Far from any ethnic or religious prejudice, in this article from Alibaba Tourism Magazine, we intend to talk about one of the Armenian churches in Iran. The Church of Saint Stepanos Monastery, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located between the mountains of the border region of Julfa and the Republic of Azerbaijan. This church is located in a unique nature and landscape and attracts many visitors every year.
The Church of St. Stephen (Ruined Church of Julfa) was inscribed on the National Monuments List of Iran in 1341 and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007. This church takes its name from one of the apostles of Christ. Armenians go to this church on a special day of the year for prayer and pilgrimage, which is actually the day of the death of Tataeus, one of the apostles, and coincides with the fourteenth of August. If you plan to travel to East Azerbaijan and You have a trip to Tabriz , we suggest you visit St. Stephen’s Church and see the architectural glory of the past.
Where is St. Stephen’s Church?
St. Stapons Church is located in a place called Ghezel Wang or Red Monastery in East Azerbaijan Province, near the border of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in the Aras Free Zone, and its distance from Julfa is about It is 17 km.
What time is St. Stephen’s Church open?
You can visit St. Stephen’s Church every day from 9 am to 7 pm and in winter from 9 am to 5 pm.
What is the best time to visit church?
The best time of year to visit St. Stephen’s Church is spring and summer.
A look at the past of St. Stephen’s Church
We can divide the past study of this church into two parts
- Early construction and architecture era
- A period of renovation that has been done many times for this church
Architecture style and date of construction of the church building
It is not possible to say exactly how old St. Stephen’s Church is. The oldest known source from this church dates back to 649 AD. But some say the church dates back to early Christianity.
Some believe that in 976 AD (266 AH), when Ashut Bagradoni was the king of Armenia, Catholicos Khachik, the Armenian religious leader, appointed the Archbishop as the guardian of Wang Stepanos. He also built a church in the area, which was paid for by the king.
Another church in the same way And there is architecture on the other side of the Aras River. This building indicates that most likely, both churches were built at the same time by a single power that ruled on both sides of the river.
Some historical sources, such as the travelogue of Taroniyeh (a famous French tourist who traveled to Iran during the Safavid period), say that this building belongs to the Safavid period. But its architectural style and decorations show that this church was built between the 10th and 12th centuries AD (4 to 6 lunar years). Anyway, today is considered one of the Julfa sights .
A combination of Urartu, Parthian and Roman architectural styles can be seen in the architecture of this building. This style of architecture is known as Armenian architecture after the construction of buildings such as St. Achmiadzin, Tataeus, Akhtamar and St. Stepanos.
Renovation of St. Stephen’s Church
The Church of St. Stephen, also known as the Ruined Church of Julfa, was renovated many times during different periods. Between 1053 and 1066 AH, the building was rebuilt by Hakop Jukatisi, the great caliph of Wang Stepanos. During the Safavid rule, the church of St. Stephen was rebuilt.
Also in the Qajar period, the restoration of this church was considered. In 1245 AH, by the order of Abbas Mirza, who was the Crown Prince of Qajar at that time, a village was bought in the Sham Valley and dedicated to this church. An inscription in Nasta’liq script was also installed in this church, which testifies to this.
In contemporary times, the church was renovated many times. In 2005, during restoration, bone remains were discovered between the two arches of the church. According to historical accounts, these bones belong to the apostles and saints of Christ. In addition to these remains, several pieces of boards related to the coffins of these bones, several pieces of yellow and brick cloth, pieces of wax, ocher mud and frankincense seeds were also found in this area.
The Armenian Archbishop and Caliph of Tehran and Northern Iran believe that these remains belong to the body of Hazrat Yahya Is. Some historical sources such as Taverniyeh Travelogue and photos taken by Alikhan Vali (ruler of northern Azerbaijan during the reign of Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar) and in the Historical Archive Golestan Palace is preserved, referring to the bones of the apostles and saints, including St. Stephen and the prophet Daniel.
Who was St. Stephen?
One of the apostles of Christ, who was also one of the first missionaries of Christianity, was called St. Stephen (St. Stephen). Stephen protested against the oppression of the Jewish elders. He was stoned to death. On the south wall of St. Stephen’s Church, you can see his engraved stoning scene. Stephen was one of the first martyrs of Christianity and became famous among Christians. He is one of the seven good Tamati who were ordained by the apostles of Christ and became missionaries of Christianity. He was arrested for slandering the Jews of Jerusalem, who said that Stephen was speaking against Jewish law, and was stoned to death by the Jews on December 26, 36 AD.
Integrated and magnificent architecture in the ruined church
When you cross a short path with spectacular views and reach the church, the first thing that may catch your eye is the carved and beautiful dome of the church. Built between a stone fence and inside fortress-like castles, the church has a fort, seven guard towers, and five cylindrical and stone backs. Also known in Armenian as Wang.
In the western wall of the fort, the entrance gate with a wooden door and Made of iron. Delicate carvings are made on the bases of the sides and the truncated arch of this gate, and at the top of the arch, a relief design of Mary and the infancy of Jesus Christ can be seen.
On the outside of the church walls, prominent paintings can be seen, including the stoning of St. Stephen on the east side, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the west side, and the ascension of Christ. There are various designs and decorations in different parts of the church. So that the stone facade of the church is covered with carvings and masonry. Beautiful plaster paintings also adorn the main chapel.
Patrols in different parts of the church
St. Stephen’s Church has different sections, such as: prayer hall, bell tower, Peter’s prayer hall or Daniel stove, churchyard or churchyard, main entrance counter of the complex, entrance porch, monastery courtyard, old church, student halls, nuns’ residence And passengers or warehouse and storage of food and stalls.
Here are three main parts of this church.
