The facts connected with the origin of every Church are hidden under an impenetrable veil and our inquiry is baffled by reason of the want of genuine documents such as would throw light on the doings of the first apostles and on apostolic activity in general.
The Roman church, which, in this respect, appears to be in the capital of the empire, has to grapple with the selfsame difficulties, when it comes to the question of proving the sojourn of St. Peter at Rome. And yet this, for her, an essential fact for it lies at the roof of her entire system. For lack of something better, ecclesiastical history contents itself with evidence of strong probability, with arguments based on tradition, and on occurrences which have kept alive through successive generations. It is sufficient that the great mass of presumptions is not opposed to the positive and ascertained data of history. We should not ask more of the Armenian Church to prove her origin.
The primitive and unvarying tradition of this Church acknowledges as original founders the apostles St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, whom she designates by the appellation of the First Illuminators of Armenian. She protects their graves, which are preserved and venerated in the ancient churches Artaz (Macoo) and Albac (Bashkale), situated in the south-east of Historical Armenia.
All Christian Churches are unanimous in recognizing the tradition concerning St. Bartholomew, his apostolic journeys, his preaching, and his martyrdom in Armenia. The name Albanus, which is given to the scene of his martyrdom, is one and the same with name Albacus, hallowed by the Armenian tradition. With regard to the St. Thaddeus, traditions vary. Some recognize in him one Thaddeus Didymus, brother of the apostle St. Thomas, and according to these he is aid to have travelled to Artaz by way of Edessa, living in secret among Greeks and the Latins. With regard to the Syrian tradition, which gives credit to existence of a Thaddeus Didymus, its acceptance is questionable so far as it relates to the journey from Edessa to Artaz but, on examining this doubtful point a little more closely, we discover omissions in the text which seemingly willful, and disclose even an anachronism, which would transfer the incident to the second century of the Christian era.
However, without wishing to dwell unduly on the importance of that tradition, we would point out that the name of Thaddeus cannot be discarded because we can point to a second tradition, according to which the evangelization of Armenia was the work of the apostle St. Judas Thaddeus, surnamed Lebbeus. This circumstance, admitted by the Greek and Latin Churches, and recognized by Armenian writers, is fully in accordance with historic truth, and goes to confirm generally the tradition, supported by the undoubted proof of the sanctuary at Artaz.
The apostolic character of the Armenian Church, which she has always claimed, and which she has proclaimed in all her transactions, bears testimony on the one hand and to origin both ancient and primitive, and on the other hand to one which is direct and autocephalic, without intervening agency of another Church.
The apostolic origin, which is essential to every Christian Church, in order ro place her in union with her Divine Founder, is claimed to be direct when that origin is traced back to the individual work of one of the apostles it is indirect when it is derived from a Church which herself has a primitively apostolic basis. The Armenian Church can rightly lay claim to such a direct apostolic origin. The chronology which is ascribed to the mission of St, Thaddeus is a period of twenty-three years (A.D. 43-66) and to that of St. Bartholomew a period of eight years (A.D. 60-68). It is inexpedient in this place to discuss the relative details regarding question of dates and places, which is apt to lead to endless controversy.
The apostolic origin of the Armenian Church is hence established as an incontrovertible fact in ecclesiastical history. And if tradition and historic sources, which sanction this view, should give occasion for criticism, these have no greater weight than the difficulties created with regard to the origin of other apostolic Churches, which are universally admitted such.
Primitive Era of the Armenian Church
It was in the year 301, at the beginning of the fourth century, that Christianity became the prevailing religion in Armenia. Before that date it had never ceased to be the object of persecution. But we must admit that the accounts which have come down to us of the existence and of the progress of Christianity in Armenia during the three previous centuries, are as scanty as they are devoid of importance. They cannot bear, from the point of view of fullness of information, comparison with the records which deal with the same period of Greco-Roman history. But deficiency of records by no means establishes a proof of the non-existence of an actual fact.
The Greco-Roman world, then at the peak of its civilization, comprised within it a large number of writers and scholars, and its schools was in the forefront of intellectual progress. Armenia, on the other hand, was still plunged in ignorance. Far from being in possession of a national literature, she was till in search of alphabet. Under these conditions, one must admit that it has been difficult for her to write accounts and narratives of events, which could not but have been interest to future generations. Nevertheless, whatever facts have been handed down to us by national tradition, with the additional support of the narratives of foreign writers, are more than sufficient, we presume, to prove the existence of Christianity at definite periods. Now, common sense precludes us from thinking that the spread of the faith could have undergone intermittent eclipses during this space of time. Records such as these, detached and with no connecting bond between them, follow each other during that period, and prove the unbroken existence of Christianity in Armenia.
In this connection we should mention an early tradition ascribing to the see of Artaz a line of seven bishops namely,
The Complete Conversion of Armenia
The date of the conversion of Armenia as a whole to Christianity or, in other words, of the institution of that religion as the dominant one of the country, is commonly a scribe to the year 301, by the most careful chronological research. Later writers even place the date of the year 285, but that cannot be regarded as probable. The date 301 is sufficient for our purpose to show that Armenia was the first state in the world to proclaim Christianity as it's official religion, by the conversion of the king, the royal family, the satraps, the army, and the people. The conversion of Constantine took place but twelve years later that is, and 313.
The author of this wonderful conversion as St. Grigor Partev (Gregory the Parthian), surnamed by the Armenian Loosavorich, that is The Illuminator, in that he enlightened the nation with the light of the gospel. The king Tiridates, who was joint apostle and illuminator with him, belonged to the dynasty of the Arsacides, of Parthian origin, with which the father of St. Grigor was also connected so that in this way a kinship united the convert king with saint but a more potent bond than kinship in blood was the faith which united the two.
A political insurrection had at that time been brought about in Persia, and as a sequel to it the Arsacides were succeeded by the Sassanides. Nevertheless, the Armenian branch of the Arsacides still continued in power. In order to ensure the security of the new dynasty, the overthrow of the portion still remaining defiant had to be considered but the army was not on the side of the Sassanides. Than Anak, an Arsacide prince, volunteered to assassinate Khosrov (Chosroes), king of Armenia, a near relative of his. It came about that he himself also fell a victim to assassination at the hands of the Armenian satraps. Grigor was the son of Anak, and Tiridates that of Chosroes and in the year 240, the date of the double assassination, these two are still minors.
Without entering into biographical details, it will suffice to mention that Grigor was educated in the principles of Christianity at Caesarea in Cappadocia, and that Tiridates, brought up in the religion of his ancestors, had to submit to the changes brought about by the wars between the Romans and Persians. With the support of emperor Diocletian, he ascended the throne for the last time in 287 and it was on the occasion of some votive festivities, organized at Eriza (Erzingan) for the celebration of this event, that the faith and the family connection of Grigor were revealed to him. He then learnt that Grigor, after excruciating tortures, had been cast into the dungeon or the pits (Virap) of Artashat (Artaxata), where he survived this long ordeal is a striking testimony in history of divine intervention.
At this time a band of Christian virgins, under the guidance of the abbess, St. Gayane, came to Vagarshapat, the capital of Armenia, in their flight from persecutions, which had been raging in the provinces of Roman Empire. It was generally believed that they came from Rome, by way of Palestine and Mesopotamia but there is nothing to preclude the idea that they came rather from the adjacent provinces, and most probably from Mdzbin (Nisibis), if we take into account the acts connected with the martyrdom of St. Phebronia. The exceptional beauty of one of these virgins, St. Rhiphsime, attracted the king, who desired to get possession of her. But, besides the resistance she offered to his attempts, various circumstances, such as the martyrdom of the thirty-seven virgins, the fit of demoniacal possession, to which the king was a prey, the futility of the remedies, the insistence of his sister, Khosrovidookht, beseeching him to implore the help of the God of the Christians, his healing obtained through the prayers of Grigor, who had at length been restored to liberty, are the events which followed each other during the latter months of the year 300 and the early months of 301, and these led to the conversion of Tiridates, who, with the zeal of a neophyte, hastened to proclaim Christianity as the religion of the State.
Grigor, who was a mere layman, had at his command neither missionaries nor a band of clergy and yet before the end of the year 301 the religious aspect of Armenia had undergone a complete change the worship of the gods had almost entirely disappeared, and the profession of Christianity had become general. This would be an event of an unaccountable nature, did we not admit the pre-existence of Christianity in the country, as it has been already pointed out.
Evidences of this wonderful conversion are to be found not only in the narratives of contemporary writers, and of historians of the succeeding century, but also in the existence of monuments such as the churches of St. Rhiphsime, of St. Gayane, and of St. Mariane, or of Shoghakath, which were built in the fourth century in the vicinity of Etchmiadzin (formerly Vagharshapat) and in the tombs of the martyred virgins, as well as in authentic inscriptions which relate to them. A further testimony, not less valuable, is also to be found in the writings of Eusebius, who mentions the war of the year 311, which the emperor Maximianus, the Dacian, declared against the Armenians on account of their recent conversion.
Formation of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy
Owing to the splendor of the services he had rendered, St. Grigor was naturally chosen to be the head of the Armenian church. Raised to this dignity by the will of the king end of the nation, he received a episcopal consecration at the hands of Leontius, archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, in the year 302. The event is a tested by all historians of the period and by national tradition. But this consecration gave rise to a controversy with regard to its significance, and consequently, as to the nature of the hierarchic relation between the sees of Armenia and of Caesarea. According to the Greeks, the see of Armenia was suffragan to that of Caesarea, and the antagonism, which divided them in the fifth century, should be a scribe to a schism. According to the Latins, the sea of Armenia, originally connected with that of Caesarea, was subsequently instituted as an autocephalic see through the license of pope Sylvester I. Such is not the opinion of the Armenians, who believe that the sea of Armenia is of apostolic creation, that is has been independent since its origin. It is certain that it was but revived by St, Grigor, and the consecration, which she received at Caesarea, by no means indicated subordination, nor and hierarchic dependence.
Those who endeavor to make the see of Armenia suffragan to that of Caesarea, take their stand on the hypothesis that the apostolic preaching in Armenia was nothing but a passing episode, which ended with the death of the apostles that the preaching of St. Grigor would not have taken place but by direction of the see if Caesarea that Christianity, in fact, it was not established in Armenia, for the first time, until the fourth century. After what has already been said, it is not necessary to recapitulate The evidences of the positive existence of Christianity in Armenia before the time of St. Grigor.
As to the supposed license granted by Sylvester, it rests on no more than an apocryphal document, which was fabricated by the Armenians at the time of the Crusades. The object of that document was to protect the independence of the see of Armenia without offending the amour propre of the papacy, and at the same time to invoke the aid of the Crusaders in the interest of their kingdom in Cilicia. Moreover, all historical, chronological, critical, and philological information at our disposal unite in declaring the spuriousness of this document, which no longer finds a defender. The independence of the see of Armenia from the very beginning, which has never ceased to be maintained by the patriarchs and writers of the Armenian Church, is super abundantly confirmed by other facts and incidents.
It is well known that the system of jurisdiction and the mutual dependence of patriarchs end of metropolitans in the Roman Empire was modeled on the civic organization of prefects and of pro-consuls. The two institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, were in the exact juxtaposition. Consequently, those regions, which happened not to form an integral part of the empire, remained outside the organization of the patriarchates which were there established. It was thus that the independent sees of Armenia, of Persia, and of Ethiopia came into being outside the empire.
It is true that the existence of the provinces of First Armenia (Sebastia) and of Second Armenia (Melitene), within the limits of the jurisdiction of the exarchate of Pontus (Caesara), could frequently have given rise to confusion of names for these two provinces have been confounded with Armenia Major and Armenian Minor. If we were to compare the Statement of the patriarchates with the Lists of civil provinces, this mistake would be clearly seen.
And no period has the ses of Caesarea, nor that of Antioch or Constantinople, exercised any authority or jurisdiction in Armenia properly so called and all that is to be found in this connection in the letters of St. Basil of Caesarea relates exclusively to the bishoprics of Nicopolis, of Satala, etc., which were situated within the limits of the First and Second Armenias, and which were dependent on the exarchate of Pontus.
Moreover, the history of the ecclesiastical relations between the chief sees at the beginning of the fourth century and before the Council of Nicaea in 325, if carefully studied, will be found to contain nothing to induces us to presume the intervention of one see in the affairs of another and that is not surprising, for each ecclesiastical district has its limits strictly confined to that of the political district, on the model of which it was constituted.
Besides, we do not find in the history of the fourth and fifth centuries that any alteration had occurred in the relations between the sees of Armenia end of Caesarea. This absence of evidence justifies us in concluding that the same system of independence had not ceased to be the governing principle of this Church since her institution.
In fact, all the advocates of a contrary view have been able to formulate up to the present amounts to pure hypothesis. Their views are based on the state of things which never existed in the century of which we are speaking, but were rather the outcome of later centuries. During the byzantine domination in Armenia, and later under the influence of the Crusades, incidence of an indistinct and questionable nature may have affected the relations of different sees: but those incidents could have had no retrospective action, nor could they have altered the issues of earlier centuries.
Therefore, the consecration of St. Grigor by the archbishop of Caesarea must be ascribed to circumstances of a casual nature, perhaps even to a personal desire on the part of St. Grigor, who had received his education in Caesarea. It should not be used as argument from which we are to infer a system of hierarchic relationship.
