LOS ANGELES, Calif. (A.W.) —On Sept. 21, after a 5-year legal battle, a settlement was reached between the Getty Museum and the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America that will allow the museum to keep 8 illustrated pages from a 750-year-old Armenian Bible. Both the museum and the church have announced that they are happy with the outcome of the long-running lawsuit.
A lawsuit filed against the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Getty Museum on behalf of the Western Prelacy on June 1, 2010, demanded the return of the pages of illuminated manuscripts created by Toros Roslin in 1256.
Attorneys for the Prelacy contended that the pages of the Zeytun Gospel were “lost or stolen during the Armenian Genocide.” The suit claimed that the pages of the “Canon tables” were “wrongfully in the possession, custody, and control” of the J. Paul Getty Trust in the Getty Museum.
As a result of the settlement, the museum will keep the pages and the church will get the recognition that it has always been the rightful owner of the pages.
“This is a momentous occasion for the Armenian people, coming at a historic time, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I want to thank the Getty for joining in a solution that recognizes the historical suffering of the Armenian people and that will also allow this Armenian treasure to remain in the museum, which has cared for it and made it available to the Armenian and larger community in Los Angeles. We are pleased that both sides arrived at an amicable solution,” said Lee Crawford Boyd, the lawyer representing the church, in a statement released by the Prelacy on Sept. 21.
“The sacred Canon Tables are now being recognized as having belonged to the Armenian Church. Together with the Church and the Armenian people, we are thrilled with this outcome.”
In the same statement, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy, said the church was pleased that the ownership of the pages had been recognized and that the Canon Tables had been “returned to the patrimony of the Armenian people.”
“These precious leaves are dear to Armenians everywhere, and we are pleased to have achieved a resolution which continues to keep them safe under the careful stewardship of the Getty, where they will be made available in perpetuity to the Armenian community, to scholars, and to an appreciative public,” said Archbishop Mardirossian.
The Bible was created for Constantine I, nearly two centuries before the fall of Constantinople. The rest of the Bible is currently housed at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Madenataran) in Yerevan, Armenia. In 1994, the Getty Museum bought its pages from an Armenian-American family for $1.5 million in today’s U.S. dollars.
It is likely that a ceremony will soon take place to mark the church’s official donation of the pages to the museum.