Skip to main content

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Skip banner

Web Content Display Web Content Display

Web Content Display Web Content Display

August 2022

Previous week
Next week

Exhibit of the month

Date: 01.08.2022 - 31.08.2022
Exhibit of the month

'Exhibit of the Month' is a series initiated by the Jagiellonian University Museum with the beginning of the new academic year. Each month we will explain the Museum collection to you, choosing a single exhibit or a group of exhibits which usually are not shown to the open public. This month's feature is an Armenian liturgical veil.


The Jagiellonian University Museum is in possession of a unique fabric related to the Armenian Apostolic Church. It is a chalice veil (inventory number: 1192, 3846/IV), used during the Eucharistic liturgy (called the Divine Liturgy by Armenian) to cover the chalice and the paten with the prosphoron.

The veil was, most likely, made in the former Greater Armenia in the 19th century, at the time the part of the Ottoman Empire. It was made of extremely fine cotton batiste, decorated with embroidery in variously coloured silk yarns, a metal strip wrapped around a silk core, and a metal lamella. The inscription written in Old Armenian (Grabar) language runs along all four edges of the veil. According to it, the fabric was a gift from the townsfolk of Chars in Mush province (modern eastern Turkey) to the Saint John the Baptist (Surb Karapet – the Holly Precursor) Monastery. This place should be associated with one of the oldest and most prominent monasteries in Armenia, located near Mush, a city in the ancient Armenian province of Taron (modern Muş province in eastern Turkey). According to tradition, the monastery was founded by Saint Gregory the Illuminator, Apostle of Armenia at the beginning of the 4th century. Following Jerusalem and Echmiadzin, the monastery of Mush was the third and most important destination for Armenian pilgrimages. Unfortunately, the monastery ceased to exist as a result of Armenian Genocide during the I World War. In 1915, it was destroyed by the Turkish army. The most valuable items had previously been hidden, and in 1916 had been taken to Echmiadzin, and then to Moscow. After the October Revolution, all property of the Armenian Church was nationalised, and although the Bolsheviks eventually agreed to return the property to the Armenians, the most precious objects were lost and became the subject of illegal trade. Probably, this is how the veil from Mush found its way to Germany. In 1936, the fabric was owned by Dr. Dorothea Willers from Wrocław who sold it to the Schlesische Museum für Kunstgewerbe und Altertümer in Wrocław. During the II World War the precious items, which belonged to the Wrocław museums, were moved from the city and hidden in small towns all over the Lower Silesia. In 1945, in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement, the region fell to Poland in exchange for its eastern parts annexed by the Soviet Union. Therefore, when Polish art historians took action to retrieve lost works of art, they also secured objects found in the post-German depots. In this way, the chalice veil was found in the Schaffgotsch Palace in Cieplice (ger. Warmbrunn) and was taken to Kraków. Later, it was given to the Jagiellonian University Museum. It is currently one of the few relics of the Mush monastery.  

The embroidered decoration of the veil includes figural and ornamental motifs creating the iconographic program appropriate to its liturgical function. The central motif is the Lamb of God (Agnus Dei) surrounded by a radiating sunburst and a circle of twelve angels. It refers to the vision of the Lamb – Christ dwelling in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city with twelve gates guarded by angels (Book of Revelation). In the centre of each edge are four figures: Christ the Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi) with a globe in His left hand, Saint John the Baptist holding a lamb, Saint Stephen represented as an Armenian deacon with a censer and an ark of incense, and Saint Hripsime, the Martyr connected with the beginning of Christianity in Armenia. She is mentioned in the donation inscription in which the donors beg her intercession for the souls of their parents. The embroidered depiction of Saint Hripsime is unusual. The women is emerging from a chalice surrounded by the Instruments of the Passion (Arma Christi). This type of imagery was reserved only for Christ. Probably, for some reason, the author of the veil’s iconography was not able to find any effigies of Hripsime which could be used as model for the new imagery. On the other hand, the motifs representing the Passion of Christ direct the attention of the viewer to the martyrdom of Hripsime. As a martyr, she was an imitator of Christ, as well as a participant in His Passion. The Seraphim are placed in the corners of the veil and the empty space is filled with angels, crosses and stars. In this way, the fabric depicts the reality of the Heavenly Liturgy celebrated before the Throne of God by Christ with the assistance of angels and saints. The Divine Liturgy, taking place inside an earthly temple, is a part of the Celestial Worship.


  1. View of the Surb Karapet Monastery in Mush. Source: Wikipedia
  2. View of the facade and the bell tower of the Surb Karapet Monastery church. Source: H. F. B. Lynch, Armenia, travels and studies, V. II, London 1901
  3. Veil from the Mush monastery. Phot. by J. Kozina
  4. Christ the Savior of the World (Salvator Mundi). Phot. J. Kozina
  5. Saint John the Baptist. Phot. J. Kozina
  6. Saint Stephen. Phot. J. Kozina
  7. Saint Hripsime. Phot. J. Kozina