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  • Functioning Churches
  • History of Churches
Operating Churches of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia

Tbilisi

  1. The Cathedral of Surb Gevorg, founded in 1251
  2. Surb Etchmiadzin Church (Tbilisi), founded in 1805

Akhaltsikhe region

  1. Akhaltsikhe - Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, founded in 1837
  2. Tsughrut – Surb Sion (Surb Hakob) Church, founded in 1830
  3. Tsira - Srbots Reshtakapetats Church (Holy Archangels), founded in the first half of the 19th century
  4. Gulalis – Surb Khach Church, founded in 1994
  5. Big Pamach – Surb Khach Church, founded in 1840
  6. Sazel – Surb Khach Church, founded in 1839
  7. Sazel – Surb Ripsime Chapel, founded in 1998
  8. Small Pamach – Surb Khach Church, founded in 1837
  9. Oral - Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, founded in 1840
  10. Checherek - Surb Avetaran Church (Holy Gospel Church), founded in 2005

 

Akhalkalaki region:

  1. Akhalkalaki – Surb Khach Church, founded in 1856
  2. Abul – Surb Astvatsatsin Church, founded in the 1830s’
  3. Alatuman – Holy Trinity Church, founded in 1830
  4. Arakova – Surb Gevorg Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  5. Arakova – Srbots Kusanats (Holy Virgins) Church, founded in 2001
  6. Balkho – Surb Harutyun (Holy Resurrection)Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  7. Baralet – Surb Astvatsatsin Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  8. Bezhano – Surb Minas Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  9. Bugashen – Surb Harutyun Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  10. Burnashet – Surb Mateos Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  11. Diliska – Surb Sargis Church, founded in the 1830s’
  12. Zak – Surb Minas Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  13. Khando – Surb Khach Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  14.  Kartsakh – Surb Hovhannes Karapet Church, founded in the 1830s’
  15. Big Samsar – Surb Astvarsatsin Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  16. Merenia – Surb Astvatsatsin Church, founded in 1830
  17. Small Samsar – Surb Harutyun Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  18. Vachian – The Saint Sioni, founded in the 30s of the 19th century, reconstructed (1993-2014).
  19. Dadesh – The church of Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God Church), founded in the X-XI centuries, reconstructed in 1848, a new church was built in 1867.

Ninotsmindaregion:

  1. Gandza – Surb Karapet Church, founded in 1850
  2. Khojabek – Surb Sargis Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  3. Mamzara – Surb Mesrop Mashtots Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  4. Big Aragyal – Surb Khach
  5. Jigrashen – Surb Hreshtakapetats Church, founded in 1850
  6. Satkha – Surb Metsn Nerses Church, founded in 1862
  7. Small Aragyal – Surb Stepanos Church, founded in 1862
  8. Small Khanchali – Surb Hakob Church
  9. Didi Gondura – The church of Saint Hakob, founded in 1830, reconstructed in 1869; there is an old Armenian cemetery with epitaphs of the 19th century written in Armenian.

Aspindza region:

  1. Damala – Surb Khach Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century

Tsalka district:

  1. Khach village – Surb Gevorg Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  2. Nardevan – Surb Sargis Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  3. Ghushchi – Surb Gevorg Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  4. Gzlkilisa – Surb Astvatsatsin Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century

Batumi

  1. 1.Batumi – Surb Prkich Church, founded in 1885

Marneuli region

  1. Village Tsiteli - Chapel Srbots Avetaranchats (Holy Evangelists), built in 2012
  2. Shahumyan, Big Shulaver – Surb Astvatsatsin Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century

Tetritskaro region:

  1. Shamshulda – Surb Prkich Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  2. Small Daghet – Surb Astvatsatsin Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  3. Samghret – Surb Nshan Church, founded in the 10th -11th centuries, reconstructed in the 19th century

Borjomi

  1. Molit – Surb Gevorg Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century
  2. Tabatskuri – Surb Karapet Church, founded in the first half of the 19th century

 

In July of 2011 Georgian parliament adopted a law, according to which the operating in Georgia religious communities could be granted the status. In accordance with the law, on March 12, 2012 the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia was registered as a legal entity of public law at Civil Registry Agency of Ministry of Justice of Georgia.

Nowadays the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia imposes requirements on Georgian authorities about the restitution of Surb Norashen Astvatsatsin Church , Surb Nshan Church , Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church, Yerevantsots Saint Minas Church, Shamkhoretsots Karmir Avetaran in Tbilisi, Surb Nshan Church in Akhaltsikhe that have been confiscated in the Soviet Period. Georgian authorities have not yet responded to this request.

There are coordinative groups at the Diocese that cooperate with different NGO’s and have established effective partnership with organizations that are willing to cooperate. A meeting with the leaders and representatives of these organizations was held. Different issues were touched upon and a decision was made to meet regularly.

Tbilisi Surb Gevorg Church - First-throned Surb Maryam Astvatsatsin or Big Fortress Church

surb gevorg              Basing on historical information and documents, the first Armenian church in Tbilisi -Surb Gevorg Church at Meydan Square (also known as First-throned Surb Maryam Astvatsatsin or central-domed Big Fortress Church), built at the foot of Narikala Fortress, received the name “Big” to avoid confusing it with Surb Hreshtakapetats Small Fortress Church, which was also located on Krasilnaya Street, but just in 100-150 steps from the first.

Academician Ovsep Orbeli and Professor L. Melikset - Bek marked 1251 as the year of the church foundation, basing mainly upon the Arabic inscription on the cross-stone (khachkar) over the western door of the church yard. It was also reported about this fact in Russian-language collection "Handbook of the Caucasian Institute of History and Archeology” published in 1925 in Tbilisi.(page 58-59) : “…Along with Vank Cathedral, Church of St. Gevorg situated on Meydan Square is one of the oldest monuments among the Armenian churches in Tbilisi. According to historical data the foundation of the church may refer to the 13th century. The central dome characterizes the Church architecture. Unfortunately, the outer wall of the church is covered with stucco, which prevents us from accurate determination of early and late layers. In the yard of the church at its western door a piece of the cross-stone with Arabic inscription belonging to the 13th century is attached…”

However, if we make decisions based on the fact that the church is central-domed, it should be noted that these structures have existed in the period earlier than the 13th century. For example, Jvari monastery - in Georgia, St. Hripsime Church- in Armenia. Besides, the Arabic inscription on the cross-stone in the yard of the church, referring to the 13th century (see "Tiflis and its District", 1925, pp. 185-186), does not prove that the church was built in the 13th century.

Melikset-Bek and O.Orbeli are also referring to the fact that in 1284 our famous poet and philosopher, archimandrite Hovhannes Yerznkatsi, also known as Pluz, read his famous speech in the Cathedral of Saint George, which had a great response, and Vachtang, the younger son of Umek, pleaded Hovhannes Erznkatsi to write down the treatise: “… I got to visit the Georgian kingdom, protected by God and its capital Tpkhis, to read my book entitled “Paytarakan”. And I got to read my book at the gates of the church before the great Armenian Prince Kharimatin. It was built by God-loving and kind-hearted man, master Umek…”.

Hovhannes Erznkatsi mentioned that the church was built by Prince Umek. According to Kirakoz Gandzaketsi, in 1242 the great merchant Prince Umek escaped from Karin to Tiflis, and attained a high place at the Georgian Royal Court. Umek rebuilt the Fortress Church in the image and size of Haghpat Surb Nshan, where he was buried after his death. (See “Ports” Magazine, 1879, №10, page 9). Other historians also don’t deny the fact that the church was built by Prince Umek, but the whole misconception is that both Yerznkatsi and other historians instead of the word "rebuilt" use the word "built". In other words Umek didn’t exactly build, but rebuilt Surb Gevorg Church in 1251, 13 years later after the Mongol invasion.

That means that Surb Gevorg Church has existed long before 1251.

Furthermore another question arises: if Surb Gevorg Church was built in 1251, then where had Tbilisi Armenians been baptized, praying and conducting religious rites, who according to historian Alexander Yeritsyan already in 625 comprised the majority of population in Tbilisi, and who since 609 had separated from the Georgian Church?

It is commonly known that in 625 Khakan, the king of the Khazars, along with Heracles, Caesar of Byzantium, destroyed Tiflis or, as Movses Kagankatvatsi has it, “…surrounded and seized the rich and famous town Tpkhis.” Those were the days when by reason of religious controversies the Georgian and Armenian Churches separated from each other (609). “Despite this tremendous blow, - historian Alexander Yeritsyan writes, -Tiflis soon came to life and was filled with people. This time the Armenian part of the population increased so much that its role in the development of the city was very high. And despite the hatred of Georgian people against us due to the Council of the Chalcedon, the Armenians acquired a right to build the church in the fortress which was named Surb Gevorg, and which up to now is named the Fortress Church. It happened in 80 according to the Armenian calendar (in 631), i.e. 6 years after the destruction of the city (see “Ports” Magazine, 1879, №6, pages 3-4).”

Notice also that it is not mentioned in any historical source about the construction of at least one Armenian Church earlier than the 13th century, except for Surb Gevorg Church. Before the Council of the Chalcedon, and also after it until 609, it is clear that Armenian and Georgian chapels and churches were united, and maybe that were Sioni Church and Anchiskhati bazilica, and also other churches which have already existed before 609. After the severance of the Georgian and Armenian Churches, Armenians undoubtedly must have had their own Armenian Church in Tbilisi at any rate. That was Surb Gevorg Church (631), which was situated in one of the oldest and most densely populated areas of Tiflis, near the walls of Narikala fortress.

In 1037 descendants of Vardan Mamikonyan on the place of the old church built Katoghike Astvatsatsin Church…”, - Senior Priest Gyut Agayan wrote. (“Armenians in Georgia”, “Taraz” Magazine, 1919, № 1-12).

This suggests that even before 1037 a church has existed here.

The editor of the first collection of Sayat-Nova poems Gevorg Akhverdyan in the preface to his book "Sayat-Nova" marks that Surb Gevorg Church already in the 10th century had been the residence of Armenian Haghpat Diocese (G. Akhverdian, “Sayat-Nova”, 1852, page 19).