The Armenian Church in the Fourth Century
St. Grigor controlled the Armenian Church for a quarter of a century, carrying out all that was necessary for bestowing on her an organization both perfect and sound. We are indebted to him for the canons, which bear his name for the homilies which are ascribed to him and for certain services of a disciplinary and liturgical order, which date back to his time. He established close on four hundred episcopal and archiepiscopal dioceses for the spiritual government of Armenia and of the surrounding countries. He was the moving spirit in the conversion of Georgia, of Caspian Albania, and of Atropatene, whither he dispatched leaders and ecclesiastics. He died at the time of the meeting of the Council of Nicaea (325). His sons succeeded him first the younger, who was unmarried, St. Aristakes (3250333) then the elder, St. Vrtanes (3330341), who was a married man. The latter had as his successor his own son, St. Hoosik (341-347). The retention of the patriarchate in the family of St. Grigor was at the wish of the nation, either as a desire to do homage to the great Illuminator, or as an unconscious compliance with the influences of a pagan custom. The refusal of the sons of Hoosik to take orders introduced to the patriarchal see Pharen of Ashtishat, a collateral relative (348-386) soon, however, the succession reverted to the direct line by the election of St. Nerses, the grandson of Hoosik (3530373). But while the only son of Nerses was still of an age which made him ineligible for preferment, the nation arranged for the successive appointment of Shahak (373-377), Zaven (377-381), and Aspoorakes (381-386), the descendants, all of them, of the priestly household of Albianus, who had assisted St. Grigor in t he work of evangelization. After that the patriarchal dignity reverted once more to the family of Grigor, in the person of the son of Nerses, St. Sahak (Isaac), who completed his full jubilee on the patriarchal throne (387-439). It is, indeed, true that the accuracy of the chronology of the patriarchs of the fourth century is disputed by modern historians, but the data from which we draw our facts have been gathered by research made directly from the original sources.
The Armenian Church in the fourth century, though hierarchically and administratively well organized, laced, nevertheless, an element of the utmost necessity: a version of the Bible and a ritual written in her own language the Armenian, who was as yet unprovided with an alphabet, could not set down in writing the living word of the sacred books. Scholastic instruction was acquired in foreign languages, and the famous schools of Caesarea in Cappadocia and of Edessa in Osroene were the only centers of enlightenment accessible to Armenia at that time. The Greek language was in use in the school of Caesarea, where the students of the northern provinces resorted Syrian prevailed at Edessa, where flocked the students from the south. St. Grigor was the first to establish schools, at the head of which he was obliged to appoint foreign teachers. His successors followed his example but it was St. Nerses who gave the most intense impetus to the furtherance of scholastic and charitable institutions.
In spite of the combined efforts of St. Grigor and of king Tiridates towards the complete Christianization of Armenia, pagan worship had not yet entirely disappeared from the country. In the mountainous districts the old-established deities were still in evidence by their altars and their priests. In vain were the efforts of the patriarchs to root out these ancient practices, which retained their hold until the time of St. Nerses, who dealt them a severe blow. Yet traces of them were still met with in the time of St. Sahak. What obstinately held their ground were pagan customs, and their prevalence continued among the people, and more especially in the palace of the sovereigns and among the satraps. The patriarchs, at the risk of bringing on themselves the fury of the civil power, often had need to exert all their pastoral courage in battling against the abuses and the moral iniquities of such a society, not yet sufficiently enlightened by Christianity. It was on this account that St. Aristakes was assassinated by the satrap of Dzovk (Sophene) that St. Vrtanes was obliged to escape from the pursuit of the mountaineers of Sim (Sasoon), who were stirred up by the queen that St. Hoosik died under the scourging of king Tiran and that St. Daniel of Ashtishat, who had been nominated to the patriarchate, came to similar end. But these persecutions did in no way moderate the zeal of these saintly pontiffs.
Concerning the doctrine, which was observed by the prelates of the early Church, there is nothing new to say. The whole Church in the fourth century was united by the same dogmas. The East and the West were in complete fellowship in faith and in charity. The chief heresies, which arose in the course of that century in the East, those of the Arians and the Macedonians, were condemned by the Council of Nicaea (325) and of Constantinople (381), the decisions of which were strictly observed by the Armenians. St. Aristakes was himself present at the first Council and if, in the second, the Armenians had no representatives, they, nevertheless, never ceased to abide by the letter and the spirit of its decisions.
The Armenian national liturgy, as we have said, had not yet been framed for want of an alphabet and of a literature adapted to its needs. The Bible and the rituals were read in the Greek and Syriac languages. But, as much as the people were ignorant of both languages, an oral translation was rendered to them in the church itself. A special order of translators (Thargmanich) had to be included in the religious service, to orally interpret the passages of the Holy Scriptures, which were read by the readers (Verdzanogh). They explained the prayers of the ritual and instructed the people, in their mother tongue, in certain prayers based on the psalms and the offices. If we were to note the differences of phraseology between the construction of the psalms of the offices and of that in the text of the scriptures, we would find two translations: the former, dating from the fourth century, for the use of the people the latter, a classical on of the fifth century, based on the Greek text.
The Beginning of Armenian Literature
The absence of an alphabet and of any sort of written literature placed a fundamental obstacle, not only to the development of the intellectual and social life of the nation, but also to the existence and the autonomy of the Church, for without these she had neither the power to mold nor to strengthen her own constitution. No permanent means of spiritual edification were at the command of the people for bare oral translations were insufficient to satisfy the aspirations of their hearts. Such was the state of things which first incited the attention of the patriarch St. Sahak. Deeply versed in Greek and Syriac learning, he was held, according to his contemporaries, to be in advance of the scholars of his time.
St. Mesrop-Mashthotz, a former secretary of the king, and a disciple of the patriarch Nerses, conceived the plan of extirpating the last remnants of paganism in the proving of Golthn (Akoolis). But, in the absence of an alphabet, he was confronted with a difficulty, since he was unable to place in the hands of the people he would evangelize any written instructions. In conjunction with the patriarch Sahak, he besought the king Vramshapooh to put an end to this state of affairs. This happened in 401, at the dawn of the fifth century and the king placed all available resources at their disposal. At length, in 404, Mesrop succeeded in framing an alphabet which was excellently suited to the genius of the Armenian language. And as, in the furtherance of this work, he had invoked heavenly aid, he ascribed his success to diving grace. Indeed, the Armenians themselves have always taken a pride in their literature, the origin of which was regarded by them as supernatural. As soon as St. Mesrop invented the alphabet at Balahovit (Paloo), St. Sahak, on his part, continued indefatigably to carry on a work which was alike literary and holy. Accordingly, it is no the latter that the grateful Armenians have bestowed the title of Illuminator of Knowledge, on account of what he did for literature, just as St. Grigor enriched their souls by faith, and St. Nerses their hearts by the inculcation of high morality.
The Armenian alphabet contained thirty-six characters, which were capable of representing all the sounds of the language. This number had to be increased later by two supplementary letters, which brought the total up to thirty-eight. Its ingenuity was so happily devised that it was even possible, without difficulty, to represent by the alphabet most of the sounds of foreign languages. But in this place we must confine our remarks to the importance of this innovation from the ecclesiastical standpoint.
The first work which was taken in hand was the translation of the Bible, and to this purpose were dedicated St. Sahak and St. Mesrop, together with a body of scholars selected from among the class of Translators. History places their number at one hundred, of whom sixty had been trained by Sahak and the rest by Mesrop. The Armenian translation of the Old Testament was made from the Greek text of the Septuagint, but with many different readings in accordance with the Syriac translation. This work was begun in 404 and brought to an end in 433, after a final revision by St. Sahak, by comparison with a copy which was expressly sent by the patriarch of Constantinople. When this was accomplished, they employed themselves in the preparation of the books of the liturgy, such as the mass, the rituals of baptism, of confirmation, of ordination, of marriage, of the consecration of churches, and of funerals, the offices of the day, and the calendar. St. Sahak contributed to this work, either directly, or indirectly with the help of his disciples. This organization of the liturgy was inspired by that of St. Basil that is to say, by the liturgy of the Church of Caesarea. It will be admitted that nothing would be more natural than to imaging that the heads of the Armenian Church, as we have indicated above, should derive their teaching from the schools of Cappadocia.
But, while following closely the liturgy of Caesarea, there was no attempt at keeping to a slavish exactitude. St. Grigor had already borrowed liberally from national customs and from pagan rites, which he had adapted into Christian rites. In the course of a century these practices had had time to become so deeply rooted as established customs, that it was impossible for new organizers to escape their influence. Moreover, these men declined to comply wholly with the requirements of the Greek rite. What is peculiarly the property of the Armenian liturgy are its hyms (sharakan), which are indeed of an original character, and which ring as an echo of the old national songs. They are analogous, too, in some respects with the Syriac hymns of St. Ephraim.
The distinctive character of this primitive literature lies in the large number of translations of the works of the Greek Fathers. It is interesting to notice in particular that certain of these works the originals of which have been lost, have been preserved in these translations. Besides the translations from the Fathers, most of the philosophical works of antiquity have also been thus preserved. Of original works there were but a few, such as books of ancient and contemporaneous history.
The Armenian Church in the Fifth Century
The patriarchate of St. Sahak took up entirely the early third part of this century. Apart from the literary success, which has been previously noticed, this period has no distinguishing events worthy of mention, so that we are compelled to recognize the direct intervention of Providence in this particular success. It is this alone which gave the nation strength to battle against certain ruin, by bestowing on her the elements of a higher and independent existence at a time when both social and political circumstances were conspiring against her. The country of Armenia had been divided between the Greeks and Persians, when in 387, at the desire of Khosrov (Chosroes), king of Persian Armenia, St. Sahak was elected to the patriarchate and at this time Arshak reigned in Greek Armenia. St. Sahak was obliged to act with judgment in order to be recognized and approved by both sides at the same time. A short time afterwards Greek Armenian was handed over to the administration of Byzantine governors and Persian Armenia, after the relatively pacific reign of Vramshapooh, came under the rule, at first, of the Persian, Shapooh, and then of the Armenian, Artashes, who was young and of an unbridled temper. The Armenian satraps brought an accusation against their king before the Persian sovereign, and begged for his removal and the appointment of a Persian governor-general in his place. There was no difficulty in granting this petition, and the Persian satrap Vehmihrshapooh was at once nominated as governor-general of Persian Armenia (428). The Armenian satraps, by employing all manner of means, both by promises and threats, endeavoured to urge St. Sahak to ounite with them in coming to an understanding but, being unable to attain their end, they accused the patriarch of plotting with the king against the Persian sovereign. As a result of this maneuver, St. Sahak was deposed and exiled into Persia, and an anti-patriarch was nominated in the person of Soormak (428).
This change led to great disturbance in the affairs of Armenia. The administration of the patriarchal see came in the hand of anti-patriarchs, who diverted to their own use the revenues and endowments of their office. They followed each other in quick succession: Soormak (4288), Brkisho (429), Shmuel (432), then Soormak once more regained authority in 437. Through this period the bishops, the clergy, and the people refused to countenance the new state of affairs for, in the eyes of the nation, St. Sahak always remained their spiritual head. When he returned to Armenia (432), he withdrew to Bloor (Yahnitepe), in the province of Bagrevand (Alashkert), where St. Mesrop and St. Ghevond had attended to religious and spiritual matters at no time had his flock been forsaken by him.
In spit of such a critical situation, he did not cease to take an active part in the affairs of the Universal Church. The Council of Ephesus (431) had been summoned to condemn the heresy of Nestorius. The decrees relating to the matter had been brought to St. Sahak from Constantinople by his disciples. But the books of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the precursor of Nestorius, had escaped the attention of the Council. Likewise the Nestorians took advantage of this omission to cover up their errors in the name of Theodore. St. Sahak, intervening, summoned the Council of Ashtishat (435), and then criticized the errors of Theodore in a dogmatic letter which he wrote to Proclus at Constantinople. This letter served as the grounds for the Council of Constantinople in 553, in order to condemn the Three-Chapters.
The death of St. Sahak (439) was the prelude to a position which was even more painful. Soormak still occupied the patriarchal see as the head, recognized by the government, while St. Mesrop was continuing to administer spiritual matters but it was not long after that he followed St. Sahak to the grave (440). St. Hovsep (Joseph) of Hoghotzim was called as his successor in the management of spiritual affairs, and the intervention of the Armenian Vasak Suni, governor-general, was successful, at the death of Soormak (444), in causing him to be recognized as the patriarch by the Persian government.
The king of kings, who had annexed Armenian to his dominions, was besought by the priests of the Zoroastrian religion to abolish Christianity in Armenian, by compelling the people to adopt the worship of the sun and of fire. To gain his ends, the king set about, in the first place, to strip Armenian of her military forces, which he diverted for the purpose of waging war against the barbarians of the Caucasus. Having done this, he published (449) a decree by which he made the religion of Zoroaster obligatory upon all his subjects without distinction. This was the beginning of an era of persecutions, in the course of which St. Atom Gnooni and St. Manatjihr Rshtooni with their followers suffered martyrdom. The episcopate, called together at Artashat (450), proclaimed, in an apologetic letter, their inalienable fidelity to the faith. Notwithstanding this unanimous resistance, the chief of the Armenian satraps, to the number of ten, were summoned to Persia and compelled to renounce their religion. They were given the alternatives of either yielding or of quitting their country under instant exile. They made a pretense of abjuring their religion so as to be able to return to their homes and there organize resistance.
The priests of the religion of the sun and of fire, carrying their symbols, escorted in triumph the pretended renegades, but they were dispersed in the plains of Bagrevand by the armed populace, who were led by the archpriest St. Ghevond. The interval of a year-from August, 450, to August, 451—the term which had been granted for renouncing Christianity, had been turned to account by preparing resistance to the troops, who were about to arrive in order to watch over the fulfillment of the royal decree. It is probable that if the Armenians had, in these circumstances, joined their forces, they would have been able with ease to get the better of the enemy’s army Unfortunately a party of satraps , having come to an understanding with the governor Vasak, was definitely given over the Persian cause. When, on May 26, 451, at the battle of Avarayr, sixty-six thousand Armenians, under the command of Vardan Mamikonian, encountered an army of two hundred and twenty-seven men, fell on the field of battle. The death of these martyrs is commemorated in the Armenian calendar on Shrove Thursday.
