From My Diary

It has been interesting to wander off for a bit into the field of early Welsh studies.  But I very much want to return to more familiar territory now.

Sitting on my desktop are a number of Word documents, containing partially complete translations of documents from the Council of Hippo (393) and the 3rd Council of Carthage (397).  I see these were last touched in June this year.  In fact I was relieved that it is not even longer!

This afternoon I picked up one of these, and started to look at it.  It contained a canon of the council of Hippo.  Back in the 1960s Charles Munier discovered five lost canons in a manuscript somewhere – not sure where – and published them in an article to which I have no access, Charles Munier, “Cinq canons inédits du concile d’Hippone du 8 octobre 393”, in: Revue de droit canonique 18 (1968) p. 16-29.  Presumably this says more about his discovery.

The text is pretty rough!  I had a go at the first canon back in the summer, but the sentences rather defeated me.

I had another go this afternoon, and this time the sentences made more sense.  I expect those fluent in reading Latin would have no difficulty.  But those of us who are dabblers must look at each sentence as if it was a crossword puzzle, to be decyphered word by word and clause by clause.  When you do that, you can get lead by one set of words in into a state of mind in which even obvious Latin is opaque.  You have to go away, and come back.  So it was this afternoon.  I was quite glad to find that it was working.

I shall do more of this.  I’d like to finish up all the material from these two councils and create a document with text and translation, containing the whole thing.  That would be one project done.

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More on Llan Awst

Now that we have located the missing Welsh hamlet of Llan Awst using the tithe map of 1844 – about which more in a moment -, it’s time to give some more information about the area.

On the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) website, the tithe maps are also linked to Welsh newspaper articles.  These also record the existence of Llanawst.  I have found a couple of articles, but there might very well be more.

The first of these is from the Monmouthshire Merlin, 12th October 1850, where an advertisement on page two reads:

THE MONMOUTHSHIRE HOUNDS WILL MEET ON Monday, October 14th, at Lanawst. Machen; Wednesday 16th, at Machen Village; Friday 18th, at Tredegar Park; Each day at ten o’clock.

The second article is from a Welsh-language newspaper, Ystorfa weinidogaethol, (Cyf. IV Rhif. 35 Ionawr 1841) (Permalink here) and on p.24 out of 32 records the activities of a charitable organisation, the “True Ivors”, establishing “lodges” (i.e. branches, like masonic lodges) in various places, including Risca, Llanawst and Machen.

In my last post, I mentioned that we owe a great debt of thanks to Mr Wayne Barnett, the Rector’s Churchwarden at Lower Machen.  He asked his Welsh-speaking neighbour, Mr Iwan Brooks-Jones, to read this article for us, who replied:

It appears to be a report of the Gwent and Glamorgan branch of the Gwir Iforiaid (True Ivors) philanthropic society meeting held in Blackwood in 1840.

It was attended by officials from 19 lodges. A fund had been formed for widows and orphans in the region and they hoped to reach 100 by the end of the year (but not clear 100 what!).

There’s a list of the 19 lodges and Machen is one of them…

He also found a source on just who the “True Ivorites” were, which is here.

    *    *    *    *

But what are these “tithe maps”?  They are the product of a very long historical process in England and Wales, which only ended in 1977, and the maps emerge from an Act of Parliament in 1836.

In England and Wales during the medieval period and after, one-tenth (10%) of the agricultural produce of the land in a parish was due as “tithe” to support the parish church and the parish clergyman.  (I ignore the question of “Great Tithes” and “Lesser Tithes”).  This system was inevitably unpopular with the farmers, although we may wonder what they would make of the efficient manner in which the modern state takes 50%.  We learn from Paupers and Pig Killers: the Diary of William Holland, A Somerset Parson (1799-1818), that the parson had to be sharp in order to get his tithe in full, and even so that he might hesitate to press a powerful landowner too much for it.

But by 1800 change was under way.  It was an utter nuisance to everyone to pass around bushels of corn and so forth, and so agreements were made to pay cash instead.  While the Rev. William Holland was still receiving payment in kind, in Norfolk his contemporary James Woodforde records cash payments in his The Diary of a Country Parson (1758-1802), at his annual “Tithe Audit Dinner”, taking place shortly before Christmas.  The farmers would assemble, with their money, and the parson would give them a dinner with plenty of strong beer.  The poet William Cowper records how these could be sour affairs.  The farmers hated paying over their money.  By contrast the tithe audit dinners of Parson Woodforde became increasingly genial and pleasant affairs as the parson grew older, and prices rose.  The Napoleonic Wars led to huge inflation, which the old parson did not understand.  When he died, leaving a very modest sum, his successor immediately doubled the tithe.  Parson Woodforde knew that the farmers cared only about money, and their geniality demonstrated that they knew that they were robbing the old man of his due.

In 1836 parliament passed an Act to change all of the tithes to a money payment.  This meant that surveys had to be commissioned of areas where payment in kind still applied, with maps of where the fields were, and who owned them, and what the tithe payment should be.  But this was in the interests of the farmers, and so it proceeded rapidly.  The tithe maps for Wales are the output of this process.