The residence of Haghpat Diocese for centuries had been at Surb Gevork Church at Meydan Square. It is clear from the written sources of the 13th century that Tiflis with surrounding villages belonged to the Haghpat Diocese, while the Archimandrite resided in the Fortress Church, who was appointed by the Haghpat Diocese to serve as the Primate. “… It is known that in 1114 on the resolution of “The Black Mountain”, Haghpat Cathedral became one of the four Cathlicosats under the covenant of which the Catholicos of All Armenians was elected…”

Names of many prominent Armenians are associated with Surb Gevorg Church at Meydan Square. Sayat-Nova spent his childhood, adolescence, and his last years in the near vicinity of Surb Gevorg Church. A scientist, philosopher, writer, and translator of the 18th century, Senior Priest Philipp Gaytmazyan had served here, from 1922 to 1923 the artist Gevorg Bashinjagyan worked in this church and decorated internal walls, the altar, and the walls in front of it, creating four large murals: “Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane”, “The Repentance of Judas”, “Jesus and the Boatmen”, “Harvest-time”. One more outstanding and original painting must be added to this list. This is Surb Gevorg on Horseback, under whose feet a horrible and terrifying serpent without wings is lying instead of a winged dragon, pierced by a lance of St. George. Gevorg Bashinjagyan died in 1925 and was buried in the yard of Surb Gevorg Church near the tomb of Sayat-Nova.

Senior Priest Saak Saaruni, Senior Priest Martiros Amirkhanyants, Archbishop Karapet Tumanyan and many others are also buried in the churchyard.

The remains of M.Loris-Melikov, Ivan(Hovhannes) Lazarev, Arshak Ter-Gukasov and Beybut Shelkovnikov were transferred and buried in the graveyard of Surb Gevorg Church. Archbishop Gevorg Seraydaryan who served as the Primate of the Diocese from 1972 to 2002 is also buried here.

Despite the fact that many churches were built in Tbilisi the historical Surb Gevorg Church never lost its importance. At present the Church is the seat of the Head of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia.

The feast day dedicated to Surb Gevorg Church is celebrated on the 10th of November according to the Old Calendar.

Surb Sargis Church in Khojabek Village

khojabegi surb sargis               Khojabek village is located southeast of Akhalkalaki along a straight line 16 km in length, in2 kmfrom the eastern shore of Lake Khanchali, at an altitudeof1930-1950 metersabove the sealevel. Passing through the village central road Ninotsminda-Akhalkalaki divides it into two parts, the right-hand side of which is the old village area, where Surb Sargis Church is situated. The archeological excavations of sites near the village are proving the fact that thisareahas been inhabited sinceancient times. The ancestors ofthe present population movedherein 1830from Dzitogh and Koshk villages from Karin province in Western Armenia. The ruins ofan ancient Cyclopean masonry style fortress still stand today in Khojabek, which are located2.5 kmwest ofthe village, in the north-eastern slope, near LakeKhanchali. There are the ruins of medieval villageKhalacha at the bottomof the slope, with the remains ofthe church and former cemetery. In 1985 on the basement of this church the Armenians from Khojabek built a temple and erected a cross stone (khachkar), design features of which are typical for the 10th -11th centuries (120 х 70 cm). There are twotombstones near thechapel.

The first construction of Surb Sargis Church was built in 1840s’. In 1848 the local Consistory addressed the Catholicos of All Armenians with the report on this subject, expressing the desire of the locals to see the church consecrated: “The locals of Khojabek, Bzavet, Trkana, Korkh villages of Akhaltsikhe province, without asking the permission of Consistory and the spiritual leadership, have built a little wooden church, which has stone walls and a wooden roof. When we tried to find out a reason and a wish to build the church, the builders responded that they had built it on meager funds with pious and zealous love, and if it didn’t surmount their Christian fervor it would only be used as an attached building.”

The consecration of the church in due form was conducted in its own time. The old church had served to the congregation before the new construction was built in 1882-84. According to witnesses, “…the residents of Khojabek village have a wonderful, vaulted church constructed of smoothly hewn stone, which was consecrated by the Spiritual Leader on the 28th of the month”(“Ardzagank”, 1885, №3, p. 41, in Armenian). The inscriptions on the western part of the church testify to the construction works and consecration.

The construction works began in 1990s’ and were finished in 1993, and on the 12th of November, 1993 the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church in Georgia Archbishop Gevorg Seraydarian, through the mediation of spiritual shepherd of Ninotsminda region Senior Priest Yegia Tazayan, consecrated Surb Sargis Church again: “After half a century at a newly consecrated Surb Sargis Church the first Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Senior Priest Yegia Tazayan”(V. Abramyan “Surb Sargis Church Consecration” “Etchmiadzin”, 1993, 11-12, p. 17, in Armenian).

In the following years on money of the locals and with the cooperation of the local authorities representatives, Rafik Arzumanian and Mels Bdoyan, the construction works were conducted in the church, the church fence, the altar and its upper part (vernatun) were especially improved. Only in 2004 the church was thoroughly repaired with the financial support of Armen and Tatul Gharslian. Today the church is decorated with the icons of eminent artist Karlen Gharslian. The spiritual choir also functions at the church.

The article is based on “Javakhk” by S. Karapetian

Norashen 2007/3 (9), p. 2

Armenian Vank in Tiflis

vanq                Vank Cathedral is located in Atoneli street, former Gareubani (or Big Vank) street, on the right bank of the Mtkvari River. Vank Cathedral foundation laying historically dates back to the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator (Senior Priest Gyut Agayants, “Armenians in Georgia”, “Taraz”, 1919 г., №6), and it is considered that the temple was constructed in 931. “Vank Church was built in 931 by spiritual brothers Umek, Sujap, Aryuts and Jalap”(ՀԱԱ, ֆ. 332, ց. 1, 102, թ. 2. See also P. Muradyan “Armenian Epigraphy of Georgia” Tbilisi, Yerevan, 1988, p. 49).

Many great men were enchanted by the beauty and power of the Armenian temple. Nikolas II of Russia, French traveler Jean Chardin, scientist Anton Guldenshtadt and many others visited Vank at different times.

Vank consisted of many different structures, such as: three domes, bell tower, tower, gates, ring-wall, chapel, museum, residence, etc. The cathedral was an uncommonly remarkable structure: “…three-nave (sixpillared), three-altared and three-domed Vank Cathedral is like a three-nave (sixpillared) porch-chapel, attached to the Church of the Virgin Mary of Sanahin Monastery in 1211.” (L. Melikset-Bek, «Armenians of Georgia», «The Caucasus andByzantium », Yerevan, 1979 , p. 178.)

Throughout its centuries-old history Vank underwent many changes and reconstructions. The restoration of structure in 1480 was so thorough that subsequently this date began to consider the date of the church foundation: “…the church was built at expense of Tbilisi citizens(mokalaki) Avsarkisov, Bastamov, Nazarbekov, Ozaantsev and the Georgian prince Solagov in 1480…”( L.M.Melikset-Bek, «Georgian Sources about the Armenians and Armenia», հ Գ, Yerevan, 1955 , p. 265).

In the 18th century the cathedral also underwent regular restorations, in the days of the Catholicos of All Armenians Astvatsatur (1715-1725) and during King Vakhtang VI reign in Georgia (1719- 1724) “Thanks to God and our Lord Jesus Christ, during the reign of King Vakhtang VI and powerful son Bagrat, and patriarchate of His Holiness Astvatsatur, the leadership of Astapat Vardapet Petros the holy church named after our Illuminator was built, at expense of pious Khoja Giorgi Gulunts, in memoriam of him, his parents, wife, and all strong sons. Now, who is reading this, ask God for mercy.” (Brosset M., rapports sur un voyage archeoiogique dans ia Georgie et dans 1 Armenie, II 1., St.-Petersburg, 1850, cinquieme rapport: 114, p. 115, 94, II, p. 59. See also P.Muradyan «Armenian Epigraphy of Georgia» Tbilisi, Yerevan, 1988, p. 53).

In the 19th century Vank underwent not only many changes, but also was replenished with new constructions. The museum, gates and the residence were built, inscription on the construction of which was carved in the wall of the bell tower and has been preserved until now: “In conclusion of verbal instructions of my spiritual father, people loving Catholicos of all Armenians Nerses, I, Sargis, humble Bishop Khasan Jalaliants completed the residence of Tbilisi in 1861 and I beg / to remember on a day when the words run out and the deed will reign.” (P.Muradyn, selected works, pp. 57-58 and so forth).

In 1893 at the initiative of Michael Tamamshian and on benefactor Avetis Gukasian’s money the building of Gukasian Religious and Historical Museum began. On February 21, 1902, on St.Vardanants Day celebration, the Catholicos of All Armenians Khrimyan Hayrik conducted the solemn opening ceremony of the museum. (“Luma”, 1902, Book II, pp. 236-237)(“ Vank Cathedral Religious and Historical Museum Opening”). By the decision of Tbilisi municipality in 1939 the museum building was demolished …

In 1882 Vank needed urgent restoration. In connection with the 400th anniversary of the cathedral it was decided to destroy the church and to build a new one on its place. («Ardzagank», 1882, № 10). However, on March 4, 1884 a committee was convened to solve the issues of Vank restoration, the members of which were Hovhannes Chitakhian, Alexander Mantashiants, Isaak Tsovianiants, Harutiun Shamkhariants, Gabriel Sundukian and Alexander Sundukiants. («Ardzagank», 1884 , № 10, p. 142) The restoration was finished in 1901, the Primate of the Diocese Archbishop Gevorg Sureniants anointed the temple. («Masis» 1901, № 52, (December 29), p. 832). Like many other churches of medieval Armenia, Vank in Tiflis owned several estates. For example, 23 residential premises belonged to the temple in 1816. (ՀԱԱ ֆ. 53, ց. 1,գ. 3320 ,թ. 6).

