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Ancient Iranian Manichean Text Reassembled



Thursday, 12 July 2001


A collection of Iranian religious manuscripts dating from the 3rd century have been collected in one place for the first time in 70 years.


ParchmentThe Gospel of Mani , written on blackened papyrus, is the last surviving evidence of a now-defunct religion, Manichaeism.


Founded by prophet Mani (Mānī) the sage, who claimed divine revelation and preached that he was the final prophet of God in the world, after (Zarathushtra), Adam, Buddha and Jesus.


The religion spread out over Iranian world to the most of the known world of the 1st millennium CE, from Spain to China. But the religion disappeared first from the West in 10th century, and from China in the 14th century, and today it is believed defunct. The manuscripts have had a long and multinational history.


They were caught up in the collapse of the Third Reich, taken to Russia, and has finally ended up in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. Alfred Chester Beatty sent the religious text for restoration by expert Hugo Ibscher in Berlin in the 1930s.


When World War II began, some pages were placed in a bunker under Berlin Zoo for safety.  Others were kept by Ibscher, who took them to Bavaria to continue his restoration.


When Berlin was conquered by the Russian army, the manuscripts were discovered by the Russians and taken to Leningrad. Ibscher returned his manuscripts to Beatty in 1945. Ibscher's son continued to restore other pages in West Germany during the 50s.


After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing reunification of Germany, the manuscripts were also reunified.


At the request of the Beatty collection, the remaining manuscripts were returned to Dublin, some 70 years after they were first sent off for restoration.


Source: BBC




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