There is a saying that Faith nourishes the soul and Knowledge the mind. The library of the Great Meteoron monastery is a combination of both. The monks for centuries in that monastery devoted their lives to God but also to the preservation of knowledge through time.
The library of the Monastery is one of the richest and most important of its kind. Despite the many vicissitudes of the last six centuries and the often adverse historical circumstances, the monks of Meteoron have, with devotion and respect, kept the precious treasures of their Monastery safe: manuscript codices, Byzantine and post-Byzantine documents, rare editions etc.
Old inventories in the last century as well as the systematic registration by Nikos Veis (at the beginning of our century 1908/9) of the manuscripts and the documents of the monastery compared with the present data, fortunately shows that the loss was small and insignificant.
Of the 1200 manuscripts of Meteora, 640 belong to the Monastery of Great Meteoron, 86 of those are on vellum. They span an interval of almost ten centuries of intellectual output (9-19 cent.). The largest part belongs to the interval between the 11th-16th centuries.
Their content diverse. It must be noted that the general rules conditioning the constitution of the monastic libraries apply here as well. Determinant factor of the kind of the manuscripts and editions collected here is mainly the liturgical needs of the monks who eventually were the only users of the library.
That’s why these codices are basically theological and ecclesiastical: liturgical books (Gospels, The Acts of the Apostles, Mass books, Paraklitiki, Orologia, Psalm Books, certain services, Religious observances etc), Holy Bible, patristic, hymnographic and hagiographic texts (Biographies, Martyrologies, Praisings, Legendaries and Services of martyrs, saints, neomartyrs and hosii of our Church), dogmatic, interpretative, apologetic, catechetic, ascetic, hortative texts, accounts edifying and uplifting for the monks (from Gerontikon) offertory books, Apokrypha etc. There is also a remarkable collection of manuscripts of chant and religious observances context (exomologitaria, nomokanones etc.).
But alongside the codices of theological context there are others of the so-called “outer” education that is texts by ancient authors (Homer, Hesiodus, Sophocles, Demosthenes, Aristotle, Alexandrian writers) as well as subsequent texts of philosophy, grammar, astrology, alchemy, epistles and numerous interesting texts of popular or folk literature in poetry many of which are rare.
Apart from the significance of the codices owing to the text they preserve exceptional is their paleographic importance since through them the evolution of writing and the various kinds of script in use over the centuries may be systematically studied. It seems that there was an organized scriptorium functioning here with accomplished illuminators and scribes during the 16th and 17th century. The manuscripts of the monastery preserve the names of some 130 calligraphers, a lot of whom become known only by their work here.
The earliest manuscript, which dates from the 9th century, is the famous codex 591 (Ioannis Chrysostomos’ hermeunetic homilies on St. Mark’s Gospel), penned in 861/62 at the Monastery of St. Anne in Bithynia, in majuscules and minuscules by Eustathioshe monk. This is the oldest of all the Meteoric codices and possibly the earliest dated codex in Greece today.
A lot of codices are valuable artistic heirlooms since they are richly and elaborately illuminated with impressive miniatures, colorful and ornated headpieces, initials and other decorative vignettes.
Indicatively we mention the old and of particular artistic importance miniatures of the Evangelists and other saints of the codices 540 and 552 (11th cent.), 106 (13th cent.) and 298 (15/16th cent.). Of the well-known calligraphers of the artistic set of the Luke from Hungarovlachia (1603 – 1628) we mention the priest-monk Anthimos from Ioannina scribe and illuminator during the years 1634-1641 of the codices 217, 222, 223 and 508 (miniatures of David, Vasilios the Great, St. Ioannis Chrysostomos, St. Gregorios Dialogos etc).
Lastly the various memoranda which appear in and among the folios of these codices are an valuable source of local and general history. We cite the indicative bibliographic note of the year 1385/86 which is at the same time an interesting memorandum of the codex 555, which was written on the initial and at the expenses of the second founder of the Monastery St. Ioasaph a few years after Saint Athanasios’ death: “the present book of Meteoron was written on the initial and at the expenses of the king and very saintly among the monks Ioasaph by the hands of the archivist of the Holy See of Trikala priest Thomas Xeros in the year [6894 = 1385/6] ninth indiction, when the Turks by divine dispensation, became masters not only of the city of Veria but also of a small part of the globe ”.
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