Reckoning from this time, the Armenian Church entered upon an era of disorder which was caused, above all, by the external difficulties with which she was wholly engrossed. The patriarch, St. Hovsep, accused of having been instigator of the religious movement, was arrested, taken to Persia, and martyred with other members of the clergy (454(), whose memories are celebrated under the name of SS. Ghevondian (Leontii). His successors were Melitus (452-456)and Movses (456-461) then came the celebrated Gut of Arahez (461-478), who was able to hold his own against the incessant efforts of the Persians to force their religion upon the nation. Once again the Armenians were obliged to take up arms under the leadership of Vahan Mamikonian, a nephew of St. Vardan. Hostilities were continued under the patriarch Hovhannes Mandakooni(478-490), who was successor of Gut. This state of affairs threatened to be perpetual, when the new king Vlarse, realizing the uselessness of these efforts, at last put an end to them He wisely proclaimed religious liberty, and nominated Vahan, first as military commandant (484), then as governor-general of Armenia (485), a step which ensured the civil and religious peace of Armenia. The venerable patriarch Hovhannes hastened to transfer his see to the new capital, Dwin, where it could be under the protection of government, and from that place he was able to devote all his attention to the internal reforms both of the Church and of the people. Thanks to the wisdom of his administration, he know well how to repair the accumulated ruin caused by the wars of these latter years, and his name remains the most honored after that of St. Sahak.
The Council of Chalcedon
The zeal displayed by the archimandrite Eutyches of Byzantium, in combating the errors of Nestorius, had an effect quite contrary to that which its author had anticipated. His intervention gave rise to interminable controversies regarding the union of the two natures, or the double nature of Christ, and stirred up strife between the sees of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Rome. The school of Antioch, which was followed in this matter by the see of Constantinople, professed a teaching which maintained a certain separation between the divinity and the humanity of Jesus Christ, whereas the Alexandrine school affirmed a close union between the two natures, fearing that the mystery of the redemption would be prejudiced. In the third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) the Alexandrine doctrine had triumphed, and the formula of St. Cyril of Alexandria, who recognized ‘one nature united in the Incarnate Word,’ had become the emblem of Christianity. Nestorius, a disciple of the school of Antioch, proclaimed patriarch of Constantinople, who taught the existence of a purely moral unity between the two natures, had been condemned by the decision of the Council. The archimandrite Eutyches, a septuagenarian, set forth (447) a teaching which carried the union so far as to make it a blend and a confusion of the two natures, involving the almost entire disappearance of the human nature, and the giving of a heavenly origin to the body of Christ.
It is on this teaching that Flavian of Constantinople condemned Eutyches and his doctrine in a special synod which was called at Constantinople (448). Dioskoros of Alexandria imagined that this decision meant the rejection of the doctrine of his school and of that of his predecessor and a return to Nestorianism. He accordingly assembled a new synod at Ephesus (449), where he succeeded in causing Flavian and the Nestorians to be condemned. In his turn, Leo I of Rome, taking up the defense of Flavian , called together a special synod in Rome (450) against Eutyches and Dioskoros. Afterwards, in order to give greater weight to his decision, he induced the emperor Marcian to summon a general Council at Chalcedon, where, thanks to coercive measures, he caused his doctrine and his letter to Flavian, called the Tome of Leo (451), to be accepted as decisive.
The bitterness that existed between the two parties is better understood if one considers that it was not only a theological problem such as the abstract question as to the two natures in Jesus Christ, but rather a pre-eminently concrete interest, which was to be safeguarded namely, the influence of the patriarchates. At the period of the Council of Nicaea, the Greco-Roman world was divided between the three sees of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, and each acted within the sphere of its own jurisdiction, without claims to precedence. But a change in this condition came about at the beginning of the fifth century. Constantinople became converted into a patriarchate by the Council which assembled in that city (381), and the ever-increasing decadence of Ancient Rome, and the growing influence of the New Rome, caused the patriarchs of Constantinople to imagine that they were superior over the others. But the patriarch of Alexandria could not tolerate these ambitious designs. Imbued with the importance of the role he had played in the previous Councils, and still more of the brilliant qualities of his predecessors in office, such as Alexander, Athanasius, Theophilus, Cyril, and Dioskoroas, he thought himself justified in assuming the right to prescribe Christian doctrine and to assert himself as arbiter in matters of dogmatic truth. He maintained that the triumphs of Athanasius at Nicaea and of Cyril at Ephesus could not be impaired by the claims of Flavian and of Leo, whose proceedings were almost an insult directed against the see of Alexandria. Constantinople and Rome then combined to do battle against the common foe and the worldly arm of Marcian was raised to sanction the so-called success of Chalcedon against the see of Alexandria.
But, in fact, the success was neither real nor substantial. The Council of Chalcedon, among others, had recognized the precedence of the see of Constantinople, but Rome refused her recognition under the apprehension of some subtle attack being made on her in her turn and she laid down a distinction between canons of the same Council that were admissible and those that were inadmissible. The episcopate of the Greco-Roman world was divided into two camps, and their flocks indulged in violent manifestations the scandal of having encouraged Nestorianism gained ground, and the subtle distinction which was laid down between the duality of persons and duality of natures did not suffice to calm men’s minds. The decrees of Chalcedon thus remained in abeyance they were not accepted by all. At a new Council held at Antioch (476) the doctrine was declared doubtful, and the emperor Basiliscus forbade support being given to the decrees. The emperor Zeno issued the Henoticon (482), wherein he denied it all authority, basing his opinion on the Council of Ephesus of 431. Finally, the emperor Anastasius, by a new decree (491), impaired the importance of the Council of Chalcedon by depriving it of all authority. The object of all these measures was to combat Nestorianism, which, while relinquishing its hold on the Greek world, was finding shelter among the Syrian element, and was prospering under the liberty which was allowed to it by the king of Persia.
Armenia was not concerned with these quarrels until the beginning of the sixth century. The Councils which were summoned for and against Eutyches took place without her knowledge that of Chalcedon, which met on October 8, 451, was not convened until after the great battle Avarayr (May 26, 451). As we have said in a previous chapter, the country, at that time was in great confusion the patriarch and the bishops were either in prison or in exile the satraps were persecuted or dispersed, the militia were disbanded, and the people terrorized. Under these circumstances, it can be well imagined that wranglings about dogmas failed to rouse the country’s attention. Melitus and Movses, who succeeded St. Hovsep, were scarcely in a position to attend to such matters. The patriarch Gut and Hovhannes, though renowned for their learning and their abilities, again became the victims of religious persecutions. And when, later, quiet was restore, Hovhannes had scarcely the necessary time at his disposal to collect his thoughts and to put in order the affairs of his own jurisdiction. It is, therefore, no matter of surprise if the Council of Chalcedon, forty years after its assembly, had as yet stirred up no lively interest in Armenia.
The first rumors of it came from the direction of Persia, when Babuen of Othmoos was patriarch (490-516). The Nestorians had established themselves in Persian Mesopotamia. As the Syrians, who had remained faithful to the orthodox doctrine of the Council of Ephesus, suffered much under their domination, they begged for proper guidance from the Armenian Church. The Armenians had remained scrupulously faithful to the anti-Nestorian principles of St. Sahak, and could not acquiesce in any compromise regarding doctrine. The Nestorians, who prided themselves on the authority of the Council of Chalcedon, which had been convened by the Church of Constantinople, were hostile to the Church of Alexandria whereas the Armenians had remained attached to the latter from the beginning. Further, this cCouncil was the handiwork of Marcian, who had rebuffed the Armenian deputation, which had come to ask his aid against the Persian persecution. Beyond this, the Council of Marcian had been disavowed by his successors and by the decrees of Basiliscus, of Zeno, and of Anastasius the Chalcedonian profession of faith had been officially set aside. Under these circumstances we can readily conjecture what would be the attitude of the Armenians. The synod Armenian, Georgian, and Caspio-Albanian bishops, which assembled at Dwin ( 506) under the presidency of Babguen, officially proclaimed the profession of faith of the Council of Ephesus, and rejected everything that was Nestorian or savored of Nestorianism, including the acts of the Council of Chalcedon. Far, indeed, from adopting the doctrine of Eutyches, his name, together with those of Arius, of Macedon, and of Nes yorius, was officially condemned. Such was the first declaration of the Armenian Church with regard to the Council of Chalcedon. Later, the Greek and Latin Churches revoked their opposition and recognized it as the fourth Ecumenical Council. The Armenian Church would have nothing to do with this transaction, which was prompted by designs which had no bearing on theology. She remained firm in her original resolve, and ever maintained an attitude of ultra-conservatism. She set herself to resist every new dogmatic utterance and to emanate from revelation, as well as every innovation which could in any way pervert the primitive faith. She could not unconscious of the fact that the chief moving power of the Chalcedonian question was the mutual jealousy of the patriarchates of the Greco-Roman world, a question which could have no concern for her. Neither did she mean to submit to the whim of the patriarchat of Constantinople, hich had applied itself at Chalcedon towards the usurpation both of precedence and of superiority over other sees, by strengthening the basis of her plans throught the instrumentality of secular power.
The profession of faith which was decreed at Dwin (506) was the chief event of the patriarchate of Babguen. The selfsame principle was jealously guarded by his successors: Samuel of Ardzke (516-526), Mooshe of Ailaberk (526-534), Sahak II of Ooghki (534-539), Kristaphor of Tiraridj (539-545), and Ghevond of Erast (5450548). Beyond these facts there was nothing of special significance to notice during this period of about forty years. The decision that had been arrived at concerning the Council of Chalcedon was confirmed under the patriarchate of Nerses II of Bagrevand (548-557), at the synod of Dwin (554), at which the faith, as decreed at Ephesus, was emphatically proclaimed in opposition to Nestorian errors and Chalcedonian claims.
A Succession of Quarrels
The history of the Armenian Church presents a series of religious questions which, however, did not disturb her normal condition, though they recurred continuously through the course of many centuries. We have not the least desire to enter into the details of these quarrels, which are not likely to interest eaders who are not of her flock. It will suffice to say that their cause lay in the political influence of the states which held sway over Armenian, or of those which were in close contact with her. This country, having lost her independence, passed successively under Persian, Greek, and Saracen domination, whose political tendencies drew their inspiration from the religious profession of their country. The Armenians could hardly escape the influence of such tactics. On the one hand, not wishing to depart from their dogmatic principles which had been established by decree of the synod of 506, and, on the other hand, by trying to preserve the sympathies and advantages which would accrue to them through the political influence of the dominant states, they pursued the policy of not offending the amour proper of any, and of showing proofs of compliance, without placing themselves in opposition to their own principles.
Armenia was often divided between different states, but her fate lay in the power of the one which possessed the larger portion of the country. The Persian rule, which was in the hands of satraps nominated by the king-of-kings, played a preponderant role in the country for a period of two complete centuries (4280633). After this period the curopalates, who were nominated by the Byzantine emperors, took the place of the satraps. The Greek domination was of but short duration, lasting about sixty years (633-693) for the Saracens firmly established their power very soon in the country. The representatives of the caliphs exercised a direct administration in Armenia, which lasted more than a century and a half (6930862). But this was by no means a period of entirely easy conquest. The rivalries and wars which brought to loggerheads the different states, always had this country for their battleground. The Armenians, having to grapple with opposing influences, were swayed by a wavering policy, but they were anxious neither to compromise their political interests nor those of their faith. The influence of the Greek empire, which was always preponderant in the matter of religion, even when it had not the civil power behind it, used pressure on the Armenians to accept the Chalcedonian faith and, in order to induce them to renounce their attitude in that matter, promises towards an amelioration of their political condition were showered on them. The Persians and the Saracens dazzled their eyes with analogous promises, on condition that they would estrange themselves from the Greeks. The Armenians were neither allowed nor were they willing to accede to the suggestions of the Greeks that they should accept the profession of the Chalcedonian faith on the other hand, they had no desire to rouse Greek enmity to a higher pitch and yet on stronger grounds they shrank from throwing themselves into the hands of non-Christian powers. Such a position of difficulty and such a spirit of indecision were the special characteristics in the history of the Armenian Church from the sixth to the ninth centuries, a period which we will endeavor briefly to sketch by recalling its most salient features.
The relations with the Christians of Persia, the first evidences of which we have noticed at the time of Babguen, are characterized by their constant appeals to the Armenian patriarchate. They employed these means to protect themselves against the encroachments of the Nestorians, who, by reason of their anti-Greek spirit, had been able to win over the Persian court. The patriarch Kristaphor of Tiraridj, among others, not only contented himself by defending the antii-Nestorians before the Persian king-of=kings, but he consecrated their bishops and gave his full attention to the administration of their Church.
The history of the second Council of Constantinople, which the Greeks and the Latins regard as the fifth Ecumenical Council, is well known. The excitement occasioned by the Council of Chalcedon was not yet allayed at the period when Justinian mounted the throne (527). As his efforts to restore peace remained ineffectual, he attempted to bring under condemnation the Three-Chapters, that is to say, the writings of Diodorus of Tarsus, of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and of Ibas of Edessa, which were devoted to the views of Nestorius, but opposed to the decrees enacted at Ephesus this was also a step in keeping with the Chalcedonian profession. Justinian thought he would, in this way, give satisfaction to the orthodox followers of the Ephesian doctrine and restrain at the same time the tendencies of the Chalcedonian party. The decree for the assembly of the new Council was published (56), but the popes of Rome continued to raise difficulties, fearing lest the indirect condemnation of the Tome of Leo should impair their prestige. The pope Agapet, who was summoned to Constantinople, died there before a solution was reached. Vigilius, who was nominated by the emperor under the condition that he proclaimed the condemnation of the Three-Chapters, was not recognized by the Romans, who put up Silverus in opposition to him but the death of the latter put an end to opposition, and Vigilius was recognized. The Council finally opened (553), and it was with his concurrence that the Three-Chapters were condemned. Thus the Graeco-Roman world, by indirect means, put an end to the Chalcedonian question, thereby emphasizing the idea of the unity of the two natures in Christ, which was defined at the Council of Ephesus.
