Iran

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The main Armenian communities are in the following three cities, as well as in a few scattered villages.


1,700-Year-Old St. Thaddeus Church Renovation Completed

TEHRAN - (CHN Foreign Desk) -- Renovation experts ended their emergency restorations on the 1,700-year old Armenian Church of Saint Thaddeus, locally known as Qara Kelisa (The Black Church), in northwestern Iran, in an attempt to inscribe this ancient monument in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2008.

Qara Kelisa had previously been put up by Iran for UNESCO world registration in 2007, but the international organization turned down the application due to lack of substantial documents including those pertaining to the value of the building and maps of its precincts. Experts of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) are now working on the Church's dossier to be forwarded to UNESCO for a final review in 2008.

According to Qara Kelisa project manager, Mehdi Shoja-del, an equivalent of $60,000 had been allocated to the Church's initial restorations which recently came to an end.

Heavy rains had washed away the mortar gluing the stones on the dome of the St. Thaddeus Church, causing cracks on the dome and its columns which, according to Shoja-del, were restored by experts during the initial phase of this project. He also said that the Church's surrounding site was reorganized, the northern fortified tower was restored and the southwestern one was strengthened during the recent restoration works by experts.

This expert further added that the next phase of the project will begin once its plan is approved by the Council for the Management of Churches in Iran and will include restoration of stones on the Church's facade, renovation of its museum, and construction of a center for archiving documents close to the Church.

Northwest Iran is home to the oldest churches in the country among which Qara Kelisa, St. Stepanos, and Zoorzoor stand out because of their antiquity.

The St. Thaddeus Church is considered one of the oldest churches in the world, whose construction began 1700 years ago. Historians believe that the Church is the tomb of Thaddeus who is said to have been one of Christ's disciples who traveled to Armenia, then part of the Persian Empire, for preaching the teachings of Christ.

Armenians followed Thaddeus' teachings and converted to Christianity in 301 AD. Thaddeus was later martyred and buried in the present-day West Azarbaijan province. A tomb was erected on his burial place by his followers who turned it into a small prayer house. The building was later changed into a cathedral in the seventh century AD.

According to the inscriptions remained there, the Church was ruined in by a devastating earthquake but was later restored in its current form by a Christian religious figure.

Today the church belongs to the Armenian community of Iran. It has an international reputation and hosts annual meetings of world Armenians each year in July-August.

Special features, antiquity, architectural style, decorations, its religious importance among the world Armenians, and the celebrations held annually in Qara Kelisa make the Church worthy of inscription in UNESCO's list.

Experts from Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization are also intending to have other famous churches in the province such as St. Stepanos Cathedral in Khoy and Zoorzoor Church in Chaldoran included as annexes to St. Thaddeus Cathedral after its registration.


Remains in Saint Stephanus Church may be bones of John the Baptist: archbishop

MehrNews.com, Iran Aug 5 2005

TEHRAN, Aug. 5 (MNA) -- The Armenian Orthodox primate of the diocese of Tehran, Archbishop Sebuh Sarkisian, said on Thursday that some of the remains recently discovered in Iran's St. Stephanus Church may be the bones of John the Baptist.

In late July, Shahriar Adl, the director of the team documenting three Iranian churches for registration on UNESCO's World Heritage List, said that they had discovered the bones of one of the successors of the Apostles of Jesus at the St. Stephanus Church, which is located near Marand in East Azarbaijan.

"About the box, which contains the remains of the apostles' bodies and was found under the altar of the St. Stephanus Church, it is said that the box contains the body of John the Baptist. According to Armenian historian Arakel Davrizhetsi (17th century), the box, which was located under the main altar of the Church of the Holy Trinity in old Jolfa and contained the sacred remains and a scroll, was given to Shamun, the archbishop of St. Stephanus Church, after the Church of the Holy Trinity was destroyed," Sarkisian explained.

"The remains may very likely have historic value. According to the tradition of the church, we know that after St. Gregory the Illuminator was consecrated as archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, in a friendly gesture, he gave some remains of John the Baptist to Quintius, the archbishop of the region, during his return trip to Armenia. The remains were transferred to the John the Baptist Cathedral in the city of Mush in Armenia.

"Now, the remains were somehow transferred to another place, as a consequence of the wars and chaotic conditions prevailing in the land over past centuries, in which believers and church fathers changed the location of the box in order to safeguard it. A French traveler (Jean Baptiste Tavernier, 1605-1689), who saw a box at the St. Stephanus Church when he visited the place in the 17th century, had said that the box contained the body of one of the Apostles," Sarkisian said.

Some historical sources, such as some photos kept at Tehran's Golestan Palace, and the photos taken by Ali Khan Vali, the governor of northern Azarbaijan during the reign of the Qajar king Nasser ad-Din Shah and kept in the Adl family archives, indicate that the bones of Saint Stephanus (Saint Stephen), Saint Matthew, and the Prophet Daniel, are being kept in the St. Stephanus Church.

The bones have been examined by a team of anthropologists of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO).

Unfortunately, the bones have been damaged because of the bad condition of the place. Thus, the team could only determine that they are the bones of a single body but the individual bones can not be distinguished.

The experts have said that the complete skeleton belongs to a man with a strong physique who was about 50 years old when he died.

The bones have been transferred to the Prelacy of Azarbaijan in Tabriz because restoration work is currently underway in the church, but they will be returned after the renovation is complete.

Hayk Ajimian, an Armenian scholar and historian, recorded that the church was originally built in the ninth century CE, but repeated earthquakes in Azarbaijan severely damaged the original structure. The church was renovated during the reign of the Safavid king Shah Abbas (1588-1629).

The general structure of the St. Stephanus Church mostly resembles Armenian and Georgian architecture and the inside of the building is adorned with beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist.

The CHTO plans to submit an application to UNESCO to register the St. Stephanus Church as well as the St. Thaddeus and Zorzor churches in West Azarbajian on the World Heritage List.


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IranMania, Iran Sept 21 2005


Andimeshk's Armenian Church in limbo

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 - ©2005 IranMania.com

LONDON, September 21 (IranMania) - Despite the lapse of one year since an Armenian church in Andimeshk, Khuzestan province, was handed over to the Cultural Heritage Department for being transformed into a museum, no construction work has yet taken place at the site, according to Iran Daily.

The Persian daily ?Iran? reported that Iran?s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) had earlier announced plans to turn the Armenian Church into a museum and correspondence was exchanged with the Southern Armenian Archdiocese which had accepted the plan.

Deputy head of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department in Khuzestan, Shojaei said that the Armenian Archdiocese has urged the ICHTO to repair the church, but, this was not possible due to a shortage of funds.

He said that the cooperation of Armenian Archdiocese to cede the church for use as a public museum is praiseworthy adding that it would be useful for Khuzestan province.

The official pointed out that Khuzestan is ancient and every city in the province deserves to have its own museum.

Khuzestan province is an archeology paradise, he said citing ancient cities of Shoush, Abadan, Haft Tapeh and Behbahan which are renowned for several hundred monuments and cultural sites.

He said that ICHTO has also drawn up plans to build museums in Shoushtar, Dezful, Masjed Soleiman, Izeh and Abadan which will materialize in the near future.

He said that a sum of seven bln rials has been earmarked for building museums in different cities of Khuzestan province.


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IRANIAN PRESIDENT CONFIRMED PROMISE TO RECOGNIZE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

Pan Armenian 01.11.2005 00:56 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad on Sunday received 5 Parliament Members representing religious minorities to discuss issues of interest. Ethnic Armenian MP's representing the Armenian communities of northern and southern Iran, expressed their gratitude for the statement Ahmadinejad had made during his election campaign that he would recognize and condemn the Armenian genocide of 1915.The Iranian president, in turn, noted that any such act against any nation should be condemned, Yerkir Online reported.


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Iran to restore 3 Armenian churches

June 3, 2014 - 16:37 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net - Iran is ready to launch works for restoration of 3 Armenian churches in the Tghmut river basin.

The Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Atrpatakan, Supreme Archimandrite Grigor Chiftchyan addressed the Aras economic zone department for protection of cultural and religious monuments with a request to observe the norms of Armenian church construction, Blagovest-Info reported.

Iran has 7 free economic zones, with the Republic's government planning to use them for development of economy and tourism. Extensive grounds owned by Armenian Church, as well as 3 churches – St. Gregory the Illuminator, St. Sargis and St. George are situated in Aras.

As Iranian authorities are preparing for restoration, Armenian Eparchy suggested involvement of Armenian experts, with the offer to be taken into consideration.

As agreed with Armenian side, upon completion of restoration, the churches will be included into the Aras tourist routes.

Currently, there are 25 Armenian churches in Iran, with 11 of them operating mainly in Tehran, Tabriz and Isfahan.

Source: http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/179529/


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