Surb Minas (St. Minas) Church of Bezhano

2 bezhano-surb minasis eklesiaFounded in the first half of the 19th century

Bezhano (Chanchkha) is an Armenian-populated village in Akhalkalaki. It is known that before the construction of the new church, the residents celebrated church ceremonies in so-called “Karmir Zham (Red Church)” built of red-colored polish stone. Till today, the church with its standing walls serves as a pilgrimage place. The currently acting church bears the name of St. Minas from Egypt, which, by the way, is mentioned in the book “Life of Saints”.[1]

Church construction: The single-nave basilica church was built in the 1830s. According to the church bulletin of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia and the Imeretian Diocese of 1840, the number of church parishioners was about 196.[2] In the 1840s the church was still wooden.[3] In 1899 the church was damaged by an earthquake, but in 1906 it was completely reconstructed. This is proved by the inscription made on the southern entrance of the church.[4]

Architecture: The church is made of gray tuff and belongs to the hall type. The total dimensions are 18,72x10,64 m. There are semi-circular windows on the southern and northern walls. Both entrances are opened from the southern and western sides. There is a khachkar carved above the southern entrance, and a cross-shaped sculpture above the western entrance. To the right of the entrance there is a quatrain Armenian inscription: ՍՈՒՐԲ ՄԻՆԱՍ ԵԿԵՂԵՑԻ 1906 Թ. | ՎԵՐԱԿԱՌՈՒՑՎԵՑ 2007 Թ.-ԻՆ | ԲԱՐԵՐԱՐՆԵՐ ՎԱՍԻԼ ԵՎ ՎԻԿՏՈՐ | ՍԱՐԳՍՅԱՆ ԵՂԲԱՅՐՆԵՐ (SURB MINAS CHURCH,1906 | RENOVATED IN 2007 | BENEFACTORS VASIL AND VICTOR SARGSYAN BROTHERS). The bell tower is on the western part of the roof. The curved roof of the church is installed with tinplate. The ceiling is arched. The interior walls are plastered and painted. The Altar is on the eastern part, and the chapels are built on its right and left sides. The Baptismal Font is located on the northern wall.[5]

1 առաջինը bezhano-surb minasis eklesia-Parish priests: Among the priests of Surb Minas Church were Father Grigor Ter-Kerobyants,[6] Father Grigor Sargsyan and Father Hakob Kerobyants,[7] who priested in the 1860-1870s.

School: There is a mention about the church- parish school in the archival documents of the 1860s. In particular, according to school bulletin of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia and the Imeretian Diocese of 1869, it was founded in 1863 by means of the local society. Actually, the number of pupils was 54[8] (in 1865 it was 47).[9]

Church in the 21st century: Further church renovation works were carried out only in 2006-2007. The church was renovated with the financial support of Vasil and Vanik Sargsyan brothers from the same village by origin. Surb Minas Church of the village of Bezhano was re-consecrated on August 17, 2007 by the Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, His Grace Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanian with the participation of the Prelate of the Samtskhe-Javakheti and Tsalka’s General Prelacy Rev. Father Babken Salbian.[10] The First Divine Liturgy was served by the pastor of the Armenians of Akhalkalaki, Rev. Father Samvel Torosyan. He presented his words of gratitude and blessing to the Sarkisyan family and builders who made a significant contribution to the church's renovation , handed them Message of Pontifical blessing and appreciation and souvenirs.[11]

The ruins of the church called "Katnaghbyuri Zham" has been preserved 0.5 km east of the village of Bezhano. According to the architectural characteristics, the church structure is peculiar to the 12th -13th centuries. On the south-eastern side of the village, a foundry of another church called "Vank ( Monastery) " has been preserved. There are other sacred objects in the village that are kept in the villagers' home.[12]

[1] “Norashen”, 2007, /4/(10), p. 6

[2] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3800, թ.4-ի շրջ.

[3] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3802 (1), թ. 63-ի շրջ.-64

[4] S.Karappetyan, Javakhk,Yerevan,2006,p.113

[5] Armenian Historical and Cultural Heritage Study Center in Georgia.

Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia

[6] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 2, գ. 944, թ. 2; գ. 947, թ. 2

[7] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 2, գ. 953, թ. 2; 4

[8] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3977, թ. 55-ի շրջ.-56

[9] NAA, ֆ. 53, ց. 1, գ. 3848, թ. 2-ի շրջ

[10] «Echmiatsin”, 2007, Ը( H), p.144

[11] Press Office of the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, "Etchmiatsin", 2007, p.144

[12] S. Karapetyan, in the same place

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