The Armenians, who remained faithful to that Council, in spite of the shufflings of the Chalcedonians, did not feel the need of new definitions they also refused to attach any importance to the decrees of the Chalcedonians, even though these were not only in conformity with their own principles, but were founded on the authority of the Patriarch St. Sahak, whose letter to Proclus was solemnly read at the Council, immediately after the perusal of the decretal epistles of St. Cyril of Alexandria. The patriarch Nerses II of Bagrevand contented himself, at the synod of Dwin which assembled in the following year (554), by proclaiming the Ephesian doctrines in opposition to the Chalcedonian claims.
The instigations of the Greeks, though powerless against Armenian opinion, received a favorable reception among the Georgians. Their patriarch, Kurion, though trained and raised to office under the Armenian patriarchate, conceived the idea of seceding from that see, and of rallying to the patriarchate of Constantinople in order to win the imperial favor. Adhesion to the decrees of Chalcedon was the condition of such a submission. The effort of Vrtanes, who was directing the Armenian patriarchat after the death of the patriarch Movses II of Eghivard (574-604), and those of the new patriarch Abraham of Aghbathank (607-615), were powerless to prevent the secession, and the Georgian Church, with Kurion at her head, definitely accepted the Chalcedonian faith, and became part of the Greek Church. The synod of Dwin (608) ratified this secession from the orthodox Armenian Church but this event was destined, in course of time, to have unpleasant consequences for the Georgian Church. For, under the Russian domination in the Caucasus, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, her national existence had no longer any raison d’etre, in face of the common identity of principles, which thus gave justification for the absorption of the Georgian Church by the Russian. Today everything in Georgia is Russianized: hierarch and clergy, liturgy and language the exarch himself and the bishops of Georgia are recruited from among the Russian clergy.
We must not pass by in silence the last attempt made by the Greeks to gain the Armenians over to their cause. As a portion of Armenian had fallen under Byzantine domination, Constantinople hastened to install therein a patriarch devoted to her own interests (590), and during the lifetime of Movses II. This was Hovhannes of Bagaran. But this new attempt proved futile for the anti-patriarchal see came to an end with Hovhannes himself, who fell into the hands of the Persians (611). The Greeks judged it unnecessary to appoint a successor to him they were even less encouraged to do so, as the Armenians, who themselves lived under Greek domination, refused recognition to the usurping patriarch, as well as to the profession of the Chalcedonian faith which her represented.
A Return to the Quarrels
In 614 Persia had invaded the Greek empire and had carried away from Jerusalem the relic of the Holy Cross in fact, the Persian army had even encamped under the very walls of Constantinople.
It was only later that the emperor Heraclius, awakening out of his lethargy, engaged in a struggle which was crowned with success (623) and the vanquished Persians were obliged to restore the precious relic to the Holy City. The Armenian troops, led by Mjej Gnooni, were largely responsible for the success of the campaign. It was at the close of these auspicious events that Heraclius conceived the plan of effecting the union of the Greeks and the Armenians in their dogmatic faith. To attain this end, he tried to impose on the latter the decrees of Chalcedon which the Greek Church had recognized after the condemnation of the Three-Chapters. Engrossed with this project, he went a second time to Armenia to open negotiations. The patriarchal see was at that time occupied by Ezr (Esdras) of Parajnakert, who was the successor of Abraham of Aghbathank, of Comitas of Aghtzik (615-628), and Kristaphor II Apahooni (629-630).
The vacillations of Ezr and of his bishops, and the conferences between the Greeks and Armenians, terminated by the acceptance of a forula of faith which was imposed by the emperor. That formula was entirely in keeping with the profession of faith of the Armenians, excepting that it passed over in silence the Council of Chalcedon. It was approved at a special synod, held at Karin (Erzeroom), and was solemnly dedicated by the celebration of a mass (633), at which the Greeks and the Armenians communicated together. Meanwhile the submission of the patriarch to the will of the emperor had incensed the Armenian episcopate and people. Intense rancor vented its fury against Ezr but, do what they might, they were unable to compass his deposition. However, the sentiment of indignation, which his conduct excited, has survived through the ages to such an extent that his name still figures on the list of patriarchs with the initial inverted. Yet, for justice’ sake, it must be added that Ezr could hardly have been more Chalcedonian in his tendencies that Heraclius, who was the defender of the monothelite doctrine and protector of the patriarch Sergius, the author of that doctrine. Monothelitism was a revival, under a different guise, of the monophysite doctrine of the Council of Ephesus, which the Armenians had upheld with great tenacity. It being impossible to return to the question of the Council of Chalcedon, assent to which had been accorded by the Council of 553, the monthelites endeavored to divert its effects, either by the condemnation of the Three-Chapters, or by upholding the union of the wills in Christ in place of the union of the natures.
We will pause for a moment to note the zeal displayed in the course of his administration by the patriarch, Nerses III of Ishkhan, surnamed Shinogh (the Builder). This old soldier had mounted the patriarchal throne when the Saracens were first beginning to enter on their invasion (641). Armenia, in her perplexity, knew not whether to declare for her former rulers or for the new invaders. Nerses himself was in favor of Greek rule, but, besides that the Greeks were feeble and inactive, the military commanders of the nation, Smbat Bagratooni and Theodore Rshtooni, found themselves compelled to make submission to the Saracens. The emperor Constantine IV was eager to wreak his vengeance on the Armenians for their default, and, at the head of his army, he attempted once more to make them submit to his religious authority. The patriarch Nerses III succeeded in pacifying the emperor but after the withdrawal of the Greeks a new synod, convened at Dwin (648(, emphatically proclaimed the resolve to subscribe only to the first three Councils, and to reject all that had been afterwards added to them. But the political question brought the patriarch Nerses and the great satrap Theodore, who was always on the stronger side, into opposition. The patriarch, therefore, kept out of public affairs until the death of Theodore, which took place six years later. Then only did Nerses begin again to coquet with the Greek influences, but always in a feeble and vacillating manner.
This condition of affairs continued after the death of Nerses (661), who was succeeded by Anastasius of Akori (662-667). And Sahak III of Tsoraphor (677-703). During the patriarchat of the latter, Saracen rule was definitely established in Armenia, and thereby the Greco-Armenian disputes lost their importance. Moreover, the caliphs had an interest in seeing the Armenians regulate their own religious affairs in a spirit which was opposed to Greek ideas. The patriarch Sahak III had undertaken a journe to Damascus to pay a visit to the caliph, when he died on the road. Nevertheless, his attempt was not without its result, for the caliph granted the greater part of the religious privileges for which he was on his way to sue.
The most salient feature of the patriarchate of his successor, Yeghia (Elias) of Artjesh (703-717) was the zeal he displayed to retain Caspian Albania in the communion of the Armenian Church. Their patriarch, Nerses Bakoor, tempted by the example of Kurion, inclined to the side of communion with the Greek Church. He was immediately removed and replaced by Simeon. Yeghia also gave proofs of his strength against some Armenian theologians, educated in the schools of Constantinople, who attempted to defend the decrees of Chalcedon.
The patriarch Hovhannes III of Otsoon, surname Imastaser (the Philosopher), a cultured mind, who was scholar and diplomat in one, was the most prominent figure of the period. His writings against the heresies, his disciplinary and liturgical reforms, give evidences of a profound erudition. He is the author of a collection of ecclesiastical canons and of canonical letters which form a code of canon-law. It should be noticed that these are of anterior date to the pseudo-Isidorian decretals of the Roman Church. His relations with the caliphs, the privileges, such as the concessions which he obtained from them for the benefit of the Church and of the nation, do honor to his administrative qualities. In connection with his religious duties, he succeeded in deciding the great question of the corruptibility of the body of Christ, which had been raised by the orthodox monophysites. It had given birth to the sects of Julianists and of the Severians, and caused a split between the Syrian and Armenian Churches. The synod of Manazkert, convened (726) under the presidency of Hovhannes, and composed of Armenian and Syrian bishops, adopted ten canons whereby they endeavored to eliminate the exaggerations of the two sects. The sound doctrine concerning the origin and the natural character of the body of Christ was approved at this Council, which placed on a solid basis the veneration due to the body of the Word Incarnate, as neither subject to sin nor destined to decay. Hovhannes ended his days in honor (728), and his memory has been hallowed by the Armenian Church.
There is little to be said about the period (728-755) which followed, during which twelve patriarchs sycceeded each other under the peaceful conditions created for the Armenian Church by the caliphs. It need merely be mentioned that since these caliphs had endowed Armenia with vassal principalities (862), and the Armenians had begun to enjoy administrative autonomy, the patriarch Photius of Constantinople attempted once again to establish relations with the Armenian Church. He sought in this reconciliation a basis which would prove of some use to him in his quarrels with the Roman Church. Hence, he wrote letters to the patriarch Zacharia of Tsag (855-876), and to prince Ashot Bagratooni, inviting them to accept the decrees of Chalcedon but the decisive answers he received from the patriarch left him no loophole in the controversy, and so the attempt of Photius led to no result.
Peregrinations of Patriarchs
The Armennian patriarchate has never derived its designation from any fixed place of residence it has always been called ‘The Patriarchate of All the Armenians’ (Amenain Hayotz). On the strength of this title it has always been able to set itself up in that central spot in the nation where happened at the time to be the political pivot of authority in the land. Etchmiadzin, the original residence, contemporaneous with the proclamation of Christianity as the official religion, remained identical with the capital, Vagharshapat, only till the beginning of the fourth century. After the disappearance of the kingdom, and the turmoil which followed that event, an Armenian satrap, and, at the same time, the patriarch Hovhannes I, Mandakooni (484), were installed quietly at Dwin. There, at the foot of Mount Ararat, not far from Etchmiadzin, the patriarchs took up their abode until the time of Hovhannes V of Draskhanakert (898-929).
The political concessions granted by the caliphs to the Armenians were found to be far from beneficial to the nation. For, under their sanction, principalities increased in number, and their chiefs usurped the title of kings of Ani, of Van, of Kars, of Googarq a proceeding which gave rise to all kinds of disorder and rivalries. Furthermore, the creation of so many principalities in nowise precluded the permanent presence among them of Saracen high commissioners, who collected the tribute and kept an eye over the administration of these kings, over whom they exercised the power of life and death. It is needless to enter into a detailed account of the grievous consequences which resulted from so abnormal a position.
The town of Dwin, which was the residence of the Bagratooni kings before they transferred their seat to Ani, remained the patriarchal see until it was invaded and sacked by the commissioner Yoossoof. The patriarch Hovhannes V, who had gone under a truce to negotiate with him, was detained as a hostage. When, on payment of a ransom , he obtained his liberty, he had for a long time to wander about the country without being able to get back to his seat, which in fact no longer existed, for the town had been completely sacked and destroyed. It was only towards the end of his patriarchate that he decided to set up his headquarters at Van. He resided at first at the monastery of Tsorovank (Salnapat), situated near that town afterwards he followed the king to the island of Aghthamar, which thus became the patriarchal seat. It was here that this patriarch, who was surnamed Patmaban (the Historian), ended his days (929), after having, for thirty-one years, been a witness to a series of most troublous events.
Three of his successors, Stephanos (929-930), Theodoros I (930-941), and Eghishe I (941-946), resided at Aghthamar, near the kings of Van. But Anania of Moks (946-968) found it more convenient to leave the solitude of the island, and to establish himself in the heart of the country, under the protection of the kings of Ani. He settled provisionally in t he little town of Arguina, near to Ani, until a palace and a cathedral church were subsequently built in the capital itself. Anania left his mark on the religious and political affairs of the country, and by his intelligent administration assisted in securing to the Church a period of relative calm. Vahan Suni, who succeeded him (968-969), came under suspicion of attempting to adopt various Greek ceremonies and of showing a predilection for Chalcedonian principles. The Armenian episcopate, roused by his action, called together a synod at Ani, deposed Vahan, and appointed in his stead Stephanos III of Sevan (969-972). Stephanos was supported by the king of Ani, while the king of Van took the side of Vahan, and the dispute brought about disorder which convulsed the country, until the deaths both of Stephanos and Vahan. Khachik I Arsharooni (973-992), a man of ability and action, was elected by common consent. He succeeded not only in restoring peace between the various Armenian principalities, but he successfully safeguarded his co-religionists of the Byzantine provinces, who were being incited to enter the pale of the Greek Church. It was Khachik who first consecrated Armenian bishops for those of his co-religionists who dwelt in Greek dioceses. Until then there had been, in accordance with ancient custom, only one bishop in each diocese. It dates, in fact, from this period that bishops, following the rites and the professions of faith of individual Churches, began to increase in number. Khachik, after the cathedral church and the patriarchal palace at Arguina had been built, undertook the construction of a new residence at Ani, but he did not live to enjoy it. It was inaugurated by his successor, Sarkis I of Sevan (992-1019) but it was not long inhabited, as his successor, Petros I Getadarts (1019-1058), abandoned it in consequence of the capture of Ani by the Greeks (1045).
