Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mani: The Lost Religion of Light


I went along to the Manichaean exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin on Saturday. I believe it's the first of its kind anywhere. I'll go again before it finishes, and there's a lunchtime talk by the curator later this month. It was great to see some of the papyrus fragments, some of which had a very loose weave. I could hardly make out the Coptic letters on many of them. The Chester Beatty has the largest collection of Manichaean MSS in the world. On the downside, I purchased a DVD which only contained the very lame 2 minute video shown at the exhibition, plus the explanatory text at the exhibition told the visitor very little about Manichaean beliefs. The most poignant exhibit was a square brown lump, known as the "sod of turf" which is an unconserved and uninvestigated, badly compacted papyrus codex containing up to 200 pages of Manichaean texts. What treasures might be in there! Then again, I have to admit that I haven't yet read most of the surviving Manichaean texts.

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