It should be added that tithes continued to exist in England and Wales until 1936, when a cash payment was made to the church by the government to commute all the tithes once and for all.  By this time they were deeply unpopular, and the use of bailiffs to collect the tithe created deep hatred in areas like East Anglia.  In 1933 the British Union of Fascists succeeded in gaining public support by sending groups of blackshirts to farms in order to defend the farmers against the bailiffs!  This probably hastened the end of the system.  Even so there were administrative matters concerning the tithe fund, which continued as late as 1977.

But the existence of the tithe maps is the one pleasant outcome, that has outlasted all the centuries of financial exactions.

    *    *    *    *

Churchwarden Wayne Barnett also drew my attention to a couple of other important points.

The first is something very  likely to confuse readers looking at a modern map.  On a modern map, there is the town of Machen; and the village of Lower Machen.  But in Borrow’s time, in 1854, the name “Machen” referred to what is today called Lower Machen.  By 1900 a town of “Upper Machen” had come into existence through industry, and today it dwarfs the original village.  He writes:

There has been a place of worship at Lower Machen since the 6th century but we only have knowledge of records from 1102. As an aside, you may like to look at https://lowermachen.church/heritage/ … However, Lower Machen Church does have a small group of volunteers working on the historic significance of the village – you may have noticed on our website there are a couple of books that may interest you. Sorry for the commercial plug but they are hot off the press last Friday with all proceeds going to our charity work, the Parish Trusthttps://lowermachen.church/books/

He kindly sent me a PDF of one of the books, on the Morgan family chapel, which is excellent. I am happy to promote the books!

Living locally he was also able to comment on Borrow’s route:

He seems to be following the river Rhymney past Bedwas (colliery) and hitting Llanawst before Machen (written in that order). In 1854 UPPER Machen would have developed through industry and there was certainly at least one mine (behind my house) and very close to the river.

If only we knew which Machen he refers to – I assume it is Lower Machen as the Traeth (on the Draethen road) must be the large flat fertile area referred to and he seems to have crossed to that side of the river after Bedwas.

    *    *    *    *

The other point is whether there is anything ancient and monastic to be seen.  The “Llan” in Llanawst ought to indicate a monastic site.  But nothing is known now. William Graham mentioned that there is a demolished church at Llanvedw next to Ruperra – too far away –  and that some maps note the supposed site of a priory in Park Wood.  But this has no known history.

Here’s the ordinance survey map of the area.  I have highlighted Llan Awst, the priory site, and the scale.

Llan Awst and the supposed “priory” ruins in Park Wood.

Wayne Barnett sent me two pages from Antony Pickford, Between Mountain and Marsh (1947) ch. 5, pp.56-7.  The author is discussing the Benedictine priory of Bassaleg, and mentions ruins in Park Wood:

Now the most interesting question is that of the location of the monastic buildings and unfortunately it is just the one we cannot answer. Let Coxe speak again. “ No remains of the ancient Priory exist at Bassaleg; there is however a ruined building at a distance of about a mile in the midst of a deep sequestered Forest not far from the Rumney, not far from the con­fines of Machen Parish, which is supposed by some to have been part of the Monastery. The name of this Forest, still called Coed y Monachty, seems to confirm the opinion.”

I presume it is on the strength of this that the six inch Ordnance Map confidently marks “Site of Priory” at a spot half way down the Machen side of the brook in the middle of Park Wood.

There is undoubtedly a ruin there; within living memory some of the foundations were knee high. Now one will probably walk over the site a dozen times and not notice the cut stone wall bases scarcely showing above the earth. Short of thorough excavation we shall never know any more about this building.

Was it the Priory? It seems very doubtful. The building could have been a single cell of earlier or later date; the wood could have been called Coed y Monachty, simply because it belonged to the monks; the whole thing may have been invented at a much later date by some person who found the old ruins hidden in the wood and decided that they had once been the Priory. Even as a form of mortification of the flesh it is very difficult to see how worship could have been carried on satisfactorily in church on the banks of the Ebbw by monks who dwelt two and a half miles away on the banks of the Rhymni! In fact it is an impossible supposition. The Priory must have been close beside whatever building then served as a church. Owing to the early dissolution of the House there has been ample time for all trace of foundations to disappear.

We may say that the Priory was somewhere near the present church site and that short of complete excavation it is impossible to reach any conclusion about the building in Park Wood.

Of the doings of the Benedictine monks of Bassaleg we are fortunate enough to possess a little evidence….

Whether the ruin in Park Wood has any connection with Llanawst, except geographical closeness, we do not know.

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It’s time to wrap up this series of posts, and return to where we started: the statement of Canon G. H. Doble, in his Saint Mewan and Saint Austell, that a place named Llanawystl existed in Wales, which might be connected to St Austell in Cornwall.

I think we can happily conclude that the lost and now found hamlet of Llan Awst in Monmouthshire has no connection at all to St Austell in Cornwall.  The Welsh literary sources atttribute it to a female saint named Hawystl, the daughter of a sub-Roman / early Welsh kinglet named Byrchan.  Since both names derive from Latin, Augustus -> Awst, and Augustulus -> Awstl, we really do not need to suppose any direction connection.