The most striking even which happened under the rule of these two patriarchs was the action taken against the sect of Thondracians, a species of Paulicians, who were hostile to all outward form of worship, and were characterized by extremem fanaticism and audacity. Hacob, bishop of Harq, took their side, and undertook to govern the Church according to the principles of the sect, without, however, openly coming to a rupture with the orthodox profession. Hacob was twice summoned to appear before an episcopal synod, and was able to clear himself, But positive proofs of his doings happened to come to light, and he was condemned and degraded by the patriarch Sarkis. At Kashi a crowd associated with this sect had destroyed the great cross of the village of Khachgugh. The authors of this sacrilege were sought out, arrested, and punished with special severity bodily punishments were resorted to, which are, in truth, not a common practice in the Armenian Church. But, in circumstances such as these, it was considered advisable to follow the example of the Greeks, who had made a special point of meeting out the utmost severity against the Paulicians, whose daring actions had, indeed, degenerated into crimes against the welfare of the community.
The capture of Ani and the dispersion of the Bagratid dynasty are connected with the memory of the patriarch Petros. The latter, a nephew of the patriarch Khachik, had been nominated in the lifetime of Sarkis, who had voluntarily abdicated (1019). He died a short time after (1066). The king Gaguik of Ani, who died in 1020, was succeeded by his eldest son Hovhannes-Smbat, who, weak-minded and sluggish, conceived the idea of strengthening his rule by negotiating with the emperor Basis II for the surrender of his kingdom after his death. The patriarch Petros himself proceeded to Trebizond (1022) to ratify this agreement with the emperor. On his return he settled at Sebastia (1023), where Senekerim, who had taken in exchange from the Greeks the province of Sebastia for his own territory of Van, was at that time reigning. From this town he went over to Tsorovank in Van (1029). On his return to Ani (1036) he was deposed by the king and superseded by Dioskoros of Sanahin but the opposition of both clergy and peple combined to drive Diokoros out in the following year (1037), and Petros regained possession of his see, which he retained for some ten years longer. The king Hovhannes-Smbat died (1042) without leaving direct issue, and the succession fell to Gaguik, son of his brother Ashot, a child of fifteen but an attempt was made to deprive him of his rights. Petros was cognizant of the agreement of Trebizond, the treaty concerning which was held by the emperor Michal IV, the Paphlagonian. Vest-Sarkis, the chief minister of the deceased king, sought to turn the succession to his own advantage Vahram Pahlavooni, who was in command of the army, was on the side of right and of national independence. The Greeks, the Tartars, and the king of Googarq disputed among themselves for the possession of Ani Vahram succeeded time after time in repelling the assaults of the enemies, and so for many years he resisted their forces and the intrigues of Petros and of Sarkis but in the end he was compelled to ield, and the town capitulated to the Greeks (1045). The patriarch was at first the object of all manner of attention and of honors at the hands of the Greeks, who took him afterwards to Constantinople, where he remained for three years. He was finally sent to Sebastia, where he ended his days (1058), in the exercise of his official functions, though his nephew Khachik was associated with him in the capacity of coadjutor. The latter administered the patriarchate during the absences of Petros, and succeeded him at this death.
Khachik II of Ani was also summoned to Constantinople, where he was subjected to all manner of ordeals, not only to make him reveal the treasures of Petros, but also to convert him to the profession of faith of the Greek Church. But his steadfastness could not be shaken in spite of the sufferings he endured. At the end of three years (1059-1062) he was banished to Thavblour, near Tarantia (Darende ) in Asia Minor, where he remained till he died (1065).
The Patriarchal Seat in Cilicia
The Greeks, having become masters of the country, endeavored to prevent the election of a new patriarch, with the object of facilitating the submission of the Armenians to an acknowledgment of the Greek Church. But the futility of their maneuvers, the complaints called forth by their conduct, and the attitude of Gaguik, king of Kars, who had exchanged his kingdom for the district of Amasia, finally induced the emperor Constantine Ducas to sanction (1065) the nomination of Grigor-Vahram, son of Grigor the Maguistrus, governor-general in the imperial service. The son had also filled the same office. A condition attached to this nomination was that the new patriarch, Grigor II Vkayase (the Martyrophile), should not have his seat in Armenia. He was obliged, in consequence, to take up his residence at Zamindia, in the new state of king Gaguik of Kars.
His patriarchate extended over forty years (1066-1105). He was endowed with both learning and ability, but his administration was not marked by any conspicuous act by reason, no doubt, of the dislike which he invariably showed for his office. It might, indeed, be held that he only accepted it in order to put an end to the vacancy in the patriarchal see, and not for the purpose of performing its duties.
He divided his attention between literary studies and pilgrimages to Palestine and Egypt, handing over all the cares of administration to vicars, whom he associated with himself as coadjutors, and on whom he conferred full powers. Among the latter, Gueorg III (George) of Lori (1067-1072), who was found incompetent for his duties, was deposed but Barsegh I (Basil) of Ani, a nephew of Grigor II, proved an aactive and wise delegate, taking upon himself all the responsibilities and power of the office (1081), until the death of his uncle, whom he succeeded without opposition (1105). The patriarchal residence during this period was supposed to be fixed at Zamindia, near Amasia, but the stay of the patriarch and of his coadjutors there was only provisional. Barsegh resided sometimes at Ani, sometimes in Cilicia and Comagene, where the Armenians had begun to emigrate, in their flight from the incursions of the Tartars.
The monastery of Shooghr, the center of monastic life, which had begun to blossom in the mountains of Sev-Ler (Amanus), was chosen as the usual place of residence, because it was situated in the territory of the Armenian principality of Cilicaia. This principality had been founded by Reuben, a descendant of the kings of Ani, and by his son Constantine (1094-1110). This prince was succeeded by Thoros, who was powerfully supported by Barsegh in his endeavor to invest his principality with a political structure and a much wider sphere of action. Barsegh died accidentally from the effects of a fall from a roof (2224). He was succeeded by the young
Grigor III Pahlavooni, who was but twenty years of age but his candidature had been recommended by Grigor II, because of the brilliant evidences of capacity he had shown.
The inactive administration of Grigor II had led to anti-patriarchs being proclaimed in the persons of Sarkis of Honi, Theodoros Alakosik, and Poghos of Varag. They were, nevertheless, compelled to give way before the activity of Barsegh I. The youth of Grigor III served the archbishop David Thornikian of Aghthamar with the pretext to get himself proclaimed patriarch. Since the see had been transferred from Aghthamar to Arguina, under Anania of Moks, the archbishops of Aghthamar had set up exceptional claims, which, however, it had become customary to tolerate. David Thornikian, who was gifted with a superabundance of energy, sought to substantiate these pretensions, and taking advantage of the youth of Grigor III and declaring his enthronement illegal, he usurped the supreme power (1114). A special assembly, composed of two thousand five hundred ecclesiastics, and assisted by the Cilician princes, condemned David ut, in spite of this decision, the anti-patriarchs of Aghthamar have retained their see up to the present day, through reconciliation with the mother Church.
The patriarchal seat, till then so uncertain as to its locality, happened to be still at Sev-Ler, when Grigor III assumed power (1113). Twelve years later he settled at the castle of Dzovk (Dlook), which belonged to his family, and where he resided for twenty-two years (1125-1147). But, being anxious to obtain a more suitable residence, he succeeded in acquiring the castle of Rhomkla (Roumkale), which was made over to him at a price by the son of count Josselin, the lord of Germanicia (Marash). For a century and a half (1147-1293), and up to the time of the capture of the castle by the Egyptians, the Armenian patriarchs made this their place of residence. Afterwards they settled at Sis, the capital of the kingdom of Cilicia, which remained the seat of the see for yet another century and a half (1293—1441). Then the patriarchal seat reverted once more Etchmiadzin. The entire duration of the peregrinations, commencing with the departure from Dwin until the return to the original see, covered a period of 540 years (901-1441).
Attempts Towards Union
The persistent tendencies towards unity on the part of the Armenian Church, and her apparently paradoxical conduct, might with good reason create a feeling of surprise, if we did not bear in mind her essentially tolerant spirit. This Church has in all good faith always welcomed every proposition which has been made in the direction of unity she has, on the other hand, never departed from her attitude of independence. The Churches with which she might have come into agreement were the Greek, the Syrian, and the Latin. The Greek Church, which was the most powerful and the most extensive, occupied incontestably a position of superiority, which was due partly to the prestige in which Hellenism was held in the ancient world, and above all on account of the political power of the Empire of the East. At all times her aim has been to exert a dominant role over the Armenian Church. She has set to work to bring the latter under subjection even to annex her, if that had been within her power. What little mention has been already made about the successive disputes with regard to the Council of Chalcedon has been sufficient to enlighten the reader on this matter. The Armenians have never demurred to any overture but at the same time they have never definitely given their adherence to any positive proposal.
The Syrian Church occupied a weaker position, and it was easy to keep in agreement with her. If, on the one hand, the Syrians were not in a position to advance exaggerated claims, on the other hand, the Armenians never pushed their requirements too far.
The Latin Church, on account of her remoteness, came first into touch with the Armenian Church at the time of the Crusades.
The Armenian Church has always understood the meaning of union in the true and strict sense of the term. She has desired to see its establishment on the basis of a spiritual communion between the Churches, of mutual respect for their several positions, of liberty for each within the limits of her own sphere, and of the spirit of Christian charity overruling all. She has never tolerated that union should take the guise of domination, nor be mistaken for proselytism. Unfortunately, the Greek and Latin Churches, on the strength of their political and social status, have always been disposed to imagine that it was only possible to realize the union of the Churches by bringing them under thralldom. To be more precise in our remarks, we would add that the spirit of domination holds the first place among the Latins, and that of proselytism among the Greeks. The Armenian has never rejected overtures which either the one or the other has made, though too often he has been disappointed in his hopes. Without being disheartened, he has repeated his endeavors at reconciliation, even while he has despaired of looking for good results.
We are unable to gainsay those who would see interested motives in this attitude of the Armenians, rather than the expression of a Christian spirit. An examination of their political and social position, which has never been either strong or independent, would be sufficient justification for their interested point of view. Confined within inland provinces, at the mercy of inroads from the east and from the west, from south and north, weak as far as numbers are concerned, destitute of material and intellectual resources, they have always sought protection at the hands of other Christian communions. But, while having the desire for union, they have never resigned themselves to yield to the religious domination of others, nor to submit to their proselytizing tendencies. This is the reason that they have remained aloof, and in a state of detachment within their own tradition. In the principles of union they could see the welfare of their interests, both social and civil, but for these they have had no desire to sacrifice their religious and Christian standpoint.
These efforts towards union have no novelty about them. They have been punctiliously maintained towards the Greeks, without any practical result being brought about and the Armenian Church has stood firm in her independent attitude, even despite the fact that her vassal dynasties have disappeared one after the other under the blows of Tartar invaders.
It was due to this circumstance that the Armenians seized the opportunity of emigrating en masse and that has been the main cause of the ruin of the Armenian fatherland. One party, taking the northern route, crossed the Caucasus and the Euxine, and went to settle in Georgia, the Crimea, Poland, Moldavia, Wallachia, and Hungary. We must not follow their footsteps. Another party took the southern route, and settled successively in Comagene, in Cicilia, in Syria, and in Caramania, where they succeeded in founding, first a principality, and then an Armenian kingdom, which finally transformed those countries into a small Armenia. It is well known that nothing but the force of circumstances induced the Armenians, when driven by the invasions from the east, to turn their eyes towards the Christian forces of the west. Documents prove a series of uninterrupted negotiations and overtures towards unity which were conducted, both with the Greeks and the Latins, during the entire period of the Reubenian dynasty in Cilicia (1080-1375). Those who choose to see in these negotiations with the Latins a complete adherence to Roman Catholicism must not forget that negotiations towards unity were at the same time being carried on with the Greeks, and that, since the days of Photius, these latter had broken away from the Latins. If, however, the Armenians had already given their adherence to the Roman Church, they could not possibly have indulged in these two negotiations! That they were doing so is proof that they maintained a position of independence.
The earliest attempts towards union began in the time of Grigor II, who, in the course of his journeys, undertaken with the object of investigating the deeds of the martyrs, tried to bring about an understanding with the Churches of Constantinople, of Alexandria, and of Jerusalem. It has, indeed, been stated in good part that for the sake of a single document he made a journey to Rome with this end in view, but it has been ascertained that this statement is due to an obvious confusion between Rome and Roum-the city of the Romans and the city of the Roumiin. However this may be, nothing was officially decided during the patriarchate of Grigor II, in spite of the every intimate terms on which he stood with the Greeks. He succeeded only in bringing to an end the reign of appression which had been inaugurated by the emperors during the patriarchates of Petros I and of Khachik II.
During the reign of Levon I (1123-1137), Greeks and Armenians came to blows, in consequence of some Greek towns being occupied by Levon. The hostilities resulted in the Armenian prince being taken into captivity, and in the occupation of the country, which lasted until Thoros II, the son of Levon, ascended the throne in succession to his father (1144).
After these hostilities, intercourse between the principality of Cilicia and the Latin principalities was brought about by the Crusades. The patriarch Grigor III and his brother, the bishop Nerses, were assembled to consider the case of the bishop Rudolph, being presided over by cardinal Alberic, the papal legate. The latter invited the patriarch Grigor III to accompany him to the Holy Places, where he even gave him a place of honor in the Council of Jerusalem (1142). It was under these circumstances that the legate urged on him to sanction his union with the Roman Church. But he was clever enough to decline adroitly the proposition, declaring that the two Churches were not separated by any essentials.
It was not deemed opportune to carry the discussion further, for the Armenians and the Latins mutually counted on each other’s support. The pope Lucius II (1144-1145) hastened to send gifts of an ecclesiastical character to Grigor III. The latter, not wishing to be outrivaled in generosity, sent a delegation to meet the pope Eugene III at Viterbo (1145-11513). Under such circumstances, the dispute broke out afresh in connection with the doctrinal and ceremonial differences between the two Churches. Eugene III wrote on the subject to Grigor III, calling upon him to comply with the practices of the Roman Church. It was thus that the first phase in the negotiations with the Latins was terminated.
