The Patriarchate's Library (English)

The Library of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Alexandria


The project aims at rescuing and studying the manuscripts and rare editions of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. The task consists of codicological research, conservation, and digital photography.

The initiator of the project was prof. Pekka Häyry (University of Helsinki), who has been cooperating with the Patriarchate since the 1980s. His Beatitude Petros VII accepted the proposal to renovate the Library building and to establish a Finnish team which would take care of the conservation and research of the collection. With the help of the Orthodox Mission and Mrs. Anja Hakonen, the Foreign Ministry of Finland awarded the initial funding for the renovation of the Library building. Prof. Jaakko Frösén (University of Helsinki) incorporated the codicological research, conservation and digitising of the collection into his research unit, Ancient and Medieval Documents, Archives and Libraries, which started its work in 2000.

GOPAL is incorporated into the international Rinascimento Virtuale project, a network of palimpsest research founded in Hamburg in November 2000. Two palimpsests have so far been found in the collection of the Library (codices 62 and 294).

The codicological research of the manuscripts aims to produce a modern catalogue which will replace the old and incomplete catalogue by N. S. Phirippides, published in Ekklesiastikos Pharos XXXVII (1938), XXXVIII (1939), XXXIX (1940), XL (1941) and XLI (1942) and supplemented and republished by Theodoros Moschonas, Alexandria 1945 (offset reprinted by J.Geerlings in Studies and Documents XXVI. Salt Lake City 1965).


Codicology is a field of study which concentrates on late antique, mediaeval and early modern manuscripts (lat. codex –> codicology). The work starts with the description of a codex and then proceeds to date and localise the book and describe its contents. In the dating of paper codices, the marks of the manufacturer of the material – the watermarks – are a great help.

When understood in the broadest meaning of the word, codicological study includes research on the history of the manuscripts or manuscript groups, as well as tracking the owners and readers of the books with the help of notes and annotations (so-called glossae and scholia). An important question is when and how a manuscript found its way to its present location. All this is part of the history of the area, in this case, the cultural and social history and the history of ideas of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Greek Orthodox Church in Egypt.

The Library

According to tradition, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate was established by the Evangelist Mark, who acted as its first bishop in 42-62. Except for a short period during the Arab conquest of Egypt (7th century AD), the see has been occupied without break. At the end of the 10th century, it was transferred to Cairo, which became the administrative centre of Egypt. The Patriarchate returned to Alexandria in 1928, and the residence and Library moved into their present premises in Tositza school in the district of Mancheiya in 1971.

The Library contains 538 mostly Greek manuscripts, the oldest of which dates from AD 952. There are also ca. 2000 rare editions printed between 1500 and 1800 and more than 40 000 exemplars of modern research literature. The Archives of the Patriarchate have also been kept in the Library since the 15th century, along with other unpublished material representing its history.

Liturgical and theological material needed in the daily life of the Church dominates the contents of the manuscripts. Apart from these, there are works of different literary genres and a number of ancient authors. These include, for example, tragedies by Euripides, comedies by Aristophanes, rhetoric by Demosthenes, and philosophy by Plato and Aristotle. Codex number 87 is especially interesting, since it contains Aristotle’s works commented by Theodoros Metochites, a well-known Byzantine humanist who lived 1270–1332.

Byzantine literature includes history (Ioannes Zonaras), rhetoric (Michael Psellos), and philosophy (Georgios Pachymeres and Georgios Gemistos Plethon). Another interesting example of the relations between the Church and other learned centres in the Eastern Mediterranean is the correspondence of Patriarch Meletios Pegas with Italian humanists at the turn of the 17th century.

The early prints are mainly Greek literature from the 15th to the end of the 18th century printed in Venice. The Library also houses a large collection of early theological & historical writings, acquired by Metrophanes Kritopoulos (Patriarch 1636-1639) during his studies in England.

The Photo Archive

For various reasons, access to the Library and the consultation of the manuscripts has been difficult, which is why the collection has remained relatively unknown to the scholarly world. Even after conservation, many of the manuscripts cannot be consulted because of their fragile condition. The project aims to build a digital photo archive accessible via the World Wide Web, along with a database, which will facilitate the consulting of this last little-known collection of Greek manuscripts and early prints.

The team


Jaakko Frösén

Mika Hakkarainen

Erja Salmenkivi



Tuija Kantell

Tarja Suihkonen



Antti Nurminen

Jouni Pekkanen


Renovation of the Library building:

Pekka Häyry

Anja Hakonen


Contact person in Alexandria:

His Grace Georgios of Nilopolis

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa

P.O.Box 2006 Alexandria EGYPT

Tel: + 203-486-8595, 4861744, 4875839

Mobile: + 20123-675658

Fax: + 203-4875684




Contact person in Finland:

Phil. Lic. Mika Hakkarainen

Department of Classical Philology

 P.O.Box 4 (Vuorikatu 3A)

FIN-00014 University of Helsinki

Tel. + 358-9-191 24511

Fax + 358-9-191 22161