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The location of Llan Awst

Since I read in G. H. Doble’s Saint Mewan and Saint Austell that there was a related place in Wales named Llanawystl, I have tried to find out where this might be, as I mentioned here. In particular I was working from a reference in George Borrow’s Wild Wales, where he says that in 1854 he “passed by Llanawst and Machen” as he travelled East along the Rhymney valley towards Newport.  But no such place as Llanawst is known today.

I have now located Llanawst, or Llan Awst as my source spells it.  This was only through the aid of others – of whom more anon – and through the marvellous online resources of the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW).

The location of Llan Awst is shown on a Welsh Tithe Map, produced in 1844, together with lists of fields and owners, and accessible online, together with three fields in a triangle around it.  The map has the title “Plan of the parish of Bassalleg in the County of Monmouth”, produced by a professional surveyor and valuer, William Jones.  A useless low-resolution copy of the map can be found here.  But the high-resolution version is incorporated into the Welsh Tithe Maps website of the National Library of Wales.  Field number 927, named “llanawst field” is online here.  If you zoom the map out a little, you will be able to check the box marked “Tithe Map Overlay”.  The hamlet of Llan Awst instantly becomes visible.

Llan Awst, on the Bassaleg Tithe Map (1838-1850

If you uncheck the tithe map overlay, and choose the satellite view, you can at once see the modern landscape.

The location of Llan Awst today, on the A468 between Lower Machen and Rhiwderin.

It is also possible to show the Ordinance Survey map, ca. 1900, for the same area, where we discover that it is labelled “Maypole Inn”.

Llan Awst / Llanawst, as the Maypole Inn, ca. 1900.

It is quite clear that little has changed in the last 170 years, except that the name has been lost.

This I owe to Dr James January-McCann, Place Names Officer at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, who in response to an email to the RCAHMW kindly did a search.  I had discovered one field, but he located three fields in the tithe map which, under various spellings, bear the name of Llan Awst.  It was while scrolling over the map on the website that I spotted the hamlet of Llan Awst itself.  The fields are numbered, and are all visible on the map above.  Here they are:

  • Field 838, “Cae Lanawst”.  Tithe map here, RCAHMW info here.  This field is to the west of the hamlet, and is let to the Rev. Augustus Morgan, and owned by Borrow’s great landowner Sir Charles Morgan.
  • Field 927, “Llanawst field”.  Tithe map here, RCAHMW info here.  This field is to the south of the hamlet, and was part of the Park House farm at the time.  Again it was owned by Sir Charles.
  • Field 954, “Cae Llanwst”.  Tithe map here, RCAHMW info here.  This field is across the road to the north-east of Llanawst.  Like 838 it was occupied by Rev. Augustus Morgan and owned by Sir Charles.

(“cae” is Welsh for “field”).  The three fields form a triangle around the building that was the Maypole Inn in 1900, according to the OS map.  This tithe map was completed in 1844, and George Borrow’s visit was in 1854.

Llan Awst, or Maypole, appears to be much the same size as it was 170 years ago.  By 1900 it was known as The Maypole Inn.  I corresponded with Mr William Graham, former Member of the Welsh Assembly, whose family go back a long way in the area as surveyors.  He tells me that the Maypole Inn was a “rhubarb inn”: an establishment where unlicensed  and untaxed moonshine, distilled from rhubarb, might be purchased.

If the inn existed in Borrow’s time, and he stopped there for refreshment, then this would explain his mention of this otherwise unimportant place.

Today the hamlet can be viewed on Google Streetview.  It is not imposing, at least from the road side.  Indeed I would not have thought the buildings were much older than a century.  I cannot tell whether there are today one or two distinct dwellings. For the convenience of other researchers, the modern address of this, or of one of them, seems to be Maypole House, Rhiwderin, Newport NP10 8RP (I have requested that this text be added to Google Maps; it would have saved a lot of scrolling and clicking).  Note that this is NOT the town of Maypole, elsewhere in Monmouthshire.  Nor is Llanawst the town today spelled Llanrwst in North Wales.  Both are liable to confuse the enquirer!

Mr Graham kindly sent me a couple of photographs.  Here is the North side, facing the A468:

Maypole House, North elevation, 2021.

And the south side:

Maypole House, South elevation, 2021

    *    *    *    *

All this information I owe to the help of Dr Wayne Barnett, the Rector’s Churchwarden at Lower Machen, who replied to my email to the Rector of Machen.  He worked hard on this, and also put me in contact with almost everyone else.

So I’ve ended up with more information than will fit conveniently into one post!  So for more information on Llan Awst, and just what these “tithe maps” are, please go on to the fourth post in this series, here. (Once I have written it!)

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Llanawstl: Trying to read the entry for Hawystl in the Welsh Peniarth manuscript 127

I’m still trying to establish whether there was a locality in Wales, Llanawstl, which might relate to the Cornish St Austell. My first post on this is here.

The Welsh National Library has online here a very useful resource: Peter Bartrum, A Welsh Classical Dictionary: People in History and Legend up to about A.D. 1000 (1993).  This contains an entry for the female saint Hawystl, daughter of the kinglet Brychan, mentioned in some of the sources.  Bartrum writes:

HAWYSTL (ferch Brychan).
She first appears as a saint ‘in Caer Hawystl’ and a daughter of Brychan in Peniarth MS.127 p.52, and this is copied in a number of later manuscripts. The name seems to have taken the place of Tudwystl which is omitted from the list in Peniarth MS.127. See Plant Brychan §3x in EWGT p.83. It has been suggested that she is the saint of Llanawstl (destroyed) in Machen, Gwent (W. J. Rees, Lives of the Cambro-British Saints, p.607; LBS III.252), But see s.n. Austell.

