“I do not sacrifice neither my nation for my confession nor my confession for my nation.”
Who he was
Mkhitar Sebastatsi was the founder of an Armenian Catholic order that laid the foundation for the modern Armenian intellectual movement.
Born in the Ottoman Empire and originally named Manuk, he assumed the name Mkhitar after joining the Armenian Apostolic Church. Feeling that its structures were inadequate to satiate his intellectual desires, he left it for the Roman Catholic Church. Upon his conversion, he moved to Europe and established an exclusively Armenian subsidiary within the Catholic Church, which has come to be known as the Mekhitarist Order.
As a scholar himself, Mkhitar spent decades working on the first comprehensive Armenian dictionary, the first volume of which was published after his death. The institution he established would become the main center of Armenian scholarship for at least 100 years, between the 18th and 19th centuries. Its renown would reach the edges of Europe and Asia, with Armenian merchants from India becoming benefactors, and foreign intellectuals, like Lord Byron from England, coming there to study.
Mkhitar’s legacy was to shape the modern Armenian psyche by reviving Armenian language and literature and, ultimately, creating the foundation for the future national liberation movement.
Mkhitar was invited by the Venetian Republic to settle on an island in Venice, which to this day continues to function as the Mekhitarist Order’s headquarters and is known as San Lazzaro degli Armeni.
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