geometric motifs found in Byzantine codices of Balkan origin, elements of both vegetation and zoomorphic representations. The landmark is set by the founder of some monastic settlements, the monk Nicodemus from the Tismana monastery. He came from Mount Athos (Serbian monastery Hilandar) with a deep spirituality, a special artistic vocation, but also with a Gospel, which he translated around 1404-1405, into Serbian Slavonic, and which circulated in Wallachia.

In addition to the outstanding examples mentioned above, a sixteenth century Slavonic manuscript, Praxiu or Acts of the Apostles represents an artistic combination of the Wallachian and Moldavian decorative styles. Its ornamentation is done in inks of various colours since the title page of the manuscript was missing, the ornament is what helped us identify in which of the three Romanian countries the manuscript was completed.
This book, the paper support and binding of which showed significant degradation, was studied, restored and given back to the museum circuit. We invite you to become familiar with it, thus being closer to the Christian and creative spirit of the Romanian people.