“EWGT” = Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts, ed. P. C. Bartrum, Cardiff, 1966.
“LBS” = The Lives of the British Saints, by S.Baring Gould and John Fisher, 4 vols., London, 1907-13.

Rees’ statement we have already examined.  But what about this Peniarth manuscript?  Well, it’s a manuscript written in Welsh.  I don’t know anything about Welsh manuscripts.

So I was really rather impressed to discover that a lot of the Peniarth manuscripts are online at the National Library of Wales, together with a link to the necessary catalogue, Evans, J. G., Report on manuscripts in the Welsh language (1898–1910), volume 1.2, p.775. This allows rank laymen like myself to work with the primary sources, at least to some degree.

As far as I can tell, the material on page 52, as one might expect, is a list of the daughters of Brychan.  The manuscript itself was written around 1510, with some additions in 1523.

The actual manuscript is online here.  What seems to be the sixth item is the one we want:

I wonder what we can make of this, knowing no Welsh?

First, if this is about “Hawystl” then the “s” must be a long-s.

Next, the name of Brychan is obvious in each of the three lines, so the word that precedes it must be “ferch” or “verch” (as Bartrum tells us), meaning “daughter [of]”.  Apparently it can be abbreviated “vch”, and it looks as if that has happened here.  So that means the last word in our sentence is “Hawstl”.

At this point I recall that Rees gave a list of the daughters of Brychan, in Latin and English, in a somewhat different version where Hawystl was replaced by Tudhistel.  So we can use the names as a key to the paleography.  P.604 has the English in his version here.

The next name in his list, and ours is Tybie.  That gives us the “e”, but also shows that the first letter is in the margin!  “T … ybie”.  So our line starts with “H” and then “Awystl”.

Some of the words are clearly a formula – “y sy?? yn sante?”  I’m going to guess that sy?? is sydd – thank you Google predictive text!  So we get:

Hawystl vch. Brychan y sydd yn santer yn ghaer hawystl.

What does this mean?

Well, with the aid of Google I believe that “y” means “the”, “sydd” means “which”, “yn” means “in”.  “Ghaer Hawystl” is plainly Bartrum’s “Caer Hawystl”.  I would guess that “santer” – I’m not sure of the last letter – is oratory, or shrine, or whatever.  So… without knowing any Welsh, it would seem to say that Hawystl has her saint-thingie in a place called Caer Hawystl?  No doubt a Welsh-speaking reader can correct me!

This tells us no more than we started with, but it’s still fun to try!

Does anybody else want to have a go?

Update: Looks like it might be “santes”, i.e. saint.

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“Lanawstl” or “Llanawstl” near Machen in Monmouthshire – a reference to St Austol?

While reading the copy of G. H. Doble’s “Saint Mewan and Saint Austol” that I mentioned a post or two ago here, I came across an interesting statement on p.13:

In another part of Gwent, in the parish of Machen in Monmouthshire, is a place called Lanawstl, which must mean “The Monastery of Austol.”

The parish of Machen is easily located using Google Maps, but the word “Lanawstl” is not.  Probably it should read Llanawstl, of course, but that is no better.  I have written to the clergyman of Machen to ask for information, but of course clergy are busy and I do not expect a response.  Possibly the name is attached to an outlying farm or building.

So I went back to Google and started to experiment with spellings.  This brought me a result, in George Borrow’s novel – does anybody read Borrow now? – “Wild Wales”, chapter 39, on p.447-8 of vol. 3 of this 1862 edition here:

… shortly afterwards I emerged from the coom or valley of the Rhymni and entered upon a fertile and tolerably level district Passed by Llanawst and Machen. The day which had been very fine now became dark and gloomy….

Next I found an English translation of a Latin text of ca. 900 AD, “Account of Brychan of Brecknock”, given by William Jenkins Rees, in “Lives of the Cambro British Saints”, chapter 8.  The text itself is taken from a British Library manuscript, Cotton Vespasian A. XIV, where it is entitled “De situ Brecheniau”, “Of the situation of Brecknock”.  The manuscript is digitised and accessible online here.

Cotton Vespasian A XIV, f.10v – start of De situ Brecheniau

But Rees’ comment is in a footnote to p.607, here, discussing the various offspring of this kinglet Brychan:

It appears to me much more reasonable to suppose that the different churches and chapels in Gwent were founded by the sons or daughters of one of the two latter Brychans than by the descendants of the regulus of Brycheiniog… Hawystl had her oratory at Llan Awst in Machen.  Nefyn or Nevein, at Crick: both are destroyed.

Who is this “Hawystl”?  Another text, from BL Harley 4181 (sadly not digitised) informs us (p.600) that

53. Hawystl was daughter of Byrchan.

Elsewhere in the same book by Rees we learn of yet another chieftain named Hawystl Goff, the word “Hawystl” this time being masculine.  So we have a female Saint Hawystl, with a name that can be either male or female.

