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Surprise! Surprise!

There is a tendency, fuelled by the media, to regard Iran as a rigid, unbending, theocratic Shia Islamic monopoly. Whilst I would be one of the first to stand up and say that, in my opinion, religion has no place in the governance of state or community, Iran, for all its overbearing theocracy, is far more religiously diverse than you might think.

As you may have read in an earlier post, Zoroastrian fire-worshippers, whilst small in numbers, approx 28,000, are free to follow their ancient rituals. Likewise, Iran has a Jewish population of around 35,000 that defies all entreaties from Israel to migrate from Persia where they have lived for thousands of years. After Zoroastrianism, Judaism is the second oldest religion in the country with references to the Persian Jews in the Book of Esther.

Larger by far than either of the above religious groups is the Armenian Orthodox community. After their deportation following the Ottoman War in the early 1600s, Shah Abbas I gave sanctuary and settled many Armenians in the New Julfa district of Isfahan. Edicts from Shah Abbas and his successors forbade any interference in the lives and customs of these new Christian citizens – they were even exempt from taxes on their churches!

The subject of this post, the Holy Saviour Cathedral aka Vank Cathedral or The Church of the Saintly Sisters, was commenced in 1606 and completed in 1665. It has remained in constant use ever since and is the site of worship and street procession as well as touristic gawping at the amazing interior ‘iconography’!

vank cathederal

Vank Cathedral courtyard

Orthodox street procession Isfahan

Armenian Orthodox street procession – Isfahan

Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

from the amazing, iconic interior

Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

J and guide Feraidoon discuss the merits

Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

There is also a superb, little museum that chronicles the Armenian’s way of life and contributions to their adoptive country.

museum Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

edict of Shah Sulaiman not to interfere in religious and matrimonial affairs of Armenians

museum Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

Persia’s first printing press

museum Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

early printed bible

museum Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

illuminated bible

museum Vank Cathedral Isfahan Iran

at the third drip . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

8 thoughts on “Surprise! Surprise!

  1. Fabulous photos, Alan. We also took a hike to an Armenian church but without our guide, so I don’t think we got nearly as much out of it as you did (to tell the truth, we can’t even remember if it was in Isfahan). We do remember that a large part of their museum on their history was devoted to slamming Turkey for the 1915 events. The surrounding neighborhood seemed quietly prosperous. Once again, congratulations on a very interesting post.
    seniordogs recently posted..Melancholy MeanderingsMy Profile

    1. I didn’t put up the photos of the protest banners demanding ‘justice’ for 1915 etc as this is not a political post. The area is certainly ‘quietly prosperous’ as you said, in fact, we had the very best cup of coffee in the whole of our Iran trip right there by the sun-dial. We have just started the process for our return trip in April travelling the the mountains and villages hunting flowers, bugs and country life.
      Alan recently posted..Iran Life – Dangerous LiaisonsMy Profile

  2. Gotta love the obligatory human-devouring-monsters-of-hell mural… Interesting info re: the various minority religions who can live peacefully but I’ll be fast forwarding to try and induce some Ceilingtoliosis… Or in my case iPad eyestrain.
    bobbi recently posted..Sounds of This Place: South KoreaMy Profile

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