«Το Ευαγγέλιο του σκευοφυλακίου της μονής Μεγίστης Λαύρας Αγίου Όρους, το λεγόμενο "του Φωκά", και ο αθωνικός κώδικας Λαύρας Α 86», ΔΧΑΕ 43 (2022), σ. 381-390.
Litsas Efthymios K., The Gospel Lectionary of the Sacristy of the MOnastery of Great Lavra at Mount Athos, the so-called "Phocas Codex", and the Codex Athos, Lavra A 86
In the treasury sacristy (Skevofylakion) of the Great Lavra of Mount Athos is kept, as it is known, a luxuriously illustrated lectionary in minuscule script with a precious binding. It is a richly decorated manuscript with excellent miniatures against a gold background and various other decorative motifs.
The binding that contains it today is also very luxurious, one of the most luxurious bindings of the middle Byzantine period (Figs 1, 2). However, as noted below, this binding is not integrally bound to the body of the manuscript; in addition, there are two front and two back flyleaves from a Lavra manuscript A 108. So, most likely this is an unsatisfactory rebinding that occurred in the Lavra. Earlier scholars date the manuscript to the first quarter of the 11th cent ury. Its relatively recent dating to the second decade of the 12th century, always based on its decoration is, in my opinion, the most correct one, because it fully agrees with the dating of the manuscript based on its script.
This manuscript, accord ing to the oral tradition of the Monastery , is a gift of the emperor Nicephoros Phocas (963-969) to Athanasios, the founder of the Lavra and his friend , and is known as the "Phocas Gospel". This oral tradition generally seems to have a historical basis. However, the tradition of a gift from Phocas, the emperor of the seventh decade of the 10th century (963- 969), as has long been observed, does not agree with the dating of the manuscript , in either the 11th or the 12th century. Nevertheless, the manuscript has not ceased to be considered an imperial gift. Therefore, it is argued in this article that it is worth considering whether there is another manuscript, which, under certain conditions , could have been the gift of Phocas. These conditions are that the manuscript in question must be (a) of course a lectionary, (b) dated to the 10th century , ( c) continuously present in the Lavra, because as a precious heirloom it would always have remained there protected , and (d) luxurious , since it was an imperial gift.
Of all the 10th-century lectionaries located in the Lavra, the only one that exhibits all of the above characteristics is the codex, Lavra A 86 (Figs 3-5). The main art historical st udies of this manuscript agree on its dating to the 10th century based on its decoration / illustration. This dating must be considered correct because, based also on its majuscule script, the manuscript act ually dates to the 10th century. The sty le of this script (majuscula ogivalis erecta), in this particular manuscript, is indeed monumental. Earlier and more recent researchers agree that the place of origin of the Lavra manuscript A 86 was Constantinople. So, could this manuscript be the gift of Emperor Phocas? Yes, but logically it should also have a luxurious binding. Could the binding of the sacristy codex perhaps have originally belonged to A 86? The answer is again yes, if the binding dates back to the 10th century. Indeed, this is the opinion of scholars who, in terms of technique and style, compare it with similar Byzantine works of goldsmithing of the 10th century.
The article therefore concludes by substantiating the proposal that we should consider the binding of the sacristy codex as the original binding of A 86.