There is, I learn, a Welsh Wikipedia, which has an entry on this Hawystl here, and which seems to confuse St. Hawystl with the chieftain!

I came across another source of Welsh genealogy online here. The book is titled “The Iolo manuscripts: A selection of Ancient Welsh manuscripts…” ed. Thomas Price (1848), in Welsh and English.  A Welsh antiquarian called Iolo Morganwyg made copies by hand of ancient Welsh manuscripts. His son edited these, although he died before the publication was complete.  On p.519 here we find:

Here are the names of Brychan Brycheiniog’s daughters.
1. Mechell. She was the first wife of Gynyr of Caer Gawch and mother of Nonn the Blessed mother of St David.
2. Lleian wife of Gavran the son of Aeddan Vradoc the son of Dyvnwal Hên the son of Ednyved the son of Macsen Wledig.
3. Hawystl. Her church is Llan Hawystl in Gloucester.
4. Dwynwen. Her church is in Anglesey and another in Ceredigion.
5. Ceindrych. Her church is in Caer Golawn.

Unfortunately it seems that “Iolo Morganwg” was actually the “bardic name” of a man named Edward Williams, and some of his supposed transcriptions of ancient Welsh manuscripts were forgeries.  I can find nothing to say whether this text is one of them, but it seems likely.  While there is indeed a village named Aust near Gloucester, there is no evidence that it has anything to do with St. Hawystl.

So … we start with G. H. Doble speculating that a Welsh locality named Lanawstl is perhaps connected to Saint Austol, who is (reasonably certainly) the origin of the name of the Cornish town of St Austell, since his cohort in crime, St Mevan, is named as patron of an adjoining parish.  We then find others speculating that this “Llanawstl” is connected to a female saint Hawystl.  It is impossible to say where the truth lies.

What rubbish all this stuff is!  All of it.  It is, it seems, nothing more than speculation based on names and place names by people who live fifteen centuries later.  There is not a particle of “evidence” of any other kind as far as I can tell.  The speculation itself has no objective value whatsoever.  The truth is that the history behind these names and place-names is irretrievably lost.  Accept it.

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The rediscovery of Philo, Eusebius’ Chronicon in Armenian

A number of otherwise lost works of antiquity are preserved in Armenian.  The monks of the Mechitarist order, Armenians based in Venice, were responsible for the first publications of these, usually with a Latin translation.  Such was their scholarly reputation that, when the French Revolutionaries conquered Venice, under a certain Napoleon, and seized almost all the monasteries, the Mechitarists uniquely were left along.

One of their publications was the Chronicon of Eusebius.  The Greek original, in two books, is lost.  St. Jerome came across a copy in Constantinople in 379 AD, and translated book 2 into Latin, thereby beginning the process of western historical study of dates and events.  But the Armenian translation from the Greek does not include Jerome’s additions, and also includes book 1.  As ever with Eusebius, book 1 is full of direct quotations from now-lost ancient authors such as Alexander Polyhistor.

Today I came across a fascinating paper by Anna Sirinian, “‘Armenian Philo’: A survey of the literature”, in S.M. Lombardi &c, Studies on the Ancient Armenian Version of Philo’s Works, Brill (2010), 7-44 (Preview), which describes the discovery of the lost works by Philo, and also, around the same time, of the manuscript of Eusebius’ Chronicon.

I thought that a couple of lively pages from this article might be of interest to many outside of Philo enthusiasts.  Note that I have not included the many and very useful footnotes.  My OCR software has mangled the various above-letter items in the transcription of Armenian, but I doubt that matters here.  Consult the Google Books preview for the full text.

Anna Sirinian (p.10):

At the end of the eighteenth century, the Mechitarist Fathers reaped the fruits of their intense activity of research in the field of ancient and medieval Armenian literature with an amazing double discovery. Eusebius’s Chronicon emerged from an Armenian manuscript at Constantinople, while Philo’s treatises were found in the Armenian Cathedral at Lvov (then Poland). Thus some works of these two fundamental writers, whose Greek originals are not extant, were brought back to light. Here, in short, is the story of these two discoveries.

In 1791, during a journey across Poland in search of manuscripts, the Mechitarist Father Yovhannes Zohrapean, also known as Giovanni Zohrab (1756-1829), came across an old dusty book stored away in the Armenian Cathedral at Lvov: it was a complete codex of the corpus of ‘Armenian Philo’. This superb parchment codex had been copied in 1296 by the scribe Vasil in an elegant bolorgir (minuscule), by order of the philosopher-king Het’um II.  Having identified the contents, Zohrab finally obtained permission to take the manuscript back to Venice, where it was copied before being given back.

A few years earlier, in 1787,13 an erudite friend of the Mechitarists at Constantinople, Georg Dpir Ter Yovhannisean (1737-1811), better known by his nickname ‘Palatec’i’, had let them know of the existence of Eusebius’s manuscript at the Armenian Patriarchal Library in that city.[14]

The famous scholar Mkrtic’ Awgerean (1762-1854)—alias Giovanni Battista Aucher, also a Mechitarist Father—bears witness to his early interest in this codex.  He requested and obtained from Palatec‘i a copy of this manuscript at San Lazzaro island, Venice, where it arrived in October 1790.  Aucher suspected the quality of Palatec’i’s copy, and in due course, in 1793, ordered a new copy from him. In effect, Palatec’i had indeed interpolated the original at a few points the first time, but the new copy was faithful to the original down to the most minute details. It was Giovanni Zohrab, then stationed at Constantinople, who carried this second copy back to Venice in 1794.

