Mekhitar, Or Mechitar, the founder of a congregation of Armenian monks, called after him Mekhitarists, born in Sebaste (Sivas) in Asia Minor, Feb. 7, 1676, died April 29, 1749. The name Mekhitar, signifying "comforter," was given him on entering a convent of the An-tonian monks; his original name was Manuk. He founded a new religious congregation at Constantinople in 1701; but their persecution by the Armenian patriarch, on account of their union with Rome, induced him to send a number of his disciples to the Morea, at that time belonging to the republic of Venice, from which the congregation received in 1703 permission to build a church and convent at Modon. In 1715, during a war between Yen-ice and Turkey, Mekhitar went with 11 dis-ciples to Venice, whither the rest of the congregation, about 70 in number, followed him in 1717, after the capture of Modon and the destruction of the buildings by the Turks. The government of Venice gave to the congregation possession of the island San Lazaro, near Venice, "for all future times," where it became very prosperous. The Mekhitarists take the usual monastic vows, and pledge themselves to go wherever their superiors may send them, and to labor especially for the advancement of a Christian Armenian literature.
They have furnished the best editions of classic Armenian writers, and translated standard European works into Armenian. Not only Catholic literature, but even works like Ranke's "History of Germany during the Reformation," are included in their publications. Among the most valuable of their original works are a "History of Armenia," by Father Tchamtchean (died 1823), in 3 vols.; and a "History of Armenian Literature," by Father Somal, abbot of San Lazaro (Venice, 1829). From San Lazaro the congregation have spread to all countries in which Armenians reside, in particular over Italy, Austria, Turkey, Russia, and Persia. Next to San Lazaro, their most important establishment is that of Vienna, founded in 1811, which has devoted itself to the publication of German Catholic books. It has a branch at Munich, with schools there and in Vienna. A legacy of a rich Armenian in Madras enabled them to establish a learned institution in Padua for the education of laymen, as that of San Lazaro serves mostly for clergymen.
In 1846 they founded a college in Paris, which has a high reputation. - See Bone's Convent de St. Lazaro d Venue (Paris, 1837).