   In 1920-30s’ Vank was derelict, but it still survived. In 1938, by the decision of Tiflis State Council it was decided to destroy sacred to the Armenians temple. In the periodicals of that time was written that this decision was supposedly made at the request of Armenians: “The representation of Tiflis Council satisfied the request of Tiflis Armenian workers, who asked to destroy the building of Vank Cathedral. The land will be allotted for construction of a secondary school. ” («Soviet Georgia», 1938 , №85, September 23).

From 1937 to 1938 Vank was completely demolished, and on its place operating till now Armenian Public School 104 was built. Only the bell tower, which became a silent witness to the past glory of magnificent Armenian cathedral, has survived. The preserved part of the residence today is just a simple apartment house.

Vank Cathedral had a cemetery. It has existed since at least the Middle Ages, but as in due time adequate precautions to preserve sacred historic monuments were not taken, the preserved and known to us gravestones date back to the 19th and the 20th centuries. The remains of noble Armenians are buried at Vank cemetery: that are the Primates of the Diocese – Archbishop Gabriel Ayvazian (1812-1880), Bishop Khoren Stepanian(1840-1990), Archbishop Yesai Astvatsaturian, Archbishop Garegin Satunian (1852-1910); generals Koms Loru Melikian (1824 -1888), Arshak Ter-Gukasian(1819-1881), Beybut Shelkovnikiants (1837-1878), whose remains were transferred and buried in graveyard of Surb Gevorg Church; Tbilisi Mayors - Alexander Matiniants (1843-1909 ), Pogos Izmailian (1852-1895), State Counsellor David Gorganiants (1831-1900); playwright Gabriel Sundukian(1825-1912, whose remains were transferred to the Tbilisi Pantheon of the Armenian Writers and Public Figures “Khojivank”), chief editor of “Ardzagank” newspaper Abgar Hovhannisian (1849-1904), chief editor of “Megu Hayastani” newspaper Petros Simonian(1830-1911); benefactors – Alexander Mantashiants (1849-1911) (his tombstone was transferred to the yard of Surb Etchmiadzin Church in Tbilisi), Hovsep Eyfediants (1806-1862) and other benefactors…

 

The article is based on unpublished work by S. Karapetian "Armenian Churches in Georgia."

Norashen 2007/1, р. 7-8

Surb Nshan (St. Nikoghayos) Church in Tbilisi

tbilisi surb nshan                The church is situated not far from Erekle II Square, at the crossroads of Akopyan and Serebryanaya streets.

The exact date of the church foundation is unknown. But the available evidence suggests that it has existed before the 17th century. Evidence of this is a record in a Memory diary created in 1624: «Գրեցաւ ի թուին ՌՀԳ (1624), եթու գիրս զայս ես՝ Անդրի Կեսարցի քահանայ եկեղեցոյն Ս. Նիկողայոսի, ի քաղաքն Տփխիս...» (ԺԷԲ, էջ 155) as well as a memory record of the donated to the church Treasury, created in 1656, which reads: «Արդ՝ ես բազմամեղ Զուրաբս ստացայ զսբ. տառն և ետու յիշատակ ի դուռն Ս. Նշանին, ի ձեռն տեր Ոհան քահանային, յիշեցեք...» (գրիչ՝ Աղամալ Ջուղայեցի, վայր՝ Տփղիսի Մուղնու Ս. Գևորգ եկեղեցի) (ԺԷԳ, էջ 721) (By the way, memory records on two donated church crosses also indirectly testify to the presence of the Church in the 17th century, (see under the heading: Church Items ).

Ignoring theexistence ofthe abovementionedinformation, which undoubtedly argues that the Armenian Church of St. Nikoghayos (Nikolaos the Wonderworker) has existed in Tpkhis already before 1624 (to which therighteousArmeniansdonatedthe manuscripts inArmenian and different church items), P. Ioseliani put forward the fundamentallycontrary tothe existing datafictitious theory that supposedlyformerly(it should be understoodbefore1703)the church wasin the handsof the OrthodoxGeorgians (P. Ioseliani, “Description of Antiquities in Tiflis” , 1866, p. 258).) In another placeP.Ioselianinoted that "The foundation time of Surb Khach (St. Nshan) is unknown. The particle of the skull of St. Andrew has been stored in the church since ancient times,” see also “Ancient Monuments of Tbilisi” V, 1844, p. 120).

Later, without investigating this baseless and, in essence, fabricated statement, G. Agayants commented on it: “Traditionally, people say that formerly there stood the Georgian Church dedicated to Nikolaos the Wonderworker, and the Armenians after seizing it built the eponymous church on the spot» (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 332, ց.1, գ. 102, թ. 8). The author of the other similar publication marked: “This church, dedicated to Nikolaos the Wonderworker, as well as many other Armenian churches in Georgia, once belonged to the Orthodox” (“Caucasian Calendar for 1886”, Tiflis, 1885, p.152).

Again as legend has it, T. Kvirkvelia mentioned, as though before the Armenian Church (in that case in 1701) in former times the Georgian Orthodox Church had been at the same place. After it was ruined and destroyed, the Armenian community built a new one.”(T. Kvirkvelia, Names of Old Tbilisi, “Vecherni Tbilisi”, 6.11.1991).

Taking as a basis the same “legend”, another modern researcher in order to prove that original church building had the Georgian origin, refers to the fact that the church is named in honor of St. Nikoghayos: “It must be kept in mind and it is quite likely that according to the old Georgian tradition the name of St. Nikoloz has been preserved in the name of originally Georgian, but converted to Armenian Surb Nishan Church…”(B. Arveladze, Work, pp. 14-15). The author of these lines, perhaps, was guided by the rejected long ago considerations that “…It was not accepted in Armenia to worship this saint”(B.Ulubabyan, M.Asratyan, Dadivank, “Haykazyan hayagitakan handes”(“Haykazyan Magazine of Armenian Studies” volume 8, Beirut, 1980, pp. 37-38). In fact, the worship of St. Nikoghayos was widespread in Armenia as well, there were many churches consecrated to the saint in the various provinces (the churches in Kamarakap and Narver villages of Akn district, the monastery close to Btarich village in Yerznka district, the church in Zimara village of Tivrik ditrict, one of the murals at Dadivank Monastery in Tsar district and etc.)

Finally, it must be confessed that there is no at least one fact (except for the invented “legend”) that would testify by any hint to the Georgian origin of the church that had existed before 1703, while at the same time there are many testimonies of the 17th century certifying the Armenian origin of the church. As for the multi-stage reconstruction, restoration and completion of the church during the XVIII century, the information telling on it is full and abundant. Along with it, preserved until now inscription of 13 lines, carved on the north entrance of the church, telling about the foundation of the church in 1703 and its construction for 17 years, undoubtedly is primary.

The inscriptions telling about the construction and restoration of the dome (1780), the door (1781), a new door, the chapel (considering the threshold of the southern entrance, 1861), etc. are valuable.

The records covering the construction process that had developed in the 17th century are especially detailed.

In 1830 at the initiative of ktitor Avetik Piroyan the inner west wall of the church was decorated (ՎԱԴ, ֆ. 500, ց. 8, գ. 74, թ. 5).

In 1837 the Supreme Archimandrite Tadeos, who took over as the Head of the Armenians in Georgia, in a letter, addressed to the ktitor about the church decoration, indicated all the necessary works that were important for the church renovation. (Matenadaran, paper 148, doc. 179).

In 1868 the restoration work has also been conducted. The work, requiring 1020 rubles expenditure, included the restoration of the cross (300 rub.), whitewashing of the inner walls (500 rub.) and etc. (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 5061, թ. 1).

The need for regular maintenance work was already felt in 1894. “One of the city churches named Surb Nshan has already impressively dilapidated, if it is not repaired soon, it will be ruined” («Ardzagank», 1894, d. 65, p. 1).

In Soviet times, the church building was adapted for different purposes: “During World War II the church was turned into a warehouse of pasta. Later it became a book depository of the National Library (mainly the Armenian periodicals were kept here)”(Geno, The History of Tiflis Disappears…, “Lragir Or”, 1996, January 18, p.6).

Desolated and abandoned for decades Surb Nshan Church, left without any repair, in the end of 1990s’ has already been in a disastrous state. In September 1998 several employees of Monument protection of Georgia, concerned about the fate of the church, declared to the Armenians living in the neighborhood that if they within a month didn’t start repair jobs, the church would be given to the Georgian Patriarchy. (“The Voice of Armenia”, 1998, 26.09, №108, p. 1)

On the night of October 20, 2002 owing to in one case “unknown” reason (“Vecherni Tbilisi”, 2002, October 22-23, № 121,( by the way, they didn’t forget to mention that allegedly the church building, constructed 300 years ago, belonged to the Georgian Orthodox Church until the middle of the 19th century, and later passed to the Armenian Church), in another case owing to "carelessness of a Russian tramp" (“Asaval-dasavali” 28.10-02.11, 2008, № 44), a fire broke out inside the church, and even 9 fire trucks were hardly able to extinguish it.

After the fire the damage level of the church incomparably has risen. Today, the church still exist in a fatal condition.

In 1837 P. Josseliani gave the earliest description of the church building known to us: “A dome type church, named Surb Nshan dedicated to Saint Nikoghayos, with four free-standing supports, is magnificent. The dome is covered with a green brick, the church and the wings - with tile. It has three altars: in the middle is the big one, dedicated to Saint Nikoghayos, the Northern- dedicated to Apostle Andreas, and the Southern – dedicated to St. Gevorg”.

The Doctor of Architecture M. Hasratyan introduced the late architectural description of the church building (for the first time together with the measurements)(M. Hasratyan, The Monuments of Medieval Architecture in Tbilisi, The Second International Symposium of the Armenian Art, Yerevan, 1978). Surb Nshan Church has a structure of a three-tiered dome type basilica, widespread in the 17th – 18th centuries Armenian church-building. Two pairs of fundamental pillars are holding externally dodecahedral drum, with a pointed spirelet in the end, and the vaulting. The main building material is brick. It has tile coverage. Decorated from inside, perhaps, the work belongs to the Hovnatanyan School. There are three entrances at the north, south and west facades. At the top of the western facade the church has a bell tower, standing on eight pillars, and in front of the north entrance - the four-columned threshold. There are many Armenian lapidary inscriptions on the walls. The cemetery was mainly located in the northern part and on the west side of the church. In 1970s’ the majority of the tombstones were paved with asphalt. The only tombstones, which are numerically small, located much higher and cannot be covered with asphalt, are still noticeable.

