Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 01 December |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Charles de Foucauld
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The oldest, most complete Gospel book on Earth is in Ethiopia

Daniel Esparza - published on 07/06/16

The “Garima Gospels” are dated somewhere in between the years 330 and 650

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The world’s earliest known illustrated copy of the Gospels, the Garima Gospels, has been saved for centuries in a remote Ethiopian monastery.

Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.
Experts believe the Garima Gospels are also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages.

The astonishingly beautiful Garima Gospels are named after a monk, Abba Garima, who arrived in Ethiopia in 494, from Constantinople. Legend says he copied the Gospels in just one day because God delayed the sun from setting so the monk could finish his work. The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery, near Adwa, in northern Ethiopia at 7,000 feet.

Sixth century portrait illumination of Mark from Gärima 2, likely the earlier of the two Gärima Gospels
Sixth century portrait illumination of Mark from Gärima 2, likely the earlier of the two Gärima Gospels

The survival of the book is the more surprising considering all throughout its history, the country has suffered different invasions, and that, in 1930, a fire destroyed the monastery’s church.

Carbon tests give a date between 330 and 650, which might coincide with the date Abba Garima arrived in Ethiopia.
Picasa 3.0
Carbon tests give a date between 330 and 650, which might coincide with the date Abba Garima arrived in Ethiopia.

It is not as if these texts were forgotten or unknown. Actually, they have been often mentioned by travelers since the 1950’s (in particular, the British art historian Beatrice Playne) but they were thought to be dated from the 11th century, at the earliest. Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650, which might coincide with the date Abba Garima arrived in Ethiopia, according to a post originally published by Ancient Origine.

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Andrea Bocelli
J-P Mauro
Andrea Bocelli to perform live Christmas conc...
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to t...
John Paul II
Philip Kosloski
St. John Paul II's guide to a fruitful Advent
CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
6 Questions to determine if your heart is har...
FIRST CENTURY HOUSE AT THE SISTERS OF NAZARETH SITE
John Burger
British archaeologist confident he has found ...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.