Friday, May 15, 2015

Death of Tovma Medzopetsi (May 15, 1446)

Tovma Medzopetsi was the last noteworthy name in the long chain of Armenian medieval historians. As many others before him, his historical works have become a unique source for the study of a certain period of Armenian history, in this case, his own times.

Medzopetsi was born in 1378 in the village of Aghi, near the city of Arjesh, in the region of the Lake Van (Vaspurakan). He studied in the nearby monastery of Medzopavank, built in the eleventh century, between 1386 and 1393. The monastery was headed at the time by Hovhannes Medzopetsi, a vartabed who was a graduate of the University of Datev, in the region of Siunik. He later continued his studies in the monastery of Kharabastavank, as a student of the master vartabeds Sargis Aprakunetsi and Vartan Hokotsvanetsi. Afterwards, he went to the University of Datev in 1406 and studied with St. Grigor Davtevatsi himself, who had been the teacher of Hovhannes Medzopetsi decades before.

After studying for almost a quarter of a century, in 1410 Tovma Medzopetsi returned to his alma mater and became the abbot and the school master of Medzopavank for more than thirty years. During his tenure, the monastery became an active center of manuscript copy and illumination. Textbooks and commentaries were written by specialists who had been invited to teach there.

Besides works in the field of exegesis, music, and ritual, Medzopetsi is particularly noted for his historical work History of Tamerlane and His Successors, devoted to the period 1386-1440. The historian was a contemporary of the devastating invasions of the Turkic-Mongol conqueror Tamerlane, who laid waste of much of Armenia in successive campaigns between 1387 and 1402. He described the ruinous campaigns, the massacres and slavery of the population, the harsh tributary regime, and the few attempts to oppose the enemy.

In 1441, together with other high-ranking ecclesiastics of Armenia, Medzopetsi was among the organizers of the ecclesiastical assembly held in Holy Echmiadzin to elect a new Catholicos. The assembly elected Kirakos I Virapetsi (1441-1443), who installed its seat in Holy Echmiadzin, while Grigor IX Musabekiants (1439-1446) was Catholicos of Cilicia. Thus, from 1441 onwards, the Armenian Church had two Catholicosates.

Medzopetsi passed away in 1446 in the village of Akori, near Mount Ararat, and was buried in the monastery of Medzopavank, which would be destroyed in 1915.