Twenty years went by without the news of this amazing double discovery ever getting beyond the restricted circle of the Mechitarists and their erudite friends. The silence was broken by another discoverer and editor of ancient texts of the time, Angelo Mai (1782-1854), who published the news in the pamphlet De Philonis Iudaei et Eusebii Pamphili scriptis ineditis aliorumque libris ex Armeniaca lingua convertendis dissertatio cum ipsorum operum Philonis ac praesertim Eusebiis speciminibus, scribente Angelo Maio A[mbrosiani] C[ollegii] D[octore] ex notitia sibi ab Armeniacorum codicum dominis impertita, Mediolani, Regiis typis 1816. Having been told of the existence of ‘Armenian Philo’ by Francesco Reina, Mai had spoken to Father Zohrab, ‘clarissimus doctor Armenius’, who had told him of both these discoveries during a trip to Milan. Through the information gathered from Father Zohrab, Mai could also offer a description of the two manuscripts, a list of Philo’s works in Armenian and even a provisional Latin translation of the Chronicon, in anticipation of the definitive publication of this work in the near future.

Two years later, in 1818, the Armenian version of the Chronicon was published twice over: first Angelo Mai and Giovanni Zohrab published it, exclusively in Latin translation, in Milan; Aucher’s Armenian edition with facing Latin translation was then published at Venice a few weeks later. According to Giancarlo Bolognesi, there is evidence to think that Giovanni Zohrab was vying with Aucher and effectively deprived him of his rights to publish the text exclusively. While Aucher was in Constantinople looking for other possible witnesses with which to compare Palatec’i’s second, more accurate copy, Zohrab took advantage of his absence and took possession of the first—interpolated—copy of Eusebius. In his introduction, Aucher bitterly points out how the recent Milanese publication had been obtained “ex priori illo exemplo, quod a Georgio exscriptore interpolatum diximus, clam nobis, me vero Venetiis absente, Mediolanum delato”.

A similar path was followed in the edition of ‘Armenian Philo’. Here too one may find the pair Mai-Zohrab on one side, and Aucher on the other. But it was Aucher this time who eventually edited the Armenian translation of all Philo’s lost Greek texts between 1822 and 1826. For this purpose he used the Venetian copy of the manuscript discovered at Lvov by Zohrab.26 This copy had been executed by several Mechitarist Fathers under Aucher’s direction. It bears two colophons, the first written by Zohrab to commemorate his fortunate discovery of the ancient exemplar at the Lvov library, the second—written immediately after the first—by Aucher himself. The latter confirms that the exemplar had been brought to San Lazzaro by Zohrab; however, he adds that he has himself worked on the text by completing some missing portions (lrac’uc’ak’ in the plural) of it with the help of another ancient copy discovered at Constantinople.

But there is extant also another copy of the Lvov manuscript, dated by the colophon 1816, this time the work of Zohrab exclusively. This second copy only contains ‘Armenian Philo’ of the lost Greek works, and it is now preserved at the National Library of Paris. In the colophon, Zohrab declares that, after collaborating with Mai in the publication of the Latin translation of the Chronicon, printed in 1816 in the pamphlet De Philonis Iudaei et Eusebii Pamphili scriptis ineditis, cited above, he had also prepared the Latin translation of ‘Armenian Philo’ having collated Philo’s text with another exemplar whose identification remains vague. He adds, however, that he could not utilize this text because of “incidental difficulties” (xapanarar attic’ i veray haseal, argelin zsorays gorcadrut’iwn) …

What fun!  And how interesting to hear the details of this frantic rivalry!

The footnote 14 specifies more information about the manuscript of the Chronicon:

14. This manuscript, dated to the thirteenth century, is currently preserved at the Matenadaran in Erevan with the shelfmark n. 1904, cf. O. Eganyan, A. Zeyfunyan, P‘. Ant’apyan, C’uc’ak Jeragrac’ Mastoc‘i anvan Matenadarani [Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Matenadaran Library], I, Haykakan SSH GA Hratarakc’ut’yun, Erevan 1965, 671. Apparently, Palatec’i himself came across this manuscript during his travels in search of ancient codices on behalf of the Mechitarist Fathers: as he was about to drink from a well in the Samaxi region, in the southern ranges of the Caucasian mountains, he found the ancient book of the Chronicon used as a covering across the opening of the drinking hole: cf. A. Ayvazyan, Sar hay kensagriiteanc‘ [Armenian Biographies], I, Constantinople 1893, 49-51 (cit. from B. C’ugaszean, Georg Dpir Palatec’u geank’i ew gorcuneut’ean taregrut’iwn 1737-1811 [Chronology of the Life and Works of Georg Dpir Palatec’i], Gind, Erevan 1994, 91-92). The complex history of this manuscript and its various journeys between Jerusalem, Constantinople, Ejmiacin and Erevan, deserve further study, which I propose to undertake elsewhere.

Let us hope Dr. S. finds the time to publish that study, which can only be interesting.  Few of us can work with Armenian sources, and someone who can must do work of lasting value.

