Picture Gallery and Museum of the Mechitarist Armenian Fathers
San Lazzaro Island hosts the Armenian monastery, today the only remaining convent in Venice, and an important centre of Armenian culture. It includes the church, the library and the museum. Archaeological finds of Armenian art are preserved in the museum, besides relics of such famous people as Lord Byron, a constant visitor to the island.
The picture gallery holds works of Veneto painters of the XVII-XVIII century and Armenian etchings and paintings of the XIX-XX century, while more than 200,000 volumes are kept in the library, amongst which precious Armenian manuscripts and miniatures.
The museum displays most of the historical treasures of the whole convent.
It is possible to admire a part purchased or donated by the Armenian Congregation, archaeological finds from all over the world; ushapti (Egyptian statues with an apothropaic value), ancient earthenware, oriental ceramics and works of art such as the Canton Ball, a unique ivory piece from where 14 spheres were drawn, some sculpture amongst which is a Canova plaster cast representing Napoleon’s son.
The picture gallery also displays many works by Armenian painters such as Hovhannes Aivazovski (1817-1900) and Harutiun Ajemian (1904-1965).
On the ceiling is a beautiful Tiepolo painting representing an allegory of Justice.
Many important bronze finds, ceramics, silverware for liturgical use and other relics and interesting historical objects of the Urartu population (Armenian) are preserved in the room dedicated to Armenian art and history.
In a small area of the museum Nemen Khet Amen’s Egyptian mummy is also preserved, dating from the VII century. It is considered to be one of the better preserved mummies in the world, complete with its sarcophagus. In the same room, an Indian prince’s throne is exhibited made in teak wood and decorated with ivory inlays.
A small passage leads to the real treasure of the island: the monastery’s library, founded by Mechitar in 1740, considered to be the most remarkable collection of Armenian manuscripts in the western world.
The library’s heritage, composed of about 4000 manuscripts of the VI/XVIII centuries, most of which are of Armenian origins, is in fact, the result of a secular operation of gathering and purchasing of texts and collections.
Amongst the books, notwithstanding the largest collection of Armenian periodicals and papers in the world, are archaeological works, donated by the Egyptian minister Artin Cerakian at the beginning of the 1900s.
Amongst these, two original editions of the Description de l’Égypte, monumental works that marks the beginning of modern archaeology promoted by Napoleon during his Egyptian campaign.
Inside the Monastery we can also find other objects and works of art, such as ceramics, silverware and Armenian painters’ tapestries.
Address: Isola di San Lazzaro degli Armeni
Opening: Monday-Sunday 3.25 p.m.-5.25 p.m. – only guided tours
Entrance: €6 full price - €3 reduced
Services: Library, book shop, museum publications, shop, guided tours.