Church items: one of the first information about the presence of sacred objects, hallows and relics in the church or between the clergy dates back to 1837: “There is a multipartite painting of St. Nikoghayos, rather miraculous, where the skull off Apostle Andreas is summarized. Furthermore, Archpriest Ohanes Zarapov keeps in his house the life-giving tree, as well as remains of other Saints, that his ancestors have left a legacy, by which many receive miraculous healing; both the Georgians and the Armenians idolize and worship them, and in ancient times they were worshiped by the Royal Court. (This priest) sometimes moves these sacred objects from his house to the church so that Christians could worship and kiss them, and then again brings them back to his house.”

According to March 3, 1838 record, 168 gold and silver items belonged to Surb Nshan Church (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 6, գ. 39, թ. 56-61).

The following record of 1838 about church and profitable estates is worthy of attention: “Surb Nshan Church with a high fence around it has 1116 gaz (linear measure 1gaz= 112 cm) of vacant land” (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 6, գ. 39, թ. 61).

In 1898 state counselor Grigor Solomonyan Abisalomynts presented the church his own profitable kiosk worth 5000 rubles, which was located in the 5th section of the city. (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 18, գ. 363, թ. 127).

 

The article is based on “Redemand” by S. Karapetian

Norashen 2008/1(13), p. 2-4

Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church in Tbilisi

Tbilisii mughnu  surb gevorg                     Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church is located in Akhospireli Street of Tbilisi. This church belongs to the number of churches, which were confiscated from the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia during the Soviet period and still have not been restituted to the Diocese. The Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church today is on the verge of collapse.

In old Tiflis (Tpkhis) Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church was a hearthof Armenianculture and spirituality. The church has taken its namefrom the eponymousvillage, located not far from Ashtarak city, wherefrom the relics of St. George and a silver icon were moved to Tbilisi from Hovhanavank Monastery. There is talk thatthese relicswere broughttohealthe heir toone of the Georgiankings, although the princedied, while the relicswere onthe road. The relics were moved to a newly built church. Since then both of theserelics, due to their healing power, gained a lot ofpopularity among the Armenians and Georgians and were kept in a polyptych with two panels at Mugni Church.

As for the exactdate of the temple foundation, there are different versions. Some researchersmention1537 (Pl. Ioseliani ), others 1751, basing on the followingfacts: “There is a dome type Saint Gevorg Church at Prince Baybutov Chamber, with four free-standing supports. In addition tothe big dome there are three small domes onthe outside three corners. One of the threedomesis forthe bells,and the other twoare empty. It was built on the money of citizens Mandenov, Basmatov and Bashinjyagyan…” (Melikset-Bek, L.M. «Georgian Sourcesabout Armeniansand Armenia», National library, Yerevan, 155, p. 2, in Armenian).

There is another evidence on the foundation of the church: “The date of first foundation of old Mugni Church, which once was on the place of the new one, dates back to 1356 AD” (ՀՀՊՊԿԱ, ֆ. 332,գ. 1,գ. 102, թ.3). In fact, the above-mentioned representatives of the three families in 1751 restored the church, and did not build it; Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church was built in 1356. In any way already in the 15th century manuscripts the church is mentioned either under its name or under the names “The Holy Virgin Mary that Fulfills the Desires” and General St. Gevorg. Thus in 1485, one of the chroniclers wrote: “The original of Sharaknots (Armenian Hymnarium) was written under the aegis of Saint Katoghike and healing from disease Surb Gevorg of Mughni”, and in the most ancient manuscript of 1447 in one of commemorative prayers of the Gospel it is said, - “wrote and barely finished the Gospel in the capital city Tpkhis under the aegis of The Holy Virgin Mary that Fulfills the Desires” (ԺԵԱ. Էջ 607), just as well in 1452 in one of the Gospels’ commemorative texts it is said, -“ in the capital city Tpkhis under the aegis of The Holy Virgin Mary that Fulfills the Desires and General St. Gevorg”(ԺԵԱ. Էջ 17).

In 1763 Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church is mentioned as a part of Haghpat Monastery (“Jambr”, p. 49). In 1784 the church was one of seven Armenian churches in Tbilisi that belonged to the Diocese of Haghpat (“Annals of Armenian History” Luka Karnetsi, new series, Yerevan, 1984, p. 479, in Armenian).

In 1789 the church bell tower (perhaps, one of the bell towers) was built. It became clear during the restoration in 1900: “During the demolition of the main bell tower of Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church in Tiflis a stone with Georgian inscriptions was found which reads as follows: “In 1789, I- the daughter of Zurab Ter-Shmavonyants, the wife of "mahtesi" ( pilgrim to Jerusalem) Zurab, sinful Esther,- built this church bell tower.” («Byuzandion», 1900, November 2, № 1241,p.3).

In 1795 the Persians robbed the church, but owing to Archpriest Father Grigor Ter-Shmavonyan it was possible to save some church items.

In 1852 the church was in a deplorable state and it was necessary 4 500 silver rubles for its restoration. (ՀՀՊՊԿԱ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 3657, թ. 1). Deacon Gevorg Mandinyants was supervising the work flow. (ՀՀՊՊԿԱ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 5, թ. 28). Unfortunately, there are no written testimonials on the restoration work flow. We only know that in 1860 it was planned to knock down the houses that belonged to tailor Tsabo, Giorgi Amiragyants, Pochinyants and Kalinov, located in the north part of Princess Maria Bekdabegyants house, in order to provide the church with a large territory. Approximately 1000 rubles was needed for the construction of the wall (ՀՀՊՊԿԱ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 3908, թ. 1). Princes Kagramyan, Argunyants, Yegor Tamamshyants and Nikolay Mirimyants monitored the work flow (ՀՀՊՊԿԱ, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 33323, թ. 1). Already in 1893 with a view to start restoration, the congregation of Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church convened General Parochial Council. Unfortunately, we have no information concerning the subsequent actions of the council.

It must also be noted that teacher and editor Nikogaes Khotovyants, benefactor Barseg Hovsepyan- Khojayants, Hovhannes Davtyan-Khudadyants, Yegor Hovhannesyan-Furginyants and clergymen are buried in the yard of Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church, especially in its north part.

During Sovietization and until 1980s’ the church was used as a museum warehouse. The items stored inside and the dust had worn out the church, and even after the transformation of the stored items the condition did not improve. On the contrary, it has deteriorated. In 1980’s dangerous cracks have appeared on the altar, and in 1990 the church was declared hazardous. The current state of the church is terrible. Saint Gevorg of Mughni Church artificially became “untouchable”, correspondingly, was left without attention, and is slowly collapsing. The Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church in Georgia many times appealed to the relevant authorities regarding the state of the church.

According to the data of December 2007 there is no progress on this issue.

The article is based on "Armenian Monuments of Georgia" by S. Karapetyan and P.Muradyan (1988, Yerevan)

Norashen 2007/6 (12), p. 2-3

 

Yerevantsots Saint Minas Church in Tbilisi

erevancoc surb minasThe church is located between former Iori Street and St.Minas bystreet, at present adjacent to Gelati Street. “ There is the Armenian Church of St. Minas close to the Georgian church in Avlabari, not far from the panorama that opens on the top of the sandy banks of the Mtkvari River in Tpkhis ...” (Melikset –Bek L.M. , «Georgian Sources about Armenians and Armenia», Yerevan, 1955, p. 268).

The church was founded in 1790 “… was built in 1790 on Avlabari residents money, in the name of St.Minas the Martyr” (Melikset –Bek L.M. , «Georgian Sourcesabout Armeniansand Armenia», Yerevan, 1955, p. 268).

During the invasion of Agha Mohammad Khan Surb Minas Church was also ruined, however only in 1811 impoverished and robbed parish was able to rebuild the church: “The old Yerevantsots Surb Minas Church was rebuild in 1811 with the help of the people” ( ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 332, ց. 1, գ. 102, թ. 16).

In 1837 the church was described as follows: “…domeless, looks like an old house…with tile roof…”(Melikset –Bek L.M. , «Georgian Sources about Armenians and Armenia», Yerevan, 1955).

According to 1838 record, 93 different items belonged to the church, donated to the church by the following people: Catholicos Hovhannes, Ter Martiros Yesayan, Lazar Melikov, the spouse of a citizen Khanay – Sandukht, Mikael Gotinyan, Lazar Afiov (Apiov), Agabab Zakaryan, Husniper Ter Hovhannes, Grigor’s spouse – Sandukht, Hoskan Ayvazov, Mkrtich Avagyan, Sahak Ter- Grigoryan, Tovma Iskantaryants, Sargis Kazaryan, Arakel Kostandyan, khoyetsi Baba Martirosyan, Khachatur Odabashyan, Hovhannes Abrahamyan, khoyetsi Avag Martirosyan, khoyetsi Baba Davtyan, psalmist Khachatur, Melkon Khachaturyan, Aghajan Ter- Simonyan, Bulbulyan, Ter Hayrapet, Avetik Kostandyan, Senior Priest Hovhannes, Sukias Grigoryan (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 6, գ. 39, թ. 78-80).

In 1861 Stepanos Shagbazyan was mentioned as a parish priest of St. Minas Church(ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 4254, թ. 4).

In 1883 Kazaros Hovsepyants was mentioned as a priest («Մեղու Հայաստանի», 1883, №1).

Sargis Yerznkian was the last priest of St.Minas Church, he had served as a priest for 16 years, 10 of which – at St. Minas Church, in 1924 he publicly renounced his priesthood and declared himself "... one of the citizens of the Soviet Union ..." (“Martakoch”, 1924 , № 159, July 13).

