JULFA AND VANK CATHRDRAL
Shah Abbas the great was an international minded ruler. He received several foreign delegations especially European delegations, trade men, and diplomats. He was interested in news regarding other countries development. He wished to construct an advanced and prosperous country. Due to consultations with foreigners he realized that trade, business and technical affairs could create a more developed capital city and country. Armenians (a branch of Christians) who lived in Julfa of Azerbaijan area were transferred to Isfahan. They were settled in a rich village on the southwestern side of Isfahan.
The village was called Julfa. Plots of lands were distributed among Armenians for agricultural proposes and also for construction of new small Armenian town. Some of Armenians were skilled in Technical affairs, and many in trade and business. Above all these aims, Armenians could develop very friendly atmosphere with Christians.
Soon Julfa became a prosperous community. Armenians were permitted to hold their own religious ceremonies and activities. Moslems were ordered to respect Armenians. If some body made problems for the new minorities he or she was punished severely.
Armenian merchants took trips to several European and Asian destinations for trade and business. Exchange of commodities, new knowledge about other advanced societies of that time was very important for Shah Abbas.
Julfa is now a district of Isfahan, because the city has expanded and has converted many other villages to a city called Isfahan. Armenian merchants were among the richest citizens of Isfahan.
They were allowed to construct their own churches. Merchants had traveled to some of European cities, visited beautiful churches in other countries. Not only collected remarkable information regarding church buildings but also brought European artists and masters to Julfa. Today Julfa is one of the most expensive quarters of Isfahan but Armenians live in different metropolitan cities of Iran.
THE VANK CATHEDRAL
The Vank church is the most beautiful and magnificent church in Iran. It is a master piece of architecture.
Construction of this church started at the time of Shah Abbas the second. Expenses of building were mainly provided by Armenian merchants. Khajeh Stepanusian paid expenses of glorious paintings of interior parts of church. Major parts of these paintings were implemented by local Armenians who had learned the art in European countries and churches. Armenian artists and painters were deeply influenced by Italian and Dutch artists. All paintings are related to old and new testament and about holy life of Jesus Christ.
Lower part of painting was ornamented with beautiful examples of square tile from 1710- 1716.
Fortunately Armenians have preserved this treasury and weekly ceremonies are held in the church.
Next to the church there is a remarkable museum. This rich museum shows a collection of various items dedicated by Armenians to the church.
One of the most important parts of museum shows a series of commands and orders by different rulers, regarding Armenian society and their freedom. Beautiful testaments which have been adorned by fantastic paintings are shown in the museum.
The church’s administrative building is located in the same campus.
There are thirteen churches in Isfahan which belong to Armenians. Other prominent churches are Bethlehem church, St. Mary’s church and St. George’s church.
Armenians speak their own language (Armenian language). All of them speak Farsi too. The Armenian cemetery is also located on the slopes of Sofeh Mountain. They have their own clubs and societies. Like Christians they are free to produce, alcoholic beverages only among Armenian community.