Immigration History of Armenian to Isfahan
One of the significant events of the Safavid period was transferring Armenians from Azerbaijan to Isfahan. Having rescued the Armenians from the Ottoman troops, Shah Abbas Safavid wanted to use their skills in trade, especially the Silk business; their hard work in agriculture was also considerable. These factors lead to the migration of Armenians to Isfahan. They settled on the southwest coast of Zayandeh-Rood (Isfahan’s famous River) by Shah Abbas’s order. Their heritage are available in Isfahan Armenian Genocide. Isfahan, where was the nascent capital of the government during the Safavid rule, was limited to the Zayandeh River from the south until the early seventeenth century AD. However, after Armenians’ migration, this part of the city began to develop, hence, they, in memory of their homeland, named it New Julfa. New Julfa region also had different neighborhoods that the residents of each named them after their city’s. During the reign of Shah Abbas II, Julfa became so large that hosted many tourists who referred to Julfa as a fascinating region.
Introduction to New Julfa
According to Herodotus, father of history, “the cities that were once great and mighty have been humbled, and the cities that are powerful now, may had weakened some day”. Here, we are talking about both of them since we know that human dignity and happiness will not stand in one status for a long time.” It seems that the old and new Julfa had such a fate.
To boost foreign trading, Shah Abbas granted special powers to the merchants of Julfa, and in return, they soon expanded Persia’s foreign trading. Also, with his permission, the Armenians could build churches, embellish them wherever they wished, and place crosses and bells on top of the buildings. By these decrees, the Armenians could live like the Persians, even choose a ruler and sheriff, and were completely free to perform their religious rites. Many travelers, who visited Isfahan at that time, named reputable merchants who built large and magnificent churches and caravanserais in Julfa.
Armenian Churches In Isfahan
According to the obtained information, before the seventeenth century, there were six churches in Esfahan and 24 churches in the New Julfa area, of which only 13 remain today. The remarkable point about churches is that they were not only built for performing religious duties but also there were different buildings around them containing scientific and cultural functions. In the vicinity of these churches, there are tombs of Armenian clergy, merchants, and prominent inhabitants, representing a part of the Armenian’s history were living in Julfa, Esfahan. The Mary Blessed Virgin church is one of the most well-known churches built, including manuscripts dating back to 1634 AD.
Although the churches in Isfahan were built by Armenian architects, there are no similarities between these churches and those in Armenia such as Saint Thaddeus Cathedral (Qara Kelisa). The difference denotes that Shah Abbas did not want the construction of several churches by Armenians to cause trouble for him and the religious people; therefore, he ordered the construction of churches on the condition that their architecture should be distinctive from those in Armenia. Hence, the Armenian architects built the churches in the Persian architecture style, following the principles of religion, the Armenian churches plan, even the appearance, and facade design, all of which contribute to unique buildings unparalleled in the world. Of course, other conditions such as weather and the material types that included brick and clay have not been ineffective in the churches’ design. Moreover, the outstanding paintings on the interior walls are distinctive features of such churches, which had a profound impact on the architecture of Armenian churches after the seventeenth century. The two churches of Vank and St. Jacob are religious buildings that have been decorated and painted in the style of Armenian painters of 400 years ago.
Armenian Merchants and Trading
After Shah Abbas’s death, the support of the Armenians continued as before, and Julfa became extended and more prosperous. Armenian merchants and traders traveled to different countries for business; reputable merchants such as Khajeh Alton and Khajeh Manas set up offices in several countries, traded in silk as Persian merchants, and brought goods to Persia.
The Invasion of Afghans
The invasion of Afghans in 1723 AD, had led to the fall of Isfahan city as well as the Julfa region; this densely populated town quickly disappeared, resulted in many Armenians emigration. As a consequence, the region became a small and sparsely populated area with abandoned churches that were partially destroyed by long wars; in the years after the invasion, only a few were rebuilt. Despite all the decline Julfa experienced after the Safavid eras, old houses, squares, magnificent churches, and ancient buildings are still one of the touristic attractions of Isfahan.
Introduction to Museum of the Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Museum in Isfahan is a treasure trove of Armenian art and culture that tells the history of the religion’s followers by referring to their historical destiny from the perspective of archeology and art. In all the churches of Isfahan, there is a significant section for the protection of prominent historical monuments. In fact, the church’s function throughout history has not been only religious, protection and dissemination of Armenian culture to future generations has been one of the most prominent duties of churches as well. The Vank cathedral Museum, one of the significant Armenian museums, is a fascinating and spectacular place with more than 1,200 historical objects. Incredible and precious artworks are kept there, most of which have been donated by the people. Many of these objects are unique in the world and are the only examples of their kind. An excellent and valuable collection of exquisite gospels, and the collection of royal decrees from the kings of Persia at that age, which are remarkable documents, are maintained in the Vank museum.
Architecture of the Armenian Genocide Museum
About a hundred years ago, a man named Thaddeus of the Greeks attempted to build rooms on the north side of the Vank cathedral courtyard to store books, manuscripts, and historical artifacts. Such an idea was the beginning of the museum’s construction, though not in its present form. After ups and downs, the museum took on its current design, which houses eye-catching historical paintings dating back more than 100 years, exquisite manuscripts, and valuable old works. Before the museum’s construction, the artifacts were housed in an abandoned depot in church.
In 1977, two statues made in Italy were donated to the museum and installed at the entrance, representing two influential people: Mesrup Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet, and Ḥachatur Kesaratsi, the founder of the Vank Church (Cathedral) Press.
The Hair Strand with A Sentence from Torah
The hair strand of Vank cathedral is one of the most remarkable artifaccts of the church’s museum. This hair belongs to an 18-year-old girl, and it is famous for the sentence it contains. The creator of such unique work was an Armenian artist named Vahram Hakobyan, who created the artwork with a diamond-tipped pen in 1974. Vahram Hakobyan donated his incredible work to the Vank Church (Cathedral) a year later, in 1975. The 18-year-old girl’s hair carries words from the Torah which says: To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding.
The written sentence is 20 times thinner than the hair that cannot be seen with an unaided eye; thus, we need a microscope to observe it. Fortunately, church officials have thought about this before by preparing a microscope to look at the hair.