In 1870s’ due to dilapidation or small size it was necessary to built a new church on the place of the old one: “St. Minas Church was demolished and the foundation of a new church is being dug, the structure of which will surpass in size and beauty the old one…”(«Մեղու Հայաստանի», 1880, №49, стр. 4).

In the beginning of 1880s’ the thoroughly rebuilt and more spacious in size church, in essence, repeated the structure of the old brick church with wooden roof.

In the beginning of 1883 the solemn opening of the thoroughly rebuilt church took place: “On Sunday of January 2, in Avlabar, with a dense crowd present the consecration ceremony of a newly built St.Minas Church was held” («Meghu Hayastani», 1883, №1).

In 1872 Archbishop Makar at St. Minas Church opened a department of Mariam School («Mshak», 1872, d. 2, January 18). In 1876 mentioned boys’ school had one teacher and 28 students (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 3, գ. 62, թ. 13).

In 1900 Kazar Abyants donated to St. Minas Church one-story building with a yard, priced at 1450 rubles and located in the 7th section of Avlabar («Kavkaz», 1900, № 168).

Poghos Kataniants, who was appointed to serve as a ktitor on June 16, 1902 marked that he had received a debt of 500 rubles: “…which was left by my predecessor due to construction of ruined fence of the church” (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 6, գ. 437, թ. 65).

In 1924 by the decision of the Executive Committee of Tiflis the church was closed. The building was handed over to the "Young Leninists" organization for the establishment of a district club. («Martakoch», 1924, № 156, July 10, p .2. As well as № 162, July 18).

According to November 16, 1924 report “Three months has passed since the church was given to the 5th collective and turned it into the hall, there was built a stage, ornamented with Lenin’s portraits” («Martakoch», 1924, № 266, November 20).

In the following years the church was used as a sewing shop. Since the half of 1990s’ the church has been deserted.

Norashen 2008/4 (16), page 2

Surb Etchmiadzin Church

ekegheciner                 Etchmiadznetsots Surb Gevorg Church is located in the central part of Tbilisi, in Avlabar District and was built in 1805 on local residents’ money. “…Rectangular construction, covered with wood, without a dome, with a small bell tower, the church named after Saint Gevorg, called Etchmiadzin, was built in 1805 on local residents’ money” (“Georgian Sources…”, page 270).

On February 16, 1845 the clergy of the church drew up a plan of solid reconstruction of the church. According to the testimony of invited experts, the total cost of a new church built on the place of the old one was about 20 000 rubles. In 1846 immediately upon approval the clergy initiated the works. Large in size and requiring large amount of resources building demanded from the clergy lot of effort and donations. It is known that, for example, in 1854, the church did not have any sum of money, as every cent was invested in the reconstruction of the building. A similar situation also occurred in 1857.

The available materialdoes notgiveus the opportunity to set a date of the completion of reconstructionof the church, butthe following is undeniable: the reconstruction took placefrom the late 50's to early 60's.

In 1884 the clergy of Etchmiadznetots Church built a theological school at the church which was designed by architect M. Malambekian. (“Nor Dar” Newspaper №174, 1884 , p. 2).

At the end of the century (1898) the church again required the restoration. In 1900 architect G.Grigoryants made the cost estimate. Taguhi Arutyunyants diverted a sum to charity for already started reconstruction works, which were conducted in 1899 and in 1912. (“Tifliski listok” № 155, 1899, page 2 ). By decision of the Consistory the clergy of the Diocese before the completion of restoration works had conducted the liturgies at Karmir Avetaran Church and Surb Minas Church.

It should be mentioned that Etchmiadznetsots Surb Gevorg was one of the few churches that continued to operate even in the Soviet period. From 1944 to 1945 the necessary repairs had been made in the church: “We have restored Etchmiadznetsots Surb Gevorg Church from the inside and rebuilt the entirely new altar with icons and carpets” (“Etchmiadzin” Magazine, № 3 , 1978, pages 62-63).

Partial recent restoration work was carried out in 1983.

Today the church represents one of two Armenian churches operating in Tbilisi. Its extremely difficult state was dangerous and threatened with unexpected destruction. Its state had further deteriorated after the earthquake in 2001.

At the initiative of the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia His Grace Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanian already in 2004 the restoration projects had been compiled. In 2006 through joint efforts of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, “Hayastan” Pan-Armenian Foundation and Armenian community of Argentina a new project was drawn up.

For the last time the restoration of the church was being held from 2006 to 2010, with the support of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of North America. During his visit to Georgia His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians presided over the consecration ceremony of the reconstructed church.

Shamkhoretsots Surb Astvatstatsin Karmir Avetaran Church in Tbilisi

kar. avetaran                The church is located in the center of Avlabari, in Figner Street (former Preobrazhenskaya).

According to the testimony of I.Ioseliani in 1837 the original building of the church, founded in 1775, was a wooden structure without a dome: “ There is a church named Shamkhoretsots among the dwelling houses in the center of Avlabar, built in 1775 and dedicated to St. Astvatsatsin, without a dome, with wooden covering, was built on the citizens money… ” (Melikset-Bek L. , p. 268).

This statement of the Georgian researcher is confirmed by the other important information given in 1868(ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 5215, թ. 1).

Beyond doubt, likewise the other churches of the city, Shamkhoretsots Church was ruined during the Persian invasion in 1795, and, perhaps, this explains its thorough restoration in 1809 “built by the citizens in 1809”(ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 332, ց. 1, գ. 102, թ. 17).

In the beginning of 1840s’ the parish decided to restore the old ruined church and to built a fence (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 1146, թ. 1-2).

In 1842 the parish of Shamkhoretsots Church addressed General Yevgeni Alexandrovich Golovin with a request to obtain the agreement to start the restoration work (ՎԱԴ, ֆ. 2, ց. 5, գ. 8589, թ. 1). It is significant that the parish, initiating the works, relied only on its own financial possibilities, in addition intending not to restore, but in place of the old church built a new one starting from the foundation. Judging by the inscriptions on the walls and the windows of the church it becomes clear that from 1844 to 1845 in fact huge reconstruction works had been implemented on donations of Avetik Ter-Gazaryants. Avetik’s son – Ovakim Ter-Gazaryants after the death of his father also donated a considerable amount of money to complete the unfinished work in the church. Apparently, the construction lasted for a very long time. In any case, in 1857 the entire amount that belonged to the church was spent on the construction (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3830, թ. 7, 12).

By the way, there are especially numerous inscriptions on the church walls regarding the donations of 1858, which are direct evidence of works that were finished by that year.

In 1881 partial restoration and additional works had been conducted in the church again. On November 18 of the same year it was reported that “…within a short time period with the support of a new deputy Grigor Karagezyants the church was decorated and has become so luxurious from inside that if it’s not the second it will be considered the third between the churches of Tbilisi” (“Մեղու Հայաստանի”, 1881, № 240, стр. 3).

In 1883 a parochial school was built in the yard of the church (« Nor Dar», 1884, № 174, p. 2).

In 1893 “The police noticed that there were cracks from the foundation to the arches at a height of 2 or 3 feet on four walls of Shamkhoretsots (Karmir Avetaran) Church… According to the commission report it is clear that the foundation of the cathedral took place in 1844, and due to the subsidence of the foundation in different times, unnoticeable cracks had appeared on the walls during the time of construction, which at the end of construction and after the dome installation had widened. Taking into account that the church with cracks on the walls, which are no longer progressing, has stood already for decades, Commission considered that they are not dangerous to the strength of the church” («Ardzagank», 1893 , № 7, January 17, p. 1).

The next investigation of the cracks that had appeared on the walls was conducted on the 20th of July, 1900. («Kavkaz», 1900, № 189, №191).

According to the record of 1838, the church possessed 136 different items, acquired mainly through donations.

In 1838 the church mainly owned the estates located in close vicinity.

A. Tayryants after his death in 1889 bequeathed to the church “… his house and shops in the vicinity of the church, that yielded a fair return in the amount of 200 rubles annually” («Ardzagank», 1889, № 41, p. 565).

In 1858 the church was robbed. Saint Karapet relics were stolen. A criminal case was initiated in order to identify the kidnappers and restitute Saint Karapet relics, but in 1873 was closed without results.

The natives of Shamkhor village - the descendants of Tayryan, Mirzakhanyan, Harutyunyan and Ter-Gazaryan families has been buried in the yard of Shamkhoretsots Surb Astvatsatsin since the end of the 18th century ( «Horizon», 1911, № 26, “Mshak” , 1912, № 118 . «Tiflisski listok», 1912 , № 124).

In 1912 architect N. Kharazyan designed the church porch in front of the main entrance, and at the end of the entrance anticipated a belfry.

In the Soviet period the church was used for different purposes. In 1980s’ it served as a workshop for the Georgian painters. During these years the Armenian community sent many letters to the city karmir avetarangovernment asking for permission to restore the church at its own expense, but to no avail. And so on April 14, 1989 the church was ruined. The authorities hurried to assure that the reason of church destruction was the earthquake measuring of 4 points on the Richter scale of the previous day (April 13) in Tbilisi, («Vecherni Tbilisi», 1989, №89, April 17), however the following days publications of the Georgian press unwittingly exposed the villainy. In particular, already on the 22nd of April in one of the publications it is being proposed on the place of the “ruined” church to lay the foundation of the foreseen main cathedral of the Georgian Church (“Tbilisi”, 1989, April 22). In the article entitled “Why Did Shamkhor Collapse?” published on April 27, chief city architect hurried to declare that the destructed church is not recoverable. (“Tbilisi”, 1989, April 27, p. 6; “Molodezh Gruzii”, April 27,1989). With reference to the allocation of the land for construction of a new Georgian cathedral church, through the destruction of not only the remnants of the dilapidated church, but a large part of the residential buildings in Avlabar, on February 19, 1990 another voluminous material (“Tbilisi”, 1990, April 19, p. 4), as well as several architectural designs of this church («Zarya Vostoka», 1990, March 12 , p. 4; “Tbilisi”, 1990, №34) are being published.