I have read elsewhere the tale of the discovery of the codex; but as I heard it, it was being used as a cover for a water-jug, rather than a well.  It would be good to clarify this point.

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G.H.Doble’s “Cornish Saints” series – the original booklets

After the Roman collapse in Britain, our sources for history become very scanty.  In Cornwall in particular we are almost entirely dependent on interpreting scraps in medieval saints’ lives – often written centuries later than the events – or making deductions from place names.

The pioneer in this area was Canon Gilbert H. Doble (1880-1945), who wrote and published a series of very attractive illustrated booklets from the 1920s until the Second World War.  Today these booklets are hard to access.  Indeed the Diocese of Truro in the 1960s felt obliged to produce a book-form edition in six volumes to satisfy demand.  This is still being reprinted today, by Llanerch Press, and I have access to it in various ways.  But I have always wondered whether the editor reproduced the original accurately or not.

Today I was able to visit Cambridge, and after purchasing a reader’s card for the university library, I made my way to the shelves where Doble’s work could be seen.

My first impression was shock.  There were considerably more volumes than I had expected:

The G. H. Doble, “Cornish Saints” series booklets, bound into volumes.

All this material is out of copyright, hard to access, and it ought to be online.  I had naively thought to copy whatever I could, with this in mind.  But that mass of small volumes made it clear that this was not going to be possible.

In fact I was only able to copy the booklet on “Saint Mewan and Saint Austol”, itself more than 40 pages long.  I already had the Truro reprint; and I had a PDF of the first edition of it, which I had found on a French site.  But this was the second edition, published in 1939.  You can find it online here.

I was surprised to find that the original small booklets were far more attractive than the Truro reprint.  Doble seems to have understood that the mass of text required illustrations, and so he included many photographs and drawings.  None of this was included in the Truro reprint.  The original booklets must have flown off the shelves.

Likewise I found that the second edition contained a mass of additional historical information by Charles Henderson, which the Truro editor had omitted.  But this material was useful, and consequently its omission makes the Truro volumes far less useful.

The Truro edition also reorganised the material geographically.  But Doble himself did not do this.  The first booklet was that for Saint Mawes, near Falmouth, and it contains something of an introduction to the whole series.  This I had never seen, as it was buried in the mass of other material:

One of the things that strikes a stranger coming for the first time to Cornwall is the number of places bearing the names of saints. He looks out of the window as the train passes and sees “St. Germans,” “St. Austell,” “St. Erth, for St. Ives”; at Penzance he sees the motor-bus going to St. Just, at Falmouth he finds the steamer waiting to take him to St. Mawes. His first thought is: “This is a land of Saints” : his next thought is: “What strange, unfamiliar Saints!”

The reason is that when he crosses the Tamar he enters a land which is not really English at all. He has come to a country which was once a kingdom to itself, and whose people differed fundamentally from the English in race, in civilization, in language, and in religion. The fact that nearly every parish in Cornwall is called after a saint reminds us of the difference in religion which once distinguished the people of Cornwall from the people of England. It was a Celtic custom — as soon as you enter Wales you find it.

There is still a train from London to Penzance, but these days the traveller will use his motorcar, and travel down the M5 into the West Country, and then, from Exeter, the A30 over the moors.  But he will still have the same experience.  It can be a bit of a shock.

A week ago, I returned from a trip to Cornwall.  When I returned, as I crossed into Devon, I was struck by the immediate change in place-names on the road signs.  The alien Cornish names vanished, and every name was English, of the sort that might be found anywhere in the south of England.  The place names tell you at once that Devon is part of England.  But they scream at you that Cornwall is not.  Another tongue underlies the thinly-anglicised words.

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From my diary

It’s hard to say what I have done this year, yet I have been very busy with personal stuff.

The low-level disruption of life caused by the plague, and by the measures taken to avert it, has tended to drain my energies.  I keep reminding myself that this is true for all of us, and we cannot expect to achieve what we might normally do.  I think we must take care to avoid feeling guilty at doing less.  It is inevitable.  Thankfully the darker evenings and colder nights will help.

I wish that I had done some travelling this year.  But it is still very hard.  The ever-changing entry and return requirements are quite a barrier, except to those happy folk who have a PA to do the hard work for them!  I did consider going to Rome, but the urge went away when I looked at the obstacles.  I gather Malta might be easier.

At long last I am starting to feel an urge to get back to Latin translation.  Various part-done projects sit on my desktop, looking at me.  It is a good feeling to want to do some of that again.

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An 1850 photograph of the Palatine and Meta Sudans by Rev. John Shaw Smith

This interesting item was posted on Twitter here.

Rev. John Shaw Smith, View of the Arch of Constantine, the Meta Sudans, and the Palatine Hill. 1850.

Photographs of the Meta Sudans are always welcome.  This one is at an unusual angle and indicates that the destruction facing the Colosseum was not flat 180°, as it often appears in photographs, but nearer 150°.

The photographer, the Rev. John Shaw Smith, was an Irish clergyman who travelled in the Mediterranean around this time over a period of a couple of years, in the relaxed fashion of the day.  Photography was new, and everything he took is probably valuable.

