Thursday, September 10, 2009

Secrets of lost religion unveiled for first time

Thursday, 10 September 2009 (

It could be the trailer for a new 'Indiana Jones' film, or the blurb for the latest Dan Brown book.

"They were remnants of a lost-world religion. Buried for 1,500 years in the dusty sands of Egypt before being accidentally discovered, and brought to Nazi Germany.

"And then they were lost again, the priceless artefacts looted by the Russians and taken across the Iron Curtain. But now, they're back, and in Dublin."

However, the hero of this rather incredible tale is the collector Alfred Beatty rather than the actor Harrison Ford. And this is fact, not fiction.

"It represents the fulfilment of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty's dream to have the Mani Books displayed alongside treasures from the ancient world such as the Biblical papyri and the Egyptian Love Poems," Michael Ryan, director of the Chester Beatty Library said yesterday.

The new exhibition in Dublin Castle opened yesterday and tells the story of the discovery of the lost books of Manichaean. It's a long tale, dating back to third-century Persia and focussing initially on the prophet Mani and his religion.

For details of this collection see this online Encyclopaedia Iranica article on the Chester Beatty Library (scroll down to "iii. Coptic Manichean Manuscripts").