The main chapel of the church
The dimensions of the prayer hall of St. Stephen’s Church are 16 by 21 meters, and in the Qajar period, an inlaid wooden door was built for its entrance. On the head in this prayer hall, various decorations such as carved pedestals, arches, half-columns and chains next to the shrines can be seen.
Below the tip of the roof slope, there is a circular pattern with smaller circles in the center, which can be interpreted as the sun. The scene of Christ’s crucifixion is depicted at the bottom of this role. There are three windows at the bottom and around it there are patterns of the cross.
Symbols and carvings on the stone can be seen on the exterior of the southern part of the chapel. At the top is an image of an eagle with sun-like flowers on either side, carrying a quadruped with its claws. Below this role, two other flowers and below them in a rectangular frame, a scene from a story is narrated, which in fact is known as the scene of the martyrdom of Stephen.
Three stones can be seen above Stepanos’ head and incense burning in his hand. The role of the three angels is also depicted to sanctify the character of Stepanos. Among these paintings, a role similar to the symbol of Ahura Mazda can be seen.
At the bottom of this section, the lighting frame can be seen in the shape of a cross. The most important feature of this skylight is the images and symbols in the form of animals that exist around this frame. There is a crow on the right and a cow on the left, a snake on the bottom right, and two fish on the left. Two male lions can be seen symmetrically on both sides of the base of the cross.
Daniel’s stove, 6 meters wide and nearly 20 meters long, is a hall attached to the north wall of the church and part of the interior. The name of Daniel, one of the most famous saints of the fifth century AD, is given to this hall. This stove is separated from the hall by a wall. The stove of Daniel includes the meeting hall and the place of baptism at the eastern end, with high platforms and a stone baptismal table.
different towers like the bell tower
One of the most impressive parts of the church is the bell tower. The tower is built on a porch on the floor attached to the south wall and has a pyramidal and octagonal dome that is built on eight columns of red stone cylinders with beautiful capitals.
The image of angels with four wings and the image of a carved bull’s head can be seen on the arch of the bell tower. There is also a cross in a rectangular frame with sun-like flowers. Several peacocks and pigeons are also included in these maps.
Abbas Mirza, in 1830, when he was the Crown Prince of Iran during the Qajar period and the governor of Azerbaijan, bought the village of Darreh Sham from Mohabeli Beyk of Nakhchivan and dedicated it to Wang Stephanos. An inscription in Nasta’liq script was written on red stone and was installed at the entrance of the church. You can read the text of this inscription below.
“In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, and He is the Ancient.”
In the era of the supreme monarchy of power, Qada Tawaman, Sekandar Heshmat, Dara Darban, Nawab Ashraf, the viceroy, Abbas Mirza, Arvahna Fedah, who is the famous successor of Jamjah, Zollah, Fath Ali Shah Qajar God, the Queen, who had infinite mercy on the least prayers of Sarkis, the son of Stepan, the Caliph of my Julfa, had the people of Nakhchivan, and it seems that the best service was manifested in the presence of the Almighty; Therefore, on the date of 1246, the village of Darreh Sham was blessed to the extent that I was praying for the eternal government of the monarchy, so that I could spend the time of Daniel (AS) and pray for the life and government of the king, princes and princes. On the date of 1246, we took the village of Darreh Sham from Alijah Mohabeli Beg Nakhjavani for three hundred tomans and dedicated it to the house of Daniel (AS). Secondly, the curse of God and the curse of the Prophet should be on the one who sells or sells this village and does not spend it there. Inscription of Ali Ashraf Nakhjavani of 1247 »
The porch, the prayer hall and the altar form the space inside the church, which is in the shape of a cross. The prayer hall is located behind the porch and under the main dome. The corners of the Mogharnas and the arch of the dome are also colorful images that show the style of religious paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries. The three stone chapels, one in the middle of the altar and the other two on the north and south sides of the chapel, are among the decorations inside the church. These places of worship were created during the Qajar period.
St. Stephen’s Church The monastery, which is located on the grounds of St. Stephen’s Church and next to it, is built on two floors, the upper floor has rooms for travelers and pilgrims and the lower floor has stables for cattle. The church library is also located in this monastery.
The architecture and materials used in the monastery building are different from the church. Several inscriptions in Armenian have been installed inside and outside the monastery, which provide important information about the church’s founder, architect, and date of construction.
St. Stephen’s Church Museum
Part of the history of St. Stephen’s Church can be found in its museum. The museum has two main and side sections. A collection of artifacts from the churchyard, such as inscriptions and pictures of the church’s historical correspondence, is on display in the main section. In the side section, there are stone replicas and pictures of historical Armenian churches in Iran.
Where is the Church of St. Stephen?
St. Stapons Church is located in a place called Ghezel Wang or Red Monastery in East Azerbaijan Province. This church is located near the border of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the Aras Free Zone and three kilometers south of the Aras River. has it. The distance between St. Stephen and the city of Julfa is about 17 km.
For easier access and information about the exact location of this church, we have included a map of it:
Church hours and conditions
The Church of St. Stephen, known as the Ruined Church of Julfa, can be visited daily from 9 am to 7 pm. Of course, in winter, due to the geographical conditions of the Aras River, the visiting time is from 9 am to 5 pm.
The final bell of the church tour
Iran is a country with such a thousand-year history and civilization that has many monuments and monuments in its heart. These monuments, in turn, are valuable and important.
In this article from Alibaba Magazine, we introduced one of these valuable historical monuments, the Church of St. Stephen. We talked about the history, details and architecture of this magnificent building. If you are planning to travel to East Azerbaijan, now you can visit its sights with more information.
Share your travel experiences and opinions about Julfa Ruined Church with Alibaba Tourism Magazine.