Eventually it was resolved to build the Georgian Cathedral Church not on the place of Shamkhoretsots, but on the place of destructed Armenian Church and Khojivank cemetery; at the same time another significant part of Shamkhoretsots was destroyed for security purposes.

According to 1999 data from still existing church only the east facade and the adjacent parts of the south and north facades are left.

In 2004 the Head of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanyan for at least a partial strengthening of the church ruins expressed His desire first of all to fence it in order to build there a residence in the future. But this idea was not realized as well, because the same year on this convenient for the construction of the residence place the foundation of the Georgian secondary school “Momavali” (The Future) was laid, the construction of which was conducted rapidly.

At the present time Shamkhoretsots Surb Astvatsatsin (Karmir Avetaran) is in dilapidated, abandoned state…

 

The article is based on “Redemand” by S. Karapetian

Norashen 2008/2(14), p. 2-4

Norashen Surb Astvatsatsin Church (Norashen Holy Mother of God Church)

Norashen                Norashen Surb Astvatsatsin Church is located in the old part of Tbilisi, next to Meydan Square.

G. Agayants, basing on two different sources, determined the exact date of foundation of the church – 1487: “… in 1487 a man, whose name was Norashen Sadab, built the Armenian church” or “in the name of God, I, Satats, built the church in memoriam of me and my parents, my father Sultan, my grandfather Tavakalli and my wife Vishel, Nariman, Sultanin and Shariman."

A new phase of construction work began in the middle of the 17th century, at the initiative of khoja Nazar. “In 1650 khoja Nazar built and gave me full powers related to the church with the attestation and the signature of the deceased Ashkharbeg Bebutsyan, letter number # 1714”. Complete restoration of the church in this period is also confirmed by the inscription on the cross-stone (khachkar), located inside the church. The inscription reads: “In 1650, the Holy Cross belongs to the master Petros Dzhugaetsi, who built the Holy Church. Ask the Lord to have mercy, Amen.”

In 1672 J. Shardenwho had visitedTbilisirecalledthe churchof the same name, videlicet Norashen Surb Astvatsastin Church, under which it is known today.

According to Ign. Ioseliani construction works in the church were fully implemented in 1737, but after this date some restoration works continued. “In the western part of the king's Caravanserai a church, called Norashen, is located, built in the name of the Mother of God, it is a dome type church, built of good bricks. It was founded on money of one khodja Nazar, and later completed on Tbilisi citizens’ money in 1737. However, the construction is still going on. The old priest and five priests serve here.”

The subsequent restoration is connected with the Mayor of Tbilisi, Avetik Bekhbutyants (1768-1795).

After Aga Muhammad Khan invasion in 1795 there was a need for new restoration works in the ruined church, the property of which was plundered. The works were carried out in 1808. A new restoration of the church was carried out in 1830.

In 1852 the Senior Priest of the church Ter Srapion and yeretspokh (churchwarden) asked for restoration, but without receiving an answer, the request was forgotten. Only in 1857 Catholicos Nerses V wrote: “Only now, feeling the harm of my forgetfulness, I will write a letter to the consistory to give the order to Priest Srapion and venerable Sogomon Oganesian-Rotinian to restore Norashen Church.” In 1895-1897 brothers Karapet and Beglar Vardaniants, by agreement of Catholicos Nerses V, had carried out some restoration works in the external part of the church. From 1899 to 1900 yeretspokh (churchwarden) Nikogayos Baysogholiants had drawn the interior scheme of the church, where the expected costs estimate for its restoration was also attached. Artist Vardan Mirzoyants was invited, he completed the work in eight months time, and to confirm the quality of his work yeretspokh (churchwarden) invited another famous artist Shamshiniants, who approved the work and even offered to overpay for the work of the artist.

After the establishment of Soviet power in 1925 it was agreed to build a street named “Armenian Market” and for this purpose the council was convened, which decided to destroy Norashen Church. However due to Severov’s categorical protest church was not destroyed. The meeting was held on July 2, 1925. Until 1931 Norashen Church had been under the Diocesan Council patronage. After that, the church was converted to the book archive. According to some reports of 1962 this kind of book libraries were in Moscow, Kiev and Tbilisi, in Norashen Church.

Not only historical facts proved the Armenian origin of the church, but also the presence of the elements of church interior inherent to the Armenian Church, such as a place for baptism, the high position of the altar, cross-stones (khachkar) built-in the walls, Armenian inscriptions, which later disappeared.

Saint Karapet Church in Gandza Village

gandza surb karapet            Gandza is one of the most famous villages in Samtskhe-Javakheti region. Not because of its big population (according to the 1991 data, 3600 people lived here, “Hayreniki dzayn”, 1991, August 21, in Armenian), but because of its wonderful nature and beautiful Saint Karapet Church situated in the village. It is the birthplace of the great Armenian lyricist Vahan Terian (1885-1920), every year in the end of July Terian Poetry Day has been celebrated here since 1966 in his honor.

Gandza has a rich history, and is located 22 km southeast from Akhalkalaki, on the left bank of the Parvana River, at an altitude of 2020-2070 meters above the sea level. The history of the village started in the 2nd -3rd centuries BC, Cyclopean masonry style fortress “Kerokhli” on the east side of Small Abul mountain (2800 m), which is situated 5 km northwest from Gandza, and two Vishap stones – “Surb Sargis katnakar” preserved in the north-western edge of the village - testify this fact.

According to the historical data in the Middle Ages Muslims had lived in the village. Their ancestors had moved from Borchalo in the 17th century. Turkish presence in Gandza had continued before the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, after that they moved to Turkey. The Armenian population of Gandza has settled here in 1830s’ (“Nor Dar”, page 2, November 18, 1888, Tbilisi, in Armenian), for example, the ancestor of Vahan Terian came here from Krchnkots village in Erzurum (Western Armenia).

Gandza has always been marked by economic stability. It was because of the geographical location of the village, which is on main transit road connecting Shirak and Akhaltsikhe with Trekhk and Tpkhis, existing since the Middle Ages. The fortress ruins near the river, the small, single-nave, vaulted churches constructed of smoothly hewn stone in the 12th and 14th centuries tell about the accomplishments of the village in the Middle Ages. The structural design of the churches is close to the Byzantine style. The Upper Church (10,54 x 6,86 m) has a small hall with a separate entrance on the north, one entrance on the south and two Georgian inscriptions in Mesrop Mashtots writing style. The Lower (9,86 x 6,22 m) is located on the south from Surb Karapet Church and has two entrances on the western and southern parts of the church. This Church also has Georgian inscriptions in Mesrop Mashtots writing style. It should be noted that southeast from Gandza the ruins of the churches, situated in former Makhara village, have also been preserved.

3 km southwest from the village, on the top of St. Hovhannes mountain, at an altitude of 2327 meters above the sea level, medieval single-nave church(6,83 x 4,45 m) has been preserved. This church is constructed of smoothly hewn stone and is based on double earth pillar. Today the church is a place of pilgrimage; the faithful come here every year on the 24th of June.

The 1865 documents tell about the educational and spiritual life of the village. The school building was located in the yard of Saint Karapet Church. Unfortunately, we have no written historical data on further activities of the school. Perhaps, the school was closed, because already in 1885 in the village is mentioned another – Russian state school (“Ardzagank”, p. 41, №3, 1885, in Armenian), which functioned for a long time. Nowadays two secondary schools with large numbers of students operate in the village.

It is has been mentioned about the existence of Saint Karapet Church since 1840 (ՀԱԴ, ֆ, ց.1, գ. 457), but today’s big , stone, dome type church (19,10 x 12,73 m) was built in 1859. The organizer of the construction and benefactor was Vahan Terian’s grandfather – Priest Grigor. A contemporary describes the church as follows: “… the village has a wonderful, vaulted church, on four pillars, constructed of smoothly hewn stone. The church, which was built on money of the locals, and with the financial support and guardianship of Priest Grigor, can become a matter of pride for many cities” («Ardzagank», 1885, № 3, p. 41, in Armenian). 15 000 rubles was spent on the construction works («Nor-Dar» № 47, p. 3, 1902, in Armenian). Indeed, by its grandeur St. Karapet Church is an architectural treasure and decoration of the village.

The article is based on “Javakhk” by S. Karapetian

Norashen 2007/5 (11), p. 3

Saint Minas Church in Bezhano Village

bejanov giugh surb minas               Bezhano village is located 23 km north-east from Akhalkalaki in Samtskhe-Javakheti region, at an altitude of 1790-1850 meters above the sea level. In “Kartlis Ckhovreba” (“The Life of Kartli”), in 1124 this village as a country estate of the king was mentioned for the first time. The ancestors of the present population moved here in 1829-1830 from Topal-Chavush and Ozbek Karin, as well as from Van (Western Armenia).

Just half a kilometer from Bezhano the ruins of “Katnaghbyur” Church (Church of Milk Spring), as it is called by the locals, have been preserved. From the one-nave and constructed of smoothly hewn stone church only the altar has been left, the architecture of which tells that it belongs to the 12th -13th centuries. Approximately 2 km from Bezhano, in a so called “Vank”(Monastery) area, main walls of another church, constructed of smoothly hewn stone, have been preserved. The tracesofthe GeorgianMtavruliorMrglovani script engravings, and in the Armenian sources-five-line scripts in MesropMashtotsletters have been left on thearchitecturalruins. It is known that before a new church construction the residents of Bezhano village conducted church-office at church named “Karmir zham” (of which only walls have been left), today it serves asa place of pilgrimagefor the localfaithful. The Armenian Church in Bezhano village is named in honor of Saint Minas, who is mentioned in the work “The Life of the Saints”. Minas(Menas) of Egypt served in the army of Diocletianus and Maximian in Algeria, he was astrong and handsomemanand was given a high rank (the 3rd century AD).