There must be a wealth of photographs and other material in Italian archives, but sadly inaccessible.  Google increasingly is turning into a commercial portal instead of a search engine, so I doubt this will improve soon.

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St Jerome on “Christmas Trees” in Jeremiah 10

There is an interesting claim that circulates online – one of many – that Jeremiah 10:2-5 condemns the use of Christmas trees.  Helpfully this site, “Watch Jerusalem” [1] gives the claim plainly:

The Book of Jeremiah (written around 600 B.C.E.) states the following:

“Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen …. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree ….” (10:1-5, King James Version)

Here we see a tradition during the time of Jeremiah of cutting down a tree out of the forest, bringing it home, fastening it upright, and covering it with various decorations. The tradition is quite clearly identified as a pagan one that should not be followed.

This website is operated by the followers of Herbert W. Armstrong, who created “The Worldwide Church of God”, a heretical American group, in the middle of the last century.  The claim perhaps originates with the Armstrongites, although a search is inconclusive, and apparently is popular with the “Hebrew Roots” groups that appeared in the 1980s.

The claim is present in this article from a KJV-Only website, “Christmas Trees” by a certain John Hinton.

Jeremiah 10:2 KJV Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3* For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4* They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.

… The Christmas tree is a blatant affront to God, but many, if not most, professed Christians put one up. Most that do not, do not because it is inconvenient, not because they are convicted by the Bible.

The modern perversions hide this warning by perverting this passage by disguising the adorned tree as an ordinary idol. I have seen many Christmas trees through the windows of churches all across America, even Baptist churches. This is as strong a statement that they could make about what kind of church they are, and should be a warning to all with any spiritual discernment at all.

Modern translations make it much clearer that what is in view here is an idol – possibly an Asherah pole – rather than a tree.  The cutting down of the tree is to obtain the wood in order to make it.  So it seems that this particular teaching is an instance where the old language of the KJV tends to mislead a modern reader.

I thought that it would be interesting to see what an older commentator on Jeremiah made of this passage.  Origen, in his Homilies on Jeremiah, does not discuss this section of Jeremiah 10.  But Jerome, writing in 414 AD, does!

Here is what he says.  We’re using the Michael Graves translation published by IVP, p.66:[2]

10: 1-3a: Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor he dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the people are false.”

Strictly speaking, he says this against those who worship celestial bodies and things that have been set as signs for years, times, calculations and days, and who suppose that the human race is governed by these celestial bodies and that earthly affairs are ordered according to celestial causes. And when he says “the customs (or statutes) of the people are false,” he shows all human wisdom to be futile and to have nothing useful within it.

10:3b-5: “A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. Men deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it will not fall apart”—or “will not move.” “They have been fashioned in the likeness of a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”

This is a description of the idols that the nations worship. “A tree from the forest,” he says, “is cut down”—thus, the material out of which idols are made is cheap and perishable; “worked … by the hands of a craftsman”— since the craftsman is mortal, mortal also are the things that he fashions; “Men deck it with silver and gold,” so that by the glow of each of these materials the simple may be deceived. This same error has been passed down to us, in that we judge people’s religion by their wealth. “They fasten it with hammer and nails so that it will not fall apart,” or “will not move.” How great can the power of idols be, if they are not capable of standing up unless they are fastened with hammer and nails? “They have been fashioned in the likeness of a palm tree*—they have the beauty of metalwork and have been decorated through the art of painting, but they do not possess usefulness, such as would provide some benefit to the craftsman. “And they cannot speak,” for there is nothing alive about them, as it is written: “They have mouths but do not speak . . . they have ears but do not hear.”232 “They have to be carried”—the one who does the carrying is stronger than the things that are carried; indeed, in the one there is the capacity to think, bur in the other there is a physical form without the capacity to think. “Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” For most of the nations regularly worship demons, in some cases to prevent them from doing harm and in other cases to entreat some favor. Whence also is the Virgilian phrase: “a black sheep to the storm god, a white to the favoring Zephyrs.”239

Whatever we have said about idols can also be applied to all teachings that are contrary to the truth. For false teachings promise great things and fabricate from within them an image for empty worship. They make grand claims, and they hamper the reasoning of the unskilled by their golden theories and their eloquence that glows with the splendor of silver. They are propped up by those who invent them, and they have no usefulness. The cultivation of such teachings belongs properly to the nations and to those who are ignorant of God.

The references are to Ps. 115:5-6 and Vergil, Aeneid 3.120 (in the Loeb text).

So we see that Jerome, like any sensible man, reads the text as referring to the process of manufacturing a wooden idol.

Christmas first appears in the historical record in 336 AD, in the Chronography of 354.  But there is no record, for more than a thousand years, that anybody ever celebrated Christmas with a tree, until 1521, when a register in the town hall in Séléstat in  German-speaking Alsace records the first appearance of the Christmas tree, decorated with communion wafers and red apples.  A few years later, a blight forced the use of artificial glass apples instead of real ones, and the Christmas tree “bauble” familiar to ourselves was born.

But in 414 AD, quite naturally, the Christmas tree is entirely unknown to St Jerome.

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  1. [1]Christopher Eames, “Christmas Trees – in the Hebrew Bible?”, December 24, 2020.
  2. [2]Jerome: Commentary on Jeremiah, tr. Michael Graves, IVP 2012.