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 survival of the Gospels is incredible considering the country has been under Muslim invasion, Italian invasion and a fire in the 1930s destroyed the monastery’s church.
They were written on goat skin in the early Ethiopian language of Ge’ez.
There are two volumes which date from the same time, but the second is written in a different hand from the first. Both contain illustrations and the four Gospels.
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
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