The Imperial edict said that everyone should make sacrifice to pagan gods; and those who didn’t obey it were threatenedmartyrdom. This also affectedMinas. He left the city and headed towards the desert where he had been living for three years praying day and night to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, he returns to his hometown and immediately goes to the judge of the city - Puriy. Minas reproached him with pagan delusion for what he was imprisonedand subjected toterribletortures. But unbending Saint repeated the words of God: “Do not be afraid of those who killthe body,be afraidof the One who can kill the soul.” He was beheaded after endless sufferings and tortures. Single-nave basilica, Saint Minas Church, in Bezhano village was built in 1830s’. After the earthquake in 1899 the church was seriouslydamaged, and only in 1906 was thoroughlyrestored with a smoothly hewn stone,about what the engravingat the entranceon the south sideof the church tells.

With the financial support of the locals, brothers Vasily and Vanik Sarkisyan, subsequent construction work was carried out in 2006 and 2007. On the 17th of August, 2007 the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church in Georgia, Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanian consecrated the church.

The article is based on “Javakhk” by S. Karapetian

Norashen 2007/4 (10), p. 6

Surb Prkich Church in Batumi

surb phrkich               The Armenian Apostolic Church in Batumi for the first time was built in 1879 “ …the construction of the local Armenian-Gregorian Church has been completed and the divine services have been already conducted here. Few in number Armenians of Batumi appreciatethe efforts of PriestKonstantinTer-Stepanian for the building ofthe church. However, the churchis still deprived of its ornamentsand curtains…”(«Mshak», 1879, № 13, p.2). The structure was made of wood and quicklyfell apart to such an extent that already in 1887 it was necessary tobuild a new church. Headed by the local parish priest Konstantin Ter-Stepanian, somewell-known figuresof the society initiated to getthe moneyto build thechurch. («Mshak», 1887, №6, p. 1). Surb Prkich Church in Batumiwas designed by Austrian architectMarfeld. However for the construction of a new and big church significant money was needed, due to the lack of which theconstruction works werecarried outwith long intervals, and lasted for nearly a quartercentury.

From the information published on September 12, 1889 it becomes clear that due to lack of money “Already three months in a row the construction of the new Armenian church in Batumi has been suspended, and the divine services are conducted at a former school…” («Nor-Dar», 1889, №150, p. 3). It is noted in 1890 that for several years the building materials designed for the construction of the church had been scattered around the unfinished building. («Nor-Dar», 1890 , №153, p. 3). In 1891 when the building of the new church was not still finished, the faithful attended a regular house, converted into a chapel: “The Armenian Church consists of one room which does not differ from the other houses…” («Mshak», 1891, № 12, pp. 1-2, February 7). The same year, Colonel Gaspar Stepanyants enthusiastically takes the initiative to resume construction work («Nor-Dar», 1891, №84, p. 3). In 1895 the Armenian Church in Batumi still was not finished: “…the foundation of the new magnificent church has been laid long ago, the walls have been raised about one arshin, but who knows how many years there has been no builder.” («Nor-Dar», 1895, №151, p.3).

In 1898 the opportunity to continue the church building was constrainedly related to the promotion of Baku Armenians, noting: “Keeping in mind that three-quarters of the Armenian Gregorian population of Batumi are poor refugees, and the remaining minority, despite great desire, is unable to complete independently the new church construction lingering for years…”(ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 9472, թ. 2). The author of one document , presented in the same year, expressed his surprise why such a rich city like Batumi, asked for help to build a church (ՀԱԴ, ֆոնդ 53, ցուցակ 1, գործ 3332, թ. 34)

Apparently, soon the ice was broken, because only one year later, in 1899, another message, dealing with the progress of the church construction, testified: “The church building, on which 25 thousand rubles have been expended to this day, is near completion“(«Taraz», 1899, №43, p.1004, November 14). Famous benefactor Mantashev provided a great deal of financial assistance. On December 17, 1900 in the expectation that the Catholicos Khrimyan would attend the new church consecration celebrations the invitation with the photo of the church had been sent (ՀԱԴ, ֆոնդ 56, ցուցակ 18, գործ 264, թ.142). In 1903 the Catholicos sent a letter of gratitude to Nune Hovannisyants, who had built a room for the church at her own expense.

On April 26, 1923 the church was closed (ՀԱԴ, ֆոնդ 409, ցուցակ 1, գործ 3146, թ.5): "... today, on the 26th of April, around 10 o'clock in the morning the government sealed the Armenian Surb Prkich Church. The reason remains unknown”(ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 57, ց. 3, գ. 525, թ. 30).

From 1930 to 1958 the church had been used as a video warehouse. In 1959 the representatives of the Soviet government wanted to demolish the church. Having collected signatures, the local Armenians sent a letter to the Catholicos Vazgen I asking to prevent the church destruction. Two clergymen arrived in Batumi from Etchmiadzin, Bishop Kalandarian and Deacon Hovhannes Tiratsu, made this request to the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Ajara Alexander Tkhilaishvili. Bishop Vahan with the local faithful entered the church and said that they would not come out until the authorities did not change their decision.

As a result, the church building survived, but the fence of the church was demolished, and the area was built up that way that you could not see the church itself. From 1959 to 1991 the church building was used as an observatory. On the 3rd of March 1992 by the decision of the municipal government the building was passed to the Armenian charity fund “Veratsnund” (Rebirth) (“7 Days” (“Shvidi dge” app. “Ajara”), 1992, № 15, May 14-20). The same year on the local Armenian’s money the reconstruction works at Surb Prkich Church began, the works became more active in 1996, after celibate priest Abgar Hovakimian was appointed to serve as a spiritual shepherd of Armenians in Ajara and Armen Gevorgian became the Chairman of the Armenian charity fund “Veratsnund”. The reconstruction works of the church are carried out, which its opening follows («Yerkir», 1999, March 19, p. 4).

The article is based on unpublished work by S. Karapetian "Armenian Churches in Georgia."

Norashen 2006/6, р. 6-7

 

Surb Khach Vicarial Church in Akhalkalaki

akhalqalaqi akhalqalaqi surb khach               Surb Khach Church (the Holy Cross) in Akhalkalaki is located in the central part of the town. The history of the temple construction has been preserved in archival documents, through which it becomes clear that Surb Khach log Church was built in 1830s’ with meager funds of Armenians who had emigrated from Karin under the leadership of Archbishop Karapet Bagratuni. During the same years a district educational institution – Mesropian Male Seminary was operating at the church.

Surb Khach Church is a dome church with a vast hall (outside dimensions 27.4 x 16 m). Roofing anddomeare based on thethree pairs ofinterior columns. Two sacristies on each side of the altar attract the attention. There is a two-storeybell tower in front of the church entrance, located inthe western part, built mainly out of rough stone, lime and wood. A cross stone (76х60 cm) characterized by distinctive artistic originality is carved on the east facade of Surb Khach Church. A similarcross-stoneis carvedinsidethe altar.

From the extant documents on restoration we know that in 1854 the church was in such bad condition, that Akhalkalaki resident “mahtesi” (pilgrim to Jerusalem) Karapet Yagubiants made a request to the religious authorities for the construction of a new church on the place of the old one at his own expense: “…Akhalkalaki resident “mahtesi” Karapet Yagubiants submitted a question of the church construction to the Consistory leadership, were he wrote that in the days of their relocation under the auspices of the powerful Russian state, they had built with small funds Surb Khach Church. However owing to antiquity it is already on the verge of collapse, and one day it may become a threat to the congregation.   Therefore, to oppose the destruction, on April 24, 1854, there is an intention to raze it and properly build a new one out of stone and lime. The length of it will be 13 sazhen, the width, as before, 8 and the hight 3 sazhen, the ring-wall of the church will have 15 windows, according to the canons and facilities, with no expense spared, showing deep respect to commitment to memory of the dead…” (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 3245, թ. 1). Obtaining admittance of religious authorities, Catholicoc Nerses V in particular (ՎԱԴ, ֆ. 204, գ. 985, թ.2), Karapet Yagubiants began the construction of the church which ended in 1865. The restoration works had been conducted in 1870, 1880 and 1895. (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 1, գ. 6408, G. 1,7: ՎԱԴ, ֆ. 204, ց. 1, գ. 985, թ. 1-22, «Molorak», 1997, №14, p.4 ).

In 1856 in the western part of the church yard a two-storey bell tower was built, the restoration of which the last time was conducted by the local authorities in 1977 (“Etchmiadzin” 1978, 3, p.624) On February 12, 1871 Sandukht Girl’s School was opened in the church yard; local entrepreneur Hovhannes Ovanjanian to a large extent contributed to the functioning of this school. It is common knowledge that in 1884 spiritual shepherd of Akahltsikhe Khoren Stepane during a brief Akhalkalaki visit held a number of small restoration works. “Decorating the interior of the church, the Holy Father didn’t forget to give grandeur to its exterior; he commanded to plaster and lime the outer faded walls, to clean up the peripheral area, which in places was littered with trash, to make and strengthen the roofing, which leaked in places through the wall gaps.” («Ardzagank», 1885, №22, p. 309). In 1885 a reading room was built by the locals’ subscription in the northeast part of the church yard. In 1895 the church roof restoration project was submitted for approval to the administration of the province. (ՎԱԴ, ֆ. 204, ց. 1, գ. 985, թ. 1).

In late October 1897 the correspondence took place in order to obtain permission to start restoration works in the church, which has existed since 1854. (ՎԱԴ, ֆ. 204, ց. 1, գ. 985, թ. 1).

In 1899 the project to substitute the earthen roof covering of the church with wood was approved, and by the end of that year the restoration work had been completed. “To the present day 6000 rubles has been spent on the restoration of our church, 4000 of which belonged to our church, and two thousand were donated by the city. To complete the restoration works one thousand rubles is still lacking” («Mshak», 1899, №203, p. 2). By the 90s’ the state of church structures has been relatively improved; different structures bringing profits have been built, among them a barn (rebuilding permit was obtained in 1859 (Matenadaran paper 152, doc. 119), while proceeds were used for the school and the reading room needs.

