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Karmir Avetaran Church (Tbilisi)

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Condition today
View of the church in the early 1900s

Another church, which is seeking the return of the Armenian community and the Georgian Diocese of Armenian Apostolic Church - is Shamkoretsots Astvatsatsin. About its history and present situation and will be discussed in the fourth part of our work.

Church Shamkoretsots Astvatsatsin, or the Church of the Blessed Virgin Shamkortsev, is also called Karmir Avetaran, which means "Purple Gospel." Start of construction of the temple dates back to 1775 year. The register of Armenian monuments says that Shamkoretsots Astvatsatsin built with public funds in 1809. This registry is usually based on those records and memoranda reports, which were obtained by Catholicos Nerses Ashtaraketsi directly from superiors or the clergy of these churches, so the more reliable is the latest date - 1809. But there was a church on the site of a monastic cloister, founded in 1775, this date the Georgian scholar I.Ioseliani and considers the date of foundation of the church. Originally the church had no canopy and the roof was covered with only a tree.

Located on Church Street Shamkhor near Gare Avlabari old Tbilisi, a few steps away from the other Armenian churches - St. Gevorg Echmiadznetsots. Shamkoretsots name implies, that the church was founded or restored Shamkora come from - the city of Utik medieval Armenia, which in 1803 became a member of the Russian Empire. In some cases, national memory record not only the name of the original location where it moved the founders of a religious building, but even the stages of resettlement. These names were dictated, first of all, the desire to clarify the number of parishioners and the limits of the flock - the issues around which there were heated debates from time to time, because these factors were determined by income of the monastery. In short, the specified name is not defined ethno-cultural or confessional circumstances and other considerations.

Shamkor as Gandzak, was an important cultural and religious center in medieval Armenia. In the XII century the town was a residence of the bishops. Shamkor like any Armenian medieval city, over the centuries has repeatedly been invaded by foreign invaders, a lot of time passed from hand to hand and repeatedly destroyed and then recreated again. All this has led to mass migrations of indigenous peoples. Naturally, to escape from invasions of the Seljuks, Mongols, and many kzylbashey mountain bandits, some residents of the city and settled in Tiflis. The most massive resettlement of Armenians in Tbilisi began with 1722, when the Georgian kings Vakhtang VI-th, and then Irakli II-nd fought wars with the Persian army. Due to the fact that the Armenian historiography prefers to conceal these facts, we show here that the Georgian army was robbing the Armenians with no less ferocity than the Persians. Particularly distinguished Heraclius, who burned the Armenian villages to ashes, plundered the holy places and took with him from Armenia in 1779 and 1795. many prisoners, some of which, as a trophy, divided between its princes. But due to such actions periodically replenished lean royal treasury, in addition, relocation of the Armenians were persecuted and the other, purely practical purpose - it created the conditions for strengthening the economy of the kingdom. However, for the sake of fairness, we add to what has been said that the king of Heraclius favored trade, Armenian merchants were not constrained, while the wealthiest of them Irakli took cash loans - the emperor just do not have the money.

Historical documents that the church Karmir Avetaran founded by settlers from Shamkora not survived, although I. Ioseliani notes and the year it was built (1775) and the fact that it is built came from Shamkora. However, it is known that since it was called before one major reconstruction, which has undergone almost simultaneously with the church Echmiadznetsots - in the 50s of the XIX century.

Church Shamkoretsots Astvatsatsin was the highest church in the old Tbilisi and throughout Georgia, stood out for its beauty and architectural elegance. It contains valuable relics, in particular, the relics of St. Garabed.

The temple has an impressive size, was equipped with a massive dome, originally decorated facades with circular windows at the top, framed by windows and entrances were used inflicted on them epigraphic inscriptions. It should be noted epitafiku and numerous and varied sculptures, made by some researchers M. T. P. Armenian art to unravel the mysterious name of the sculptor, who was hiding behind this acronym and find out which of the images is carried out, he did not succeed.

In 1858 the church was robbed, and then the thieves, in particular, was kidnapped and the relics of St. Garabed. In this incident was prosecuted, but the investigation yielded no results. As a result, in 1873, it successfully closed.

In 1881, the church carried out the restoration work. But in 1893, the police noticed that the walls of the church have large cracks, which in itself could be a danger to the congregation. To assess the situation created a special commission, which is July 20, 1900 after a survey made a decision that the cracks are cosmetic, and therefore no danger to others are not.

The church was completely closed in 1937, the same year, with its roof was torn tin roof. In subsequent years, the church was used for various purposes. First, it housed a bakery, but it went wrong. People talked about mystical things: that the dough did not rise, the bread is not baked. In the end, a bakery altered to the gym for boxing. Then it housed a library, a book warehouse, after - Warehouse building materials, and, finally, a workshop of Georgian painters and sculptors.

All these years the Armenian community in the city has repeatedly appealed to the city authorities for permission to renovate the church at its own expense of the community, but no response to treatment was received. The question of the fate of the once tallest church of Georgia - St. Karmir Avetaran - had to be solved creating a bilateral commission of Armenian and Georgian experts (you do not like it?), But there was a preparation for the meeting, the need for it by itself anymore. April 13, 1989 at 20 hours 10 minutes a great historical monument collapsed. The whole surrounding district is literally enveloped clouds of dust, everything was white. Public authorities and the Georgian media were quick to assure that the cause was the collapse occurred before the earthquake of 4 points. However, for some reason there are reasonable grounds to doubt the validity of such versions.

A. The quality of construction of Armenian churches is that they kept a much more powerful, and at times disastrous earthquake, such as Spitak.

Two. The temple collapsed for some reason did not during the earthquake, and the next day.

Three. People living nearby have warned that the church was about to collapse and the urgent need to collect belongings and leave their homes.

4. Immediately after the tragedy, went from house to house members of the Tbilisi city council and the people were forced to sign the testimony that the church has collapsed on its own.

Five. Numerous witnesses and eyewitnesses of the tragedy say that just before the collapse clearly heard the sound of a powerful explosion resounded from the interior of the church.

6. Publications in the press in the next few days could not help given the planned nature of evil. Thus, for 22 April (for a total of 9 days after the tragedy), the Georgian newspaper "Tbilisi" offered on the site of the destroyed Karmir Avetaran establish the main cathedral of the Georgian Orthodox Church. Five days later, and let slip the chief architect of the city, hastened to the article "Why Shamkhor collapsed?" Published in several periodicals, Georgia, to announce (and without examination), which destroyed the church can not be restored. Finally, it calls for the demolition of the remnants of the temple, as well as a significant part of the residential sector Avlabari sounded in the room of the same newspaper "Tbilisi" on February 19, 1990. And still later in the newspaper "Dawn of the East" March 12, were published a few projects for the future of the cathedral (later the construction was carried out at the Armenian cemetery Hodzhivankskom demolished).

And we must add that after the collapse of some of the details of external decoration of the temple were pulled from the ruins, saved, thanks to the personal efforts of some Armenians, and carefully moved to the yard adjoining St. Gevorg church. Tragically, much has been stolen by looters, and disappeared without trace, and including a huge domed cross. By the way, fragments of the exploded church was so strong that almost did not respond to shredding. For this reason, the process of "cleaning area" was delayed for a long time.

In the 1995-1996 period. the walls of the ruined temple in Tbilisi authorities initiated measuring work and a section of land for subsequent transfer into the hands of private individuals. In the case of construction of private houses have been involved the prosecutor, the judge, the defense minister, the captain of the police and other officials.

In 2004, the head of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanian voiced a desire to protect the remnants of Karmir Avetaran for the subsequent construction of the residence. The project was not realized. However, the same in 2004 on the same spot starts rapidly build Georgia High School "Momavali" ("Future").

Today the temple is a majestic and mournful ruins. Survivors remained only the east and some adjoining parts of western and northern facades. The question of the return Karmir Avetaran Armenian Church remains open.