Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vank Cathedral in Isfahan

I have heard that there remains in Iran some Christian communities. And I have wondered how these communities survive in a country which has been Muslim for more than a thousand years.  Particularly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Hence I was quite excited when we had a chance to visit the Armenian Vank Cathedral in Isfahan.  

I learned that Armenia had been ruled directly or indirectly by Persia for more than a thousand years since the days of Cyrus and Darius.  In the 1,600s Shah Abbas moved 500,000 Armenians to Isfahan, and the Vank Cathedral was built around that time.  Today, it is believed that 80,000 Armenians live in Iran.  Many of them are Christians.  

On the wall above the exit, there is a huge fresco of the Day of Judgement.  Some are ascending to heaven, while others are descending into hell.  

It is said that in the old days, most people could not read or write.  Pictures like these were important for educating the people.  The scenes of the Day of Judgement would be the last images the believers saw when they leave the church, reminding them of the rewards and punishments awaiting them.  

Within the cathedral’s compound, there is a memorial of the 1915 Genocide in Turkey, in which a million Armenian were believed to have been killed.  Most people are aware of the killing of 6 million Jews by the Nazis in the 1940s.  But far fewer remember the Armenians that were killed.  

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