However, in 1921 the church was closed and subsequently was used as a salt warehouse, and only in 1944 by desire of the local faithful Surb Khach Church mount a comeback. In 1988 the cross stone-monument to memorialize the innocent victims of Armenian Genocide of 1915 in Ottoman Empire and the obelisk in commemoration of the victims of the earthquake in Armenia were erected in the church yard. In 1988 under the auspices of businessman Artavazd Harutiunian the roof of the church was partially restored. On July 22, 2000 in the yard of Surb Khach Church the monument to the founder of the church Archbishop Karapet Bagratuni was erected.

The material is based on “Javakhk” by S. Karapetian

Norashen 2007/2 (8), p. 8

Surb Nshan Church (Surb Vardanants ) in Akhaltsikhe

akhalckhai surb nshan                Akhaltsikhe and the region of the same name (formerly Province) are located along the northern border of historic Greater Armenia (“Mets Hayk”) and are adjacent to Javakhk province of Gugark Region. The ancient roads leading from Ajara (via Batumi), Kartli (via Khashuri and Borjomi), Shirak (via Akhalkalaki) and Artaana (via Potskhi river valley) cross here. Already in the Early Middle Ages a small settlement here grew into a town due to its favorable geographical location.

In the Middle Ages mostly Armenians, as well as Jews, Meskhetians and Muslims had lived in Akhaltsikhe. In 1820, when Ahaltsikhe Khanate passed into the possession of Russia, thousands of Armenians had settled in the city and nearby area – immigrants from different provinces of Bardzr Hayk, out of which Akhaltsikhe became especially Armenian-inhabited city. Every Armenian district of the city had its own church and its cemetery (for example, Rabat – Yerevmav Surb Khach Church, Surb Grigor Lusavorich Church, Surb Stepanos Church; Marda – Surb Prkich Church, Surb Nshan Church).

Surb Nshan (Surb Vardanants) Church is situated in Marda district of Akhaltsikhe. It is located on a hill of Surb Nshan (National Archivesof Armenia, 53-1 -125, № 55).The church is central domed and constructed of smoothly hewn stone. A three-storybell towerwithfour-columned smallbell towers on the tops is adjacent to the church construction from the eastern side. The church has three entrance doors, two pairs of inner pillars, and two sacristies on each side of the altar.

In one of the hand-written monuments belonging to 1619 there is the information about the existence of Armenian Surb Nshan Church (Zaregni Surb Nshan) in Akhaltsikhe. In 1861 on the ruins of a medieval church the construction of a new one began. From the protocol for the construction: “…With expenses of a patriot - His Excellence Prince Vardan Vardanyants and at request of the Deputy Head of the Diocese of the city celibate priest Grigor Saginyan, on the place of Surb Nshan Church , on March 5, 1862 the construction of the new - Surb Vardanants Church began, based on the desire of the celibate priest to built the temple on the ruins (as legend has it once there was a church on that place …)(“Megu Hayastani”, 1862 , №27 , July 7, page. 107)”.

           In 1861 the church building plan was drawn up, and in 1863 the church had been sanctified, while the construction works ended in 1868. In 1887 benefactor of the church, the Honorary Freeman of Akhaltsikhe (Ruben Naatakyan, the Honorary Freeman of Akhaltsikhe, “Garun”, 1988, №9, pp. 19-20) Vardan Vardaniants was buried in the yard of the church (“Ardzagank”, 1887, №15, pp. 226 -227). The lapidary inscriptions, preserved on the church walls, (Karapetian S.G., Marutian A.T., Naatakian R.A., Surb Vardanants (Surb Nshan) Church in Akhaltsikhe, “Herald of the Social Sciences” (ԼՀԳ) 1990, №5, pp. 75-85) are telling the church building history. Formerly the construction of Surb Nshan Church became a significant event in the life of Armenians, living in the city (“Masyats agavni”, August 1, 1862, pp. 175-176. “Ports”, 1876 №1, p. 443).

In 1938 by the decision of the Soviet government it was forbidden to conduct religious ceremonies at Surb Nshan Church. Nevertheless until 1941 the doors of the church remained open for the parish.

From 1941 to 1943 the church was used as a military clothing store, from 1943 to 1949 - store of different content, and from 1949 to 1970s’ - as a salt warehouse.

From 1976 to 1978 the representatives of the city Armenian community, priests – brothers Ruben and Shmavon Sagoyan – cleaned up Surb Nshan Church, and were subjected to fines by the authorities for that. Unfortunately, the church was not restituted to the Armenian people, and was turned into the city ethnographic museum.

On the 24th of April, 1989 the Armenian clergy conducted a memorial service at Surb Nshan Church, which was attended by the whole Armenian population of Akhaltsikhe. The conduct of Armenian Liturgy at Surb Nshan Church caused controversy between the Georgian and Armenian communities of the city. Before the final decision of the issue the governments of Armenia and Georgia decided to open the gates of the church for the both Armenian and Georgian communities. The statement of some Georgian scholars that Surb Nshan was built on the foundation of the Georgian church also contributed to adoption of this decision. Unfortunately, it should be noted that this false theory, put forward by some Georgian scholars and intellectuals, is often used in relation to other Armenian churches in Georgia as well.

The Armenian people hope that common sense will win, and Surb Nshan, as well as other Armenian churches, will be restituted to the true, historical owner - the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church.

Surb Gevorg Church in Arakova

arakovai surb gevorgSurb Gevorg Church in Arakova village of Samtskhe-Javakheti was founded in 1830s’. For the first time it was mentioned about this church in 1841 (ՀԱԴ ֆ. 56, ց 1, գ. 3850, թ. 52). By 1877 the church was completely rebuilt by the architect Grigor Kirakosian, who had emigrated from Karin to Abastumani (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 227, ց 1, գ. 27, թ. 4) and owing to the donations of Priest Grigor Ter-Avetisian (ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց 1, գ. 1005, թ. 1, 22). Surb Gevorg Church was one of the most prominent landmarks of its day. “This village has a magnificent and big church… The church relies on 12 pillars, with Apostles images on each one of them («Mshak» 1877, № 10, p. 2).” However already in 1890s’ the church was already in ruins: “…church doors remain closed because of its dilapidation.

Villagers wishing to build a new church looked to the architect N. Grigorian for help.” («Nor-Dar», 1896, №201, p. 3). In one of the reference books of 1899 we read: “…2 or 3 years has already passed since we have been left without a temple and liturgy…”(«Nor-Dar», 1899, №187, p. 2). The situation did not change until 1901(«Mshak», 1901 , № 98, p. 3). Finally, in 1903 the construction of the church began:”… Aragova village got into action. They demolish the old to make room for the new.” («Ararat», 1903 , p. 437). The works ended in 1905, and the church was solemnly consecrated in 1909 (according to the locals’ testimony).

In 1930s’, on the resolution of the Soviet government the church was closed and converted into a warehouse, while Church priest was arrested and sent into exile. Since then the church has never been restored. Finally in the beginning of 2000 under the guidance and at the initiative of the Deputy Chief of the Police of the Republic of Armenia, Lieutenant-General Hovhannes Unanian, and owing to the efforts of villagers the dome of Surb Gevorg Church was rebuilt, as well as the area around the temple was improved. On the 28th of October, 2006 by the order and blessing of the Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II, and under the leadership of the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, His Grace Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanian, by the cooperation of the Vicar-General of Javakhk Supreme Archimandrite Babken Salbiyan, the spiritual shepherd of Armenians in Batumi and Ajara celibate priest Kirakos Davtian and the local clergy, the Armenian Surb Gevorg Church in Arakova was re-consecrated and solemnly opened.

It should be noted that Arakova village is one of the main settlements in Javakheti. It is located 7 km north from Akhalkalaki, at an altitude of 1650-1700 meters above the sea level. There is a legend that explains the origin of the name of the village: “In ancient times, the village consisted of Ara fortress, built on a high hill on the left bank of the river, and the village Gova, which was to the north of the fortress on the right bank of the river. Today, these two names merged to form the word Arakova” (Lalayan E. "The Works", Volume 1, page 60).

The ancestors of the current residents of the village moved here from Bayburd and Karno Jinis villages (Jinis, present Ortabahse, was the Armenian-populated village 33 km west from Karin (Erzerum). By the way, some residents of Karno Jinis had settled in Goman, Satkha and Sagamo villages of the same Akhalkalaki region).

In addition to Surb Gevorg Church, in the northern part of Arakova village the ruins of the razed Armenian church belonging to the late Middle Ages, separate architectural fragments, gabled tombstones, the cross-stones (khachkar) and the remains of the tower fortress are preserved. According to the locals a tunnel several hundred meters in length exists near the aforementioned tower.

According to historical records, in 1884 there was a court school in the village, and before that a parochial school had functioned.

Norashen 2006/5, p. 2

Samghreth

Samghret

The Surb Gevorg Church (Surb Nshan) is located in Samghret1 village. The church was built in the place of a medieval church, in part using its stones in the construction. The first mention dates back to 18572. There are historical sources claiming the church was an old construction3, 4. It is a single-nave church, without sacristies, has one entrance and many cross-stones built-into its walls. External measurements are: 10,94m х 5,76m. Outside the church there’s an Armenian medieval cemetery with cross-stones with epitaphs in Armenian.

The ceiling of the church was repaired during the Soviet Period. At present the church is also known as Surb Nshan (“Saint Sign”).

Footnote: There’s a document preserved in the National Archives of Armenia, entitled „Въедомость О Имушествах Армяно-Григорианскихъ Церквей Грузино-Имеретинской Епархии за 1911 г.“, containing the data regarding the property of the Armenian Diocese in Georgia. The capital of the Surb Gevorg Church is on the list (the property of the church 41.56 robles and income 6.63 robles).

1. Author – Samvel Karapetyan:

2. ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3830, թ. 15-16:

3. Jalaleants, նշվ. աշխ. Բ, էջ 95: «Meghu Hayastani», 1874, 1 22, էջ 3:

4. «Ardzagank», 1884, 1 41, էջ 601:

5. ՀԱԴ, ֆ. 56, ց. 16, գ. 475, թ. 409: