Historical Churches of Iran
The majority of the churches in Iran, which are historically and artistically valuable, were built around the 8th century AD Or around the 14th century AD. Of course, this does not mean that there are no churches that are in the country before that time.
During the reign of Shah Abbas, the Safavid king, his ardent policy caused a considerable number of Armenians from Armenia and Azarbaijan to go to Esfahan and other regions of Iran. A place called Jolfa was built on the banks of the river Zayande-rud in Esfahan and became the residence of these wanderers. Consequently, churches were built in this city. In addition, after a short period of time, some Armenians moved to Gilan and some lived in Shiraz.
After the death of Shah Abbas the first, his successor Shah Abbas the Second also drew attention to the welfare of the Armenians and other churches were built in Jolfa.
The influx of many Europeans during the rule of the Qajars led to the blooms of other churches, in addition to those that were built earlier. A number of these buildings have acquired architectural and artistic significance.
Historical Iranian Armenian Churches
Azarbaijan is the host of the oldest churches in Iran. Among the most significant are the Tatavous Vank (St. Tatavous Cathedral), which is also called the Ghara Kelissa (the Black Monastery). This is located at the border area Siahcheshmeh (Ghara-Eini) south of Makou. There is also the church known as Saint Stepanous, which stands 24 kilometers south of Azarbaijans Jolfa town.
In general, each church has a large hall for congregations; His first part is raised like a Dais, adorned with images or images of religious figures and also serves as an altar. Candles are lit and the parish is led by the priest. In the foreground stands the prayer community, which faces the platform, where the priest leads the rites in the church; This is similar to the Muslim practice of praying with a view of the niche in the mosque. While the Mass is said, the people stand, kneel or sit depending on what the rites require.
The structure of churches in Iran follows more or less the pattern of Iranian architecture, or they are a mixture of Iranian and non-Iranian designs.
Historical Saint Stepanous Church
This is another old church at a crossroads west of the Marand-Jolfa highway and east of Khoy-Jolfa road. Even with a pyramid-shaped dome, it is still very beautiful and much more pleasant to see than the Holy Tatavous Church.
The general structure resembles, on the whole, Armenian and Georgian architecture and the interior of the building is adorned with beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist. Hayk Ajimian, an Armenian scholar and historian, noted that the church was originally built in the ninth century AD, but repeated earthquakes in Azarbaijan completely eroded the previous structure. The church was rebuilt during the reign of Shah Abbas the Second.Read more
Historical Saint Mary’s Church in Tabriz
This church was built in the 6th century AD. Built, and in his travel chronicles, Marco Polo, the famous Venetian traveler, who lived during the 8th century BC, moved this church on his way to China. For so many years, the Holy Mary serves as the seat of the Armenian archbishop Azarbaijan. It is a pretty building built, with various outbuildings spread out on a large area. A board of Armenian colleagues ruled the well-visited church.
Apart from the above three churches, there are others in Azarbaijan as the ancient church in the eighth century A.H. In Modjanbar village, which is built about 50 kilometers from Tabriz. Another is the large church of Saint Sarkis, which is situated in Khoy; This building has survived from the time of Shah Abbas the Second (12th century A.H.). During the reign of the Safavid King, another building called Saint-Gevorg Church was built using marble stones and designed with a large dome in the village of Van Van near Shapur (Salmas). A church, also with a huge dome, is also located in Derishk village near Shapur, in Azarbaijan.Read more
The Saint Tatavous Monastery or the Ghara Kelissa
First, this church consisted of a small hall with a pyramid-shaped dome on the top and 12 ridges, which resembled the Islamic dome-shaped buildings of the Mongol period. The difference was that the dome was made of stone. The main part of this pyramid structure followed the Byzantine (Eastern) architecture, including the horizontal and parallel fringes of white and black stones inside and black stones on the outside.
Since the facade is dominated by black stones, the church was formerly called Ghara Kelissa (or black monastery) by the locals. During the reign of the Qajar ruler, Fathalishah, new structures were added to the Holy Tatavous Church on the orders of Abbas Mirza, the Crown Prince, and the Governor of Azarbaijan. The renovation led to the widening of the Prayer Hall, and the small old church was transformed into a prayer stage that held the altar, sacred ornaments, and a place where the priest could lead the prayers. The bell tower and the church entrance were on one side of the new building, but unfortunately this part remained unfinished.
In the meantime, the church had been abandoned and destroyed on the basis of border patrols and other political unrest in the area. Some minor repairs have been carried out in recent years. Every year, during a particular season (in summer), many Armenians from all parts of Iran travel to this place for prayer and pilgrimage. They come with jeeps or trucks after crossing a very rough mountain passage. They flock around the church, stay for a few days and perform their religious ceremonies. For the rest of the year, however, the church remains abandoned in this remote area.
The additions to the Church of the Holy Tatavous on behalf of Abbas Mirza consist of imprinted images of the apostles on the façade and decorations of flowers, bushes, lions and sun figures and arabesques, all made by Iranian craftsmen. The architecture of the church interior is a combination of Byzantine, Armenian and Georgian designs. In addition to the large church, chambers were built in the courtyard to protect pilgrims and hermits.Read more
Historical Churches at Jolfa of Esfahan
The most important historical church in Iran is the old cathedral, commonly referred to as the Vank (which means “cathedral” in the Armenian language). This large building was constructed during the reign of Shah Abbas the First and completely reflects Iranian architecture. It has a double-layer brick dome that is very much similar to those built by the Safavids. The interior of the church is decorated with glorious and beautiful paintings and miniature works that represent biblical traditions and the image of angels and apostles, all of which have been executed in a mixture of Iranian and Italian styles. The ceiling and walls are coated with tiles from the Safavid epoch.
At a corner of the large courtyard of the cathedral, offices and halls have been built to accommodate guests, the Esfahan archbishop and his retinue, as well as other important Armenian religious hierarchy in Iran. The church compound also includes a museum that is located in a separate building. The museum displays preserved historical records and relics, and the edicts of Iranian kings dating back to the time of Shah Abbas the First. It also contains an interesting collection of art work.
Esfahan has other historical churches, the most important of which is the Church of Beit-ol Lahm (Bethlehem) at Nazar Avenue. There are also the Saint Mary church at Jolfa Square and the Yerevan church in the Yerevan area.Read more
The Armenian Church in Shiraz
In the eastern part of Ghaani Avenue, in a district called “Sare Jouye Aramaneh”, has survived an interesting building from the era of Shah Abbas the Second. Its main structure is in the middle of a garden-like connection and consists of a prayer hall with a high flat ceiling and several cells flanking the two sides of the building. The ceiling is decorated with original paintings from the Safavid era and the adjacent cells are clad in niches and arches and plaster, also in the Safavid style. This is considered a historical monument in Shiraz and definitely worth a visit.
Saint Simon’s Church in Shiraz
This is another relatively important but not so ancient church in Shiraz. The large hall is completely Iranian style, while the roof is Roman. Small barrel-shaped vaults, many Iranian works of art and glass windowpanes adorn the church.
Meanwhile, another church called Glory of Christ, stands in Ghalat, 34 kilometers from Shiraz. This building has survived the Qajar period and is surrounded by charming gardens.
Saint Tatavous Church, Tehran
This building is located in the Chaleh Meidan district, one of the oldest districts of Tehran. It is located south of the Seyed Esmail Mausoleum, at the beginning of the northern part of the so-called Armenians’ Street.
The oldest church of Tehran, it was built during the reign of the Qajar king, Fathalishah. The building has a dome-shaped roof and four alcoves, an altar and a special chair for the Armenian religious leader or prelate. The vestibule leading to the church contains the graves of prominent non-Iranian Christians who died in Iran, and in the middle of the cemetery Gribaydof, the tsarist ambassador at the court of Fathalishah and his companions were laid to rest. They were killed by the revolutionary forces of Tehran at this time.
Meanwhile there is a church in Bushehr from the Qajar period, which is a good example of Iranian architecture. All windows are modeled after ancient Iranian buildings and the colored windows are purely Iranian art.
There are also many other churches in Ourumieh, in Weiler around Arasbaran, Ardabil, Maragheh, Naqadeh, Qazvin, Hameadan, Khuzestan, Chaharmahal, Arak, in the old Vanak village north of Tehran, etc. These churches, however, are all abandoned and are lesser Artistic meaning.
Source: Iran gazette
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