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Workshop/Prog - Treatise Concerning the Iconoclasts by Vrt‘anēs Kertoł (7th c.), 30 -31 October 2015, University of Oxford, UK

Publish Date: Oct 28, 2015

Event Dates: from Oct 30, 2015 12:00 to Oct 31, 2015 12:00

Seventy years ago Sirarpie Der Nersessian published a translation into French of a little known Armenian treatise in defence of icons. Claimed by some to be the earliest example of this genre of writing to survive intact and imagined by others to have had a decisive influence on the theology of John of Damascus, it remains fundamentally unstudied. “Concerning Iconoclasm” is an extraordinary seventh-century treatise in support of the veneration of holy images. The author offers an extended argument (against an unnamed opponent) with ample textual citations from biblical and historical sources. This work offers a robust sense of the position of images within contemporary theology and culture. It also offers precious insight into a range of issues, including the relations (particularly regarding image-making) between the Armenians and Byzantines, and regarding the subject matter, and materials used to make, paintings.

Amid the flood of icon studies in recent decades, Vrt‘anēs’ contribution goes un- examined and virtually un- mentioned. It is the purpose of the present Workshop to offer to the scholarly community a fresh translation into English of this critical document and to open the field to new scholarship, to which the scholars mentioned below cordially were invited to contribute from their own valuable background in the field.

The new translation prepared by Christina Maranci, Arthur H. Dadian and Ara T. Oztemel Chair of Art History, Tufts University, with Theo Maarten van Lint, Calouste Gulbenkian Chair of Armenian Studies at the University of Oxford, will be circulated in advance among the contributing participants.

The place of the treatise in the history of the Armenian language and literature, the theological premises of its argument in the debate among Orthodox and Monophysite theologians, its background in earlier writings

– Jewish, pagan and Christian – its contribution to the Byzantine dialogue on icon cult and its long-range impact on the history of art will all be under discussion in the two day conference.

The workshop will convene at Pembroke College, University of Oxford 30-31October as part of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Calouste Gulbenkian Professorship of Armenian Studies at the University of Oxford.



30 AND 31 OCTOBER 2015






15:15 Opening

Harold Lee Room


Thomas Mathews




Theo Maarten van Lint




15:30 - 17:00

Session 1


Thomas F. Mathews

Jaś Elsner

Paganism, Iranian Idols and the Beneficence of Matter: Vrt‘anēs


K‘ert‘oł’s Riposte to the Iconoclasts

Averil Cameron

Vrt'tanes and the Byzantine Greek context

17:00 – 17:30

Tea/coffee break



Pichette Auditorium Public Lecture


Session 2


Theo Maarten van Lint

Elizabeth Bolman Doctrine and the Economy of Salvation at the Red Monastery



09:30 – 10:50

Session 3


Robert Thomson

Christina Maranci

Is Vrt‘anēs K‘ert‘oł the Author of Yałags


Patkeramartic’ [Concerning the Iconoclasts]? Some Observations


on the Historical and Manuscript Evidence

Robin Meyer

Dating Vrt‘anēs’ text


10:50 – 11:10

Coffee/tea break


11:10 – 12:30

Session 4


Jaś Elsner

Thomas Mathews

The liturgical context of Vrt‘anēs Kertoł’s text

Richard Price

Armenian and Greek defences of icon veneration in the


seventh century: a comparison

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch




14:00 – 15:20

Session 5


Emilio Bonfiglio

Andrew Louth

John of Damascus’ connections with Vrt‘anēs

James Russell

The Elephant in the Room: Dawt‘ak the Rhetor’s Gift List


(read in absentia by Theo van Lint)

15:20 – 15:40

Tea/coffee break


15:40 – 17:00

Session 6

Chair Andrew Louth

Zarouhi Hakobyan

Seventh century Armenian art: the immediate context

Theo van Lint

Ezekiel’s Throne Vision: Vrt‘anēs Kert‘oł and Armenian Reception

17:10 – 18:00

Session 7

General discussion and closure

Similar Opportunities


Armenian Studies


Eligible Countries


Host Countries

United Kingdom

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