The bishop Nerses, surnamed Shnorhali (the Gracious), brother of the patriarch, had just returned from the castle of Lambron, whither he had gone to put an end to the enmity which set the princes Thoros and Oshin at variance, when, as he was passing through Mopsuestia, he took it into his head to pay a visit to prince Alexis, the imperial governor of Grecian Asia (1165). The question of the union of the Churches was there thoroughly discussed and gone into by both bishop and prince, who were equally deeply conversant with religious matters. Nerses prepared an apologetic statement on the doctrine and the rites of the Armenian Church, which the prince gladly undertook to present personally to the emperor Manuel I Comnenus (1143-1180). Grigor III had quited office, having abdicated in favor of his brother (April, 1166), but before long death overtook him (July, 1166) and it was then that Nerses IV Shnorhali, being in possession of the see, published his famous Endhanrakn (Encyclical), the text of which even to this day stands as an authority in ecclesiastical questions.
The answer to the statement which had been entrusted to prince Alexis was delivered to Nerses, who was now patriarch, although it had been addressed to Grigor III (1167). Manuel, still ignorant of the abdication and the death of Grigor, asked that Nerses should be sent to Constantinople to enter upon the negotiations. The latter, being unable to leave his office, proposed to go and see the emperor, as he passed through Asia at the head of the expedition which he had got ready against the Tartars. He proposed also that the emperor should bring with him the Latin delegates, who had been sent from Rome to Constantinople and as the Syrian patriarch was also present at Rhomkla, it would be possible, in a plenary Council, to establish union between the four Churches, and so put an end to the disagreements which had existed for seven centuries. ‘For,’ said Nerses, ‘if there are certain points which the Armenians should rectify at the instance of the Greeks, there are also other points which the Greeks, in their turn, should remodel at the suggestion of the Armenians.’ At the same time he sent a second dogmatic statement to the emperor, wherein he confirmed as patriarch all that he had written as bishop.
Manuel Comnenus, who was prevented from proceeding to Asia on account of the disorders which supervened in Thessaly, directed the archimandrites Theorianus, a Greek, and Ohan Oothman an Armenian, to repair to the patriarch Nerses (1170), in order to induce him to accept the terms of the Greeks. The work known under the title ‘Disputations between Theorianus and Nerses,’ written by Theorianus after his return to Constantinople, puts into the mouth of Nerses expressions which absolutely contradict he indisputable documents which have come down to us and this is a proof that Theorianus was anxious to hide his failure. Two years later (1172) the emperor Manuel again resumed the negotiations and proposed nine points for the acceptance of the Armenians. Nerses summoned for this purpose a general synod, but he died on August 16, 1173, before it assembled. His nephew and successor, Grigor IV Tgha, sent an answer to the emperor (1175), that it was impossible for him to accept the nine points he had proposed.
The emperor Manuel the brought down his proposal to two points, those concerning the Council of Chalcedon, and the two natures in Christ (1177). Grigor IV called together the bishops and the divines of the inland provinces to deliberate over the matter but they, in the first place, refused to take the Greek proposals into consideration. The solicitations of the patriarch and of his cousin, Nerses of Lambron, archbishop of Tarsus, had the effect of causing the assembly of a synod at Rhomkla, which, far from adhering to the Greek proposals, propounded certain forms of compromise. But before the synodal letter was dispatched to Constantinople, Manuel died (1180). Moreover, the internal disorders of the empire prevented the continuance of negotiations. Thus the attempt at union with the Greeks came to an end with the life of Manuel. Isaac Angel (1185) abandoned the negotiations, and inaugurated a system of oppression against those Armenians who were settled within the empire.
Leaning Towards Unity
The political aim of the Armenians was clearly to be seen in all these attempts at reconciliation. Scarcely had they realized the futility of negotiating with the Greeks, when the East was profoundly impressed by the Crusades, which brought to the front the figure of the emperor Frederic Barbarossa, and this induced them at once to go over to the side of the Latins. The motive for this abrupt change was to be found in their desire to secure assistance, both political and military, with a view to converting their principality into a kingdom. This was essentially the objective in the mind of Prince Levon II (1185) and the promoters of this policy were the patriarch Grigor IV and the bishop Nerses of Lambron, who were pliant to the bidding of the prince. But the episcopate and the clergy of the inland provinces, known under the name of ‘the band of Eastern Divines,’ who had welcomed with satisfaction the failure of the synod of Rhomkla, were loud in their protestations against the efforts in favor of the Latins which were being made in Cilicia.
Grigor IV died without anything decisive being done. The bishops Grigor Apirat and Nerses of Lambron, probable candidates for the succession, were suspected of Western sympathies, and were consequently dislike by the Easter Divines. Prince Levon, too, felt he might gain over the sympathies of the latter if he brought about the election of Grigor V Karavej, a young bishop, twenty-two years of age. But the jealousy of the candidates, who were passed over, gave rise to false accusations against the young patriarch, who was deposed and confined in the castle of Kopitar. He was found dead near the place of his confinement (1194) and it was never discovered if his end was due to a pure accident, or was the result of a crime.
Nevertheless, the desire for union dominated the situation. Between the out-and-out opposition of the Easterns and the inclinations of the Cilicians, Prince Levon sought a neutral ground for harmony, being anxious neither to lose the royal crown which had been promised him by the Latins nor the support of the Easterns, on which he counted with a view to the extension of his power over the interior provinces of Armenia. The nomination of Grigor VI Apirat to the patriarchal see was not recognized by the Easterns, who proclaimed Barsegh II of Ani. Furthermore, they demanded that he should be recognized by the Cilicians, and that Nerses of Lambron should be deprived of participating in the affairs of the patriarchate (1195). Prince Levon apparently consented only to this latter condition. The split lasted until the death of Barsegh (1206).
Moreover, the closer intercourse between the Armenians and Latins awakened the distrust of the Greeks, and the emperor Alexis Angel seized the opportunity to renew the persecutions of the Armenians. The impetuous Nerses of Lambron was sent to Constantinople (1197) to try to bring about a fresh reconciliation, but his mission was a failure, and, being disappointed in his expectations, his zeal in favor of unit considerably abated.
Then the negotiations with the Latins were ostensibly resumed. The emperors of the East and of the West had agreed to bestow the royal crown on Levon (1196) but the investiture, which had to be conferred by the pope, was allowed to drag on for two years, a period which was employed in discussing the details and the forms of union. The pope’s legate proved to be so grasping in his demands, that the Armenian episcopate refused to submit to the. Levon, who was swayed only by solicitude for his own interests, proposed that his own personal adherence, which he considered sufficient, should be accepted but the legate particularly demanded that of the episcopate. Levon succeeded in producing, if not their unanimous adherence, at any rate that of a committee, of twelve bishops, which appeared to satisfy the legate (1198). The coronation took place on January 6, 1199 the legate placed the crown on the king’s head, and the patriarch applied the unction not long after, the patriarch died at the age of eighty-two Once the coronation had taken place, Levon, who had shown himself to be such a zealous partisan of the Latins, appeared to set no value on the condition in general which had been agreed upon for the purpose of bringing about the union.
During the patriarchate of Havhannes VI Medzabaro (1203-1221), Prince Levon went so far as to thwart the instructions of the legate, and even to drive the Latin monks out of Cilician. The patriarch, who was equally unfavorable to foreigners, took no account of the agreement of 1198. Individual secessions broke out a short time after the proclamation of the antipatriarchs, but the almost simultaneous deaths of Barsegh of Ani, of Anania of Sebastia, and of David of Arkakaghin (1206), put an end to them. The Easterns on their side rallied round Hovhannes, thanks to the intervention of Zacharia Orbelian, the representative of the King of Georgian, and the patriarch was able to end his days in peace (1221).
The long patriarchate of Constantine I of Bartzrberd (1221-1267) was favorable to Latin influence in Cilicia. The surpassing power which the Latins had a quire, owing on the one hand, to the expeditions of the emperor Frederic II (1228) and to those of King St. Louis IX (1248), and, on the other, to the tendency shown by the Armenians to avail themselves of the political and social advantages, which were the concomitants of the superior advancement of Western people, had a favorable effect on the decisions of the government. I was at this time that Italian colonies multiplied in Cilicia and at the same time many Armenian colonies were founded in Italy. The relations which were established between the two nations gave wider scope to the closeness of their connection. King Levon having died without male issue (1219), his daughter Zabel was crowned queen at the age of sixteen. Her first marriage with Philippe, the count of Antioch (1222), proved unhappy. She married for the second time Hetoom (Aiton(, son of the regent Constantine, prince of Korikos. When he was proclaimed king (1226), Hetoom turned out to be in perfect sympathy with the tendencies of the age, so much so that the patriarch and the king may be considered as the chief promoters of a closer tie between the Armenians and the Latins, as much from the political as from the ecclesiastical standpoint. But it must be said to their credit that they sacrificed none of their dignity to the furtherance of this ideal of unity. It may be added, in passing, that the same measure of praise cannot be accorded to their successors. It is an important point to note that Constantine and Hetoom, while maintaining good relations with the Latins, continued negotiating with the Greeks, through the intermediary of the bishop Hacob, surnamed Guitnakan (the Savant).
Hacob (1268-1286) and Constantine II Pronagordz (1286-1289), who came in succession after Constantine I, had the support of King Levon III (1270-1289), and did their best to protect their independence from the Latins, who lived in their very midst. But King Hetoom II (1289-1305), on the other hand, inaugurated a most subservient policy. He caused Constantine II, who resisted him, to be deposed and brought in as his successor a simple anchorite, Stephanos IV of Rhomkla, who fell into the hands of the Egyptians at the capture of Rhomkla (1292). Hertoom II and the Latinophiles succeeded finally in raising to the patriarchal see Grigor VII of Anavarza, who was a zealous partisan of their opinions.
The new patriarch began by specifying the alterations, outlined according to the formulas of the Roman Church, which he intended to introduce into the Armenian Church. He was beginning to carry his undertakings through, when disturbances in the interior put a stop to them. After order was again established, he summoned a synod at Sis, in order to obtain approval there to his plans but he died before the meeting of this synod (1307). The king succeeded in getting Constantine III of Caesarea nominated as patriarch, and made him adopt the syllabus of Grigor VII, which, although it was drawn up in a common dialect and was ill-suited to the learning of the deceased prelate, passed muster as being his handiwork.
Reckoning from this period until the transference of the see from Sis to Etchmiadzin (1441), the desire towards union is found to become more and more pronounced. To the Latinophile kings of the family of the Korikos succeeded the Latin and Roman Catholic kings of the family of the Lusignans. Meanwhile the political situation in the interior, being at the mercy of disturbing elements, was extremely critical. The Armeno-Latin understanding had excited the suspicion of the Tartars, the Turks, and the Egyptians and while the Armenians still reckoned on the protection of the Christian powers, Europe, exhausted and enfeebled, was losing ground in Asia. Religious questions had always been allied with political issues as a condition indispensable to success but even the, when a desired solution had been achieved, it was not found possible, in very truth, to produce the effect which was expected from it. The patriarchs succeeded each other, inspired sometimes by Latinophile proclivities, sometimes by nationalist longings at any rate they were powerless to contend against the Roman Catholic kings of the family of the Lusignans. The Armenian Church, however, succeeded in keeping herself definitely free from Roman Catholic principles. She maintained her administrative independence and her doctrinal individuality, although she was unable to prevent laxity of discipline and of good order. Fifteen patriarchs followed in succession at Sis, from Grigor VII to Grigor IX, during the period of a century and a half (1294 -1441) and it must be confessed, if we take into account the course of events which we have just related, that Sis was scarcely an auspicious seat for the patriarchate.
The Return to Etchmiadzin
During the first half of the fifteenth century the Armenian Church was laboring under the stress of the greatest disorder. The Kingdom of Cilicia had finally disappeared (1375) Sis, together with King Levon VI, had fallen into the hands of the Egyptians only a few Armenian chiefs, on the Amanus and in the passes of the Taurus, still held out. In order to estimate how much of her strength and of her splendor the patriarchal see had lost, it is sufficient to remark that the last six patriarchs ( 1377-1432) had only gained the pontificate through the assassination of their predecessors and through recourse to bribery. In order to recoup themselves for the outlay, they did not shrink from restoring to extortions of all kinds. The set little value on purity of doctrine, and were ready to submit to any compromise whereby profit might be gained. The Roman Catholic propaganda was successfully carried on in Cilicia, owing to the zeal of the Latin missionaries of the Franciscan Order. At the same time the Dominicans set to work to convert Great Armenia, where under the patronage of the bishop Bartholomew of Bologna. The Armenian colony, which was at that time established in the Crimea under the rule of the Genoese, entered, through the interference of the latter, into direct relations with Rome. They even sent to the Council of Florence (1439) a delegation charged with instructions to negotiate a union. The See of Aghthamar, which had severed her connection in 1114, had been reconciled to the mother Church under the patriarchate of Hacob III of Sis (1409), through the intermediary of the great divine, St. Grigor of Tathev, who had wisely set himself to the task of terminating this split. The patriarchs of Aghthamar, faced with the decay of the See of Sis, and anxious to uphold the purity of doctrine and tradition of their Church, resolved to respond to the overtures. It must be added that their intention was also to enhance the prestige of their see. The theological institute of Sunik, which had for centuries enjoyed a justly merited reputation, had in these latter years acquired a fresh addition of vitality under the direction of the holy divines, Hovhannes of Vorotn ( 1388), Maghachia of Khrim ( 1384), and Grigor of Tathev ( 1410). A considerable number of their disciples, who deplored the lamentable state of their Church, had resolved to remedy it. Such were the undercurrents and motives which induced the nation to resort to radical measures. As, at last, it began to dawn upon the people that it was neither sensible nor useful to keep up the patriarchal residence at a distance from its original site, they contemplated its re-establishment at Etchmiadzin, because of the relatively better security this town enjoyed under Persian domination. Grigor IX Mossabeguian, who, in reality, occupied the patriarchal see, when called upon to effect this transfer, at first refused, and then gave his acquiescence and a general synod of seven hundred members, composed of bishops, archimandrites, doctors of divinity, archpriests, princes and dignitaries, assembled at Etchmiadzin (May 1441), and accorded their approval to this decision. Then, to put a stop to all possible conflict between the various candidates, Kirakos of Virap, an ecclesiastic of the most saintly character and one who had taken no part in the previous agitations, was elected in place of Grigor IX, who had retired. This choice, therefore, put an end to the rivalries of Zacharia, Patriarch of Aghthamar, of Zacharia of Havootzthar, head of the Sunik Institute, and of Grigor Jalalbeguian, Archbishop of Aftaz, who found themselves passed over by this election.
A happier era for the Church appeared to be manifesting itself. All at once, there seemed to be no further need for attempts at union, and the see of Aghthamar definitely gave in her adherence capable men appeared at the head of the movement for restoration, and the strength of their combined energy was of good augury. Unfortunately, passion and prejudice began to endanger the whole situation, allowing individual interest to take the place of the general good and so the Church was unable to realize her ideal of peace. The patriarch Kirakos, being unable to dominate the situation, abdicated at the end of two years (1443) and was succeeded by Grigor X Jalalbeguian. Zacharia of Aghthamar, who caused himself to be proclaimed supreme patriarch after the resignation of Kirakos, overthrew Grigor and took possession Etchmiadzin (1461), but he scarcely maintained his position for a year. Grigor X resumed power, and those who had assisted him to reinstate himself in the See were raised to the honors of the Patriarchate as coadjutors, with full titles and full powers. It was thus that Aristakes II Athorakal and Sarkis II Adjatar were called to that office. Dating from this period, and during the next two centuries, there prevailed at Etchmiadzin the system of admitting coadjutors to the patriarchal see, who possessed the titles and prerogatives of patriarch and the object of this policy was to gratify the ambitions of certain bishops and to win over the sympathy of the factions. The one beneficial consequence which was the outcome of such a procedure was the simplicity which it introduced in the order of succession by the immediate enthronement of the senior coadjutor. For, in consequence of the then disturbed state of the country and the dispersion of the Armenians, the summoning of the electoral synods had become increasingly difficult.
Since the early centuries, the possession of the relic of the Right Arm (Adj) of St. Grigor Loosavorich had been considered to be the appanage of the patriarchal dignity it was with the ‘Holy Adj’ that consecrations were performed, as well as that of the holy chrism. This relic had accompanied the patriarchs throughout their long wanderings, consequently the transference of the See from Sis to Etchmiadzin should have been confirmed by the presence of this relic. Zacharia of Aghthamar, in order to justify his claims, had seized it and carried it off with him when he was driven out of Etchmiadzin (1462). The relic remained at Aghthamar, whence it was again carried off and converyed to Etchmiadzin by the bishop Vrtanes of Odzop (1477), who obtained possession of it under peculiar circumstances. The disorders at Etchmiadzin and the abstraction of the Holy Adj’ incited bishop Karapet of Tokat, with a view to the restoration of the See of Sis, to make a boast of the pretended possession of the Holy Adj (1447). The foundation of the patriarchal see (catholicate) of Sis dates from that time the see has continued without interruption to the present day, though she has become reconciled to the mother Church.
The See of Etchmiadzin became prey to external and internal troubles, which lasted until the election of Movses III of Tathev (1629). More than thirty dignitaries succeeded in turn to the title of patriarch or coadjutor, without so much as a single personality among them all arising who was capable of mastering the situation. The city of Etchmiadzin formed at that time a part of the Persian possessions, and the governor or khans of Erevan saw in these feuds but an opportunity for extorting money. They invariable ranged themselves on the side of the highest bidder, and when no bidder was found, the subjected the patriarchs to bodily tortures until the necessary contributions were levied. It was not possible under such conditions to undertake any serous or regular work, and the period may be characterized as one of complete decline. Only one patriarch is worthy of mention, Michael of Sebastia (1545-1567-1576), who knew how to curb the ambitions of the patriarch both of Aghthamar and of Caspian Albania. The institution of Armenian printing is due to him. He sent Abgar of Tokat to Italy (1562) to make a study of the process and he furnished him with letters of introduction to Pope Pius IV to assist him in his task. The earliest publications made their appearance in Venice in 1565 under the superintendence of Abgar. There are, however, earlier existing publications which date back to 1512 but these are the work of European publishers and of Armenian traders. The initiative of the Patriarch Michael had the most happy results from that time Armenian printing establishments sprang up at Venice, Rome, Constantinople, Etchmiadzin, Ispahan, and Amsterdam. The most important and the best among all the works was the illustrated edition of the Bible by the bishop Voskan, which was published at Amsterdam in 1666.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople
The creation of a special see at Constantinople took place at the same time as the transference of the supreme patriarchal see from Sis to Etchmiadzin. After the conquest of Constantinople by Mohammed II, he introduced radical measures for ensuring the submission of the Greeks. The Ottoman laws were entirely of a religious character, and individual and social rights drew their inspiration whole from Islamic principles. The Muslim powers, when bringing under subjection Christian countries, found themselves faced with the alternatives, either of imposing their religion on the conquered peoples, or of granting them an administrative and social autonomy. Neither of these two methods could be applied to Constantinople, which happened to be proclaimed the capital of the new Muslim empire. It seemed necessary, therefore, that the conquering power should grant to the religious head of the Greeks those social and civil privileges which were strictly connected with their religion. Thus all matters concerning family life, such as marriage, public instruction, charities, worship and its ministers, spiritual administration, etc., were made over to the jurisdiction of the religious head. In this way the patriarch found himself invested with a kind of civil jurisdiction or imperial patriciate (1453).
After having thus settled the enactment of private rights for the Greeks, the conquering power felt it would be advisable to set, in opposition to them, another Christian element, which it deemed to be more attached to its own interests. The Turks accordingly caused the removal of a large Armenian colony to Constantinople, which was portioned off to the several quarters of the city in divergent directions, both inside the walls and in the neighborhood of the principal gateways. At the same time, as an additional precaution, the Greeks were massed together in the central quarters, far removed from the towers and the ramparts. The Armenians had enjoyed the confidence of the Turks since the time of Osman I Ghazi and the new colony was placed on the same footing as the Greek element. Bishop Hovakim, metropolitan of the Armenian colonies in Asia Minor, was translated from Broosa (Bursa?) to Constantinople, where he was invested with the titles and honors, as well as privileges, similar to those accorded to the Greek patriarch (1461).
It was in this manner that the two patriarchs, Greek and Armenian, became recognized as the heads of the two great orthodox Christian parties in the East that division was established on the basis of a profession of faith, independently of any consideration of race or of nationality. All the orthodox dyophysites, vis. Greeks, Bulgarians, Servians, Albanians, Wallachians, Moldavians, Ruthenians, Croatians, Caramanians, Syrians, Melkites, and Arabs, became associated, under their respective chiefs, with the jurisdiction of the Greek patriarch while the orthodox monophysites, comprising the Armenians, Syrians, Chaldaeans, Copts, Georgians, and Abyssinians, became subject under their respective chiefs, to the jurisdiction of the Armenian patriarch.
The Jews at that time enjoyed no legal status, and the Roman Catholics or Levantines were looked upon as foreigners so that the native-born who embraced Roman Catholicism were not able to take advantage of their conversion so far as affected certain external religious acts, such as baptism, marriage, burial, etc. This state of affairs lasted uninterruptedly for centuries, and it was only towards the middle of the last century that it came to an end through the creation of a Catholic patriarchate (1830) this creation led to others, according to their dissimilarity of rites and professions of faith.
The Armenian patriarchs of Constantinople applied themselves, in the course of this same period, to centralize as far as possible the affairs of their people in the provinces of the interior. Their administrative sphere of action gradually extended itself over all the provinces of the empire, until it comprised the dioceses under the spiritual control of the patriarchates of Sis, of Aghthamar, and of Jerusalem. This history of this first epoch bears record only of conflicts between the sees and the dioceses, and these took place in an environment of political disorders and unceasing wars. But, in order not to encumber this historical sketch with narratives which can only make us deviate from our purpose, we must pass them by in silence.
The Period of Awakening
We have been over-scrupulous in describing the lamentable state into which the Armenian nation and its Church had fallen in the Middle Ages. But it must, in justice, be added that his Church was not responsible for her misfortunes for the sad state of her condition, both social and civil, should not be laid at her door, where some apologists of Romanism have ventured to place it. The decadence of the West in the Middle Ages, and the abuses which were committed there in the name of religion, do they not in themselves suffice to give the lie to their assertions?
Before passing a severe judgment on the Christians of the East, we should call to mind the ruin and desolation which were spread far and wide by the hordes coming from the east and the south, as well as the persecutions under which they never ceased to be victimized at the hands of the conquerors. We should consider too the intellectual darkness in which the rulers delighted to enshroud the conquered races the total absence of any means, moral or material, whereby they could dispel such gloom and, lastly, the enormous sacrifices to which they had to submit, in order to maintain even their material existence.
But, notwithstanding these circumstances, the signal for a renewed vitality must at least be placed to the credit of the Armenian nation, which was the first in the East to make successful efforts to escape from a position so difficult, which no social amelioration had the power of lessening and despairingly she ever stretched out her hands towards any quarter where she seemed to see a glimmering of hope for her escape.
The Renaissance had hardly begun to cast its first rays over the West before the Armenians hastened to flock into Europe in their eagerness for intellectual regeneration. The mission from a remote corner of Asia, which was sent by the patriarch Michael when the invention of Gutenberg was first heard of, furnishes a remarkable instance of their zeal. Unfortunately, at that moment the West was a prey to religious fanaticism, which placed it at the mercy of a most intolerant policy. It would do nothing for those who refused to yield to the offers of Roman Catholicism. The indispensable condition for obtaining aid and protection was submission to the papacy, the supreme arbiter of the period. Could they who instituted the auto da fe’ be reasonable expected to bring succor to the Churches of the East? Can it be forgotten that the disciples of Francis of Assisi, of Dominic Guzman, and Ignatius Loyola applied their apostolic zeal towards the conversion of the ancient Christians of the East to the new Christianity of the West? Ceaselessly they labored to force upon the custodians of the dogmas of the primitive Church the innovations of Latin scholasticism.
Under these difficult circumstances, the Armenians pursued a course of action which was at times conciliator, and at times uncompromising: conciliatory whenever the required sacrifice did not exceed the limits of a wise tolerance uncompromising when the demands went beyond the voice of prudence conciliatory when they looked forward to some advantage uncompromising when the gain had to be purchased at the price of too great a sacrifice. There were those, however, who did not hesitate to push the spirit of conciliation to its furthest limits, carried away, as they were, by the ardor of their progressive conviction but others refused to surrender aught, even when it was but a seeming surrender. These facts must not be lost sight of if we have a mind rightly to account for the events which gave rise to the desire to take a share in that activity of intellect which was then taking place in the West.
Among those who devoted themselves to such activity we should mention among the foremost the patriarch Movses III of Tathev, who, even before his accession, had consecrated his life to the work of reform and reorganization. It was to his zeal for restoration that the See of Etchmiadzin owes her recovery from a state of complete ruin. He procured from the Persian government a cessation of those exactions by which the Church was victimized, and even an exemption from taxes and he successfully carried through a reform of ecclesiastical customs and doctrines. His elevation to the patriarchate was but the reward for services he had rendered, for his energy on the throne was of brief duration, three years only (1629-1632). Philippos (Philip) of Aghbak (1633-1655), who succeeded him, continued the work of reformation begun by his predecessor. He undertook a journey to Turkey, where he was powerfully instrumental in the settlement of the affairs of the patriarchates of Constantinople and of Jerusalem. He assembled a synod in the latter town (1651), in order to put an end to the disputes which set Etchmiadzin and Sis at variance and he accorded his approval to a communion between Sis and the mother Church, on the same lines as that which had been accorded previously in the case of the See of Aghthamar. Furthermore, he endeavored to improve the material conditions of the patriarchal see, and for that purpose he undertook the irrigation of the country round Etchmiadzin by means of an ingenious system of canals.
Hacob IV of Djoolfa (1655-1680), who succeeded him, followed in the same path. But unfortunately serious complications, which broke out at Constantinople, engrossed his attention. Missionaries from Rome, under the direction of father Clement Galano, had come to win over to their cause a body of Armenians. One of the cleverest of their party, Thomas of Aleppo, even succeeded in taking possession of the patriarchate, but he did not hold it long for he was at once driven away by the people. At the same time bishop Yeghiazar of Aintab, who had occupied successively the patriarchates of Constantinople and of Jerusalem, caused himself to be proclaimed supreme patriarch of Turkey, in opposition to Etchmiadzin. Hacob was obliged to go in person to Constantinople (1664, where he was fortunate enough to restore matters to some degree of order (1667. But a renewal of dissensions, and the attempts of bishop Nicol to force Roman Catholicism on the Armenians of Poland, made it necessary for him to go a second time to Constantinople (1679). He undertook this task notwithstanding his great age, but he was overcome by its hardships, and died at the age of eighty-two (1680). He was buried in the cemetery of Pera, where, to the present day, his grave is the object of veneration to the faithful.
The see remained vacant for two years, in consequence of the dissensions which were stirred up by Eghiazar. It was only after this delay that the election took place, and then the choice actually fell on the latter. His pontificate, which lasted nine years (1682-1691), was productive of happy results. For, when once his ambition was satisfied, he was lacking neither in good intention nor in ability, and all his efforts were in the right direction. He, too, from among the succession of supreme patriarchs of the Armenian Church, has bequeathed a memory which is justly held in honor.
A Survey of the Eighteenth Century
The love of progress and of knowledge, which was fostered by the Armenians, who let no obstacle stand in the way of their indulging in it to the fullest, had the effect of assisting, in a marked manner, the efforts of the Roman missionaries towards the spreading of their faith.
A whole band of active partisans of Roman Catholicism had been established at Constantinople during the eighteenth century. They had allowed themselves to be won over by the missionaries from Pera, who were under the patronage and leadership of the representatives of the Most Christian kings. Although the new Catholics did not cease to be officially dependent on the Armenian patriarchate, they formed an active party, whose aim was nothing short of usurpation of the national administration. The earnest guardians of the Church, strong both in number and in their influence with the Turkish Council, and true to their traditions, employed every means to thwart these intrigues. As these neophytes maintained constant relations with foreigners, endeavor was made to cause the eyes of the government to view them with suspicion. Such were the origin and the meaning of the measures which were instigated by the patriarchate and imposed by the government against those Armenians who had become Catholics these measures, which have been termed religious persecutions, were in reality but weapons of war. The neo-Catholics, on their part, did not hesitate to make use of similar methods against the patriarchate, which they accused of encouraging Muscovite aims.
Apart from Constantinople, Roman Catholicism obtained some measure of success at Mardin and Aleppo. The bishops Melcon Tasbasian and Abraham Ardzivian openly declared in its favor at these places. This defection soon brought on itself the coercive measures of the patriarchate. The Catholics, in their turn, took advantage of the influence of the French ambassadors to coerce the patriarchate. The fate of the patriarch Avedik of Tokat is well known through the interference of the king’s ambassador, he was first imprisoned at Seven-Towers (1703), and then, after being secretly abducted from Tenedos, where he had been exiled, was taken to France (1706), where he was brought to trial and condemned by the Inquisition (1711). Special mention should also be made of the case of Mkhitar of Sebastia, an ecclesiastic of progressive and liberal views, who tried to take advantage of the Venetian supremacy in the Morea, in order to lay the foundation there of a monastic establishment for educational purposes (1712) under the auspices of Catholicism but he was obliged to relinquish his purpose in consequence of the Venetians retiring from the country. Then he decided to settle in the small island of San-Lazaro at Venice (1717). Mkhitar had to yield to the demands of the Roman Curia in order to be able to devote himself without restraint to his work of intellectual culture he wisely abstained from being a part to the work of proselytism. Such a line of conduct, which was in keeping with national interests, had become traditional among his congregation during the course of the eighteenth century but later, other opinions took root in their midst. Nevertheless, it is a grateful task to pay homage to the Mkhitarists of Venice and of Vienna for the great services they have rendered to the nation by enriching so profusely the Armenian language and literature.
Another monastic institution, the Antonian Society, was founded at the same period by Abraham Attar on Mount Lebanon in the Maronite country. While answering in every respect to the purpose which was kept in view in selecting a Latin country, the position of Lebanon afforded the further advantage that it maintained touch with the nation. The Armenians of the southern provinces of Turkey, whose minds were still impressed with the memory of the Cilician kingdom, were more inclined to lean towards Roman Catholicism. They were even bold enough, with the cooperation of two bishops and a few priests, to establish a Catholic Patriarchal See in Cilicia. The first incumbent was the bishop Abraham Ardzivian (1740), who hastened to appear before pope Benedict IOV in the capacity of supree patriarch of the Armenians The pope, indeed, was aware of the value to be placed on his pretensions, but he did nothing to discourage them for he saw therein an opportunity of realizing his plans in the East. Accordingly he gave his sanction to the establishment of an Armeno-Catholic patriarchate which was officially subject to the Roman Curia (1742). [The terms ‘Catholic’ and ‘Armeno-Catholic’ used hereafter always indicate Uniate Armenians under the jurisdiction of Rome.]
These Roman Catholic establishments, supported by Roman Propaganda and actively patronized by the French government, were potent instruments for the extension of Catholicism among the Armenians during the eighteenth century. However, it may be mentioned that the results which accrued were in no way commensurate wither with the efforts made or with the means employed. The closer contact with European ideas, which was the direct cause of proselytism, did, in fact, contribute to the raising of the intellectual level of the nation, but we cannot help thinking that this result might have been brought about by other means the natural evolution of progressive thought would have met the case. In proof of this, we have the initiative of Vardan of Baghesh, the superior of the monastery of Amlordi, who knew how to give a brisk impulse to the cause of public education in the provinces. His disciples, Hovhannes Kolot and Hacob Nalian, patriarchs of Constantinople, and Grigor Shkhthayakir, patriarch of Jerusalem, were able to render conspicuous services without departing from their loyalty to the Church. It was due to their efforts that the eighteenth century gave tokens of a visible progress both in national life and in matters connected with the Church.
We have given in these later pages a preponderant place to the patriarchate of Constantinople. We feel justified in taking this course, from the fact that the events which bore on the history of the supreme patriarchate had already begun to lose their importance. From the day that a patriarchal see and a strong colony were established in the capital of Turkey, that city became the center of the Armenian nation. The ten supreme patriarchs who succeeded Yeghiazar of Aintab, from Nahapet of Edessa (1691-1705) to Hacob V of Shamakhi (1759-1763), did not distinguish themselves y any act worthy of mention their sole distinction lay in their devotion to the welfare of the patriarchate. Simeon of Erevan (1763-1780), who succeeded them, is looked upon as the noblest personality of the age. His untiring energy was productive of much good work, such as an exact cadastral survey, whereby the landed interest of Etchmiadzin was brought under settlement, his demand for the restoration of the rights pertaining to the supreme see, the organization of a college, the introduction of printing, and the erection of a paper mill. To him also is due the establishment of the first intercourse with the Russian empire, the institution of patriarchal archives, and lastly the revision of the liturgical calendar, which, in spite of some critics, has become general in the Church.
Ghookas (Luke ) of Karin, who followed him (1780-1799), was anxious to complete the work begun by Simeon. He formed a permanent council of six bishops to assist the patriarch, and to ensure regularity in ecclesiastical matters. After this he set to work to decorate the interior of the patriarchal cathedral.
Zacharia Phokoozian (1773-1799), who is the last in the line of patriarchs of Constantinople in this century, was a worthy rival to Simeon in his energy for reformation. What redounded most to his credit was his communication of a lively impulse to the education of the clergy. He devoted himself personally to their instruction, in order to train up capable disciples then, when he had equipped them, he placed them at the head of scholastic work and in administrative offices. The college of Armash which was given so many distinguished patriarch and bishops to the Church, was founded by Bartholomew Kapootik and Poghos Karakoch, both disciples of Zacharia. [This college was destroyed by the Turks during the First World War.]
A Survey of the Nineteenth Century
Ghookas and Zakaria both died in the same year (1799), and the nineteenth century opened with electoral struggles of an intense character, having for their object the filling up of the vacant Sees of Etchmiadzin and of Constantinople. The great Revolution, which then convulsed the West, did not fail to have some influence on the temper of the Armenians. Hovsep Arghootian, David Ghorghanian, and Daniel of Soormari disputed over the See of Etchmiadzin, and each had his partisans. The first of these succeeded in securing election to the patriarchal throne, but died before he obtained possession of it. His rival, the next in order, attained to it and held it for a few years but he was deposed, and succeeded by the third, Daniel of Soormari (1807-1808). It was not till then that peace was restored to Etchmiadzin.
The heads of the Church at Constantinople followed with a rapidity of succession which was no less remarkable. Daniel of Soormari, David Ghorghanian, Hovhannes Chamashrtjian, Grigor of Khamsi, and again Hovhannes, came in succession within the space of three years (1799-1802). The last-named along managed to remain in power for any length of time (1802-1813) and he was wise enough to take advantage of this lull to restore some little order and regularity into the conduct of affairs.
The essential and characteristic feature of the nineteenth century is the intervention of the nation in matters affecting the Church, and the cooperation of national councils in her administration. The first experiment of introducing this system was made in order to settle in some measure the issue which had been raised by the partisans of Roman Catholicism. It was necessary to arrive at a compromise so as to avoid a split, which threatened to assume gigantic proportions, fostered as it was by the attitude of the French government anxious to extend he influence in the East. To this end a commission was first formed, which was in agreement with the patriarchate (1810). Later on another took its place (1816), for the purpose of bringing about a conference between the theologians of the two dissentient confessions of faith. Three years were spent in controversy (1817-1820), without any understanding being arrived at the tendency being rather to accentuate their differences. While the desire on one side was towards separation, the other upheld to the uttermost the principle of union. At length, after the Russo-Turkish peace of 1829 and the intervention of the European powers, the Ottoman government, with a view to ending the disputes, determined to establish a community or autonomous nationality (millet), which went under the name of Katolik (Catholic). This community comprised all the partisans of Roman Catholicism who were Ottoman subjects, without distinction of race or of ritual (1830).
This solution had the effect of encouraging the Protestant powers to follow the same example and the first missionary landed at Constantinople one year after the institution of the Katolik community (1831). From this moment proselytism increased considerably, being helped along by scholastic establishments and by pecuniary aids, which made it possible to buy men’s consciences. The work was so well done that soon a new community or autonomous nationality (millet) came into existence under the name of Protestan (Protestant), including within its fold Protestants of every race and of every confession of faith the exclusive basis of a profession of faith without distinction of race, ended by becoming Armenian. And we do not hesitate to confess that if these establishments led to an enfeeblement of the nation, they at any rate served in procuring for her certain advantages as regards her relations with the Western world.
During this same period Etchmiadzin was the seat of great political changes. As the Persian rule, carried on through Khans who were almost autonomous, became more and more insupportable, the Armenians began to turn their eyes towards the tsar of Russia. In the meantime they tried to escape their present persecution by emigrating en masse into Russian territory but, as a more effectual remedy for the state of affairs, they craved the establishment of the tsar’s government in the Caucasus. As the archbishop Hovsep Arghootian had been the instigator of this policy, Catherine II (1762-1796) and the emperor Paul (1796-1801) showered their favors on him, and the title of prince was bestowed on the members of his family. Since then Russian domination has made headway and her invasions have brought about the occupation of Erevan and Etchmiadzin, a consummation in which Armenian volunteers, under the command of Archbishop Nerses of Ashtarak (1828), bore their share. On this occasion the emperor Nicolas I (1825-1855) was lavish with his promises, even to the extent of dangling before their eyes the glittering hope of political autonomy. AS a pledge of his good intentions, he even, for the time being, gave the name of Armenia to his new provinces. But it was no more than a mere political move planned with the object of making more easy his scheme of domination. When once the country was subdued, the tsar’s government attempted to bring the spiritual element also under subjection. Thus it was that the regulation (polojenia) which was specially enacted (1836) for the purpose of establishing connection with the patriarchal administration, opened very wide the door for the interference of the political authority. Any comments which the Armenians of Russian, Turkey, and of India might have made in this connection were in vain, and the Polojenia has remained unmodified and in full force. [After the establishment of the Soviet regime in Armenian, the Polojenia was abolished.]
All this time the Armenian patriarchate of Constantinople was being administered under the unrestricted authority of the patriarchs. These, in their turn, were subject to the influence and superior control of the amiras, who were the leading men of the nation. It is true that these latter had no claim to distinction save that which their wealth conferred on them. Bt the misplacement of power inseparable from so anomalous a position, when it was coupled with progress of thought and the appearance of a new generation educated in France, led to the aspiration of all classes in the social scale to take their share in public affairs. From this time forward, councils came into existence in accordance with elective principles. At first a chief council was appointed solely for the management of finance (1841). Later another was established for purposes of general administration, consisting of fourteen ecclesiastics and twenty laymen (1847) and from the latter sprang, still later, an offshoot in the form of a special council of public instruction (1853). As the need was felt for regulations in order to fix the sphere of action of these councils and to regularize their system of management, a constitution (sahmanadroothium), or Armenian statute, was finally worked into shape (1860). This important title-deed was subject to the sanction of the Ottoman government, but its approval was gained with some difficulty for it was not till after three years of negotiations, and repeated popular demonstrations, that the Turkish Council resolved to give effect to the proposed procedure (1863).
These regulations, which may be regarded as the outcome of the intellectual progress which the masses had acquired, gave, in their turn, the motive power towards national development, thanks to that spontaneous evolution which is ever innate in the intellectual and social sphere, whereby action creates action, each in turn being the cause of new results. It is by virtue of this natural law that progress is disseminated among the communities of mankind. The nineteenth century has given tokens of a marked improvement in the social order, by the increase of schools and the growing number of students who have been taught in the European universities, by the spread of primary education, by the establishment, both in Turkey and in Russia, of commercial houses and of banks, and by the preferment of individuals of Armenian origin to the highest political and diplomatic offices in the countries of their adoption.
The close relationship which has always existed between the nation and her Church has been the cause of the latter, too, in her turn, gaining considerably through the emancipation of thought. A more systematic and a more active administration, a better instructed clergy, more suitable buildings, larger offerings, more solemn ritual, more edifying sermons, such have been the results of the work of progress during the course of this century. This uninterrupted growth of character has, of necessity, led the longings of the Armenians towards a more perfect ideal of social welfare, and has moved them to force on the ears of the civilized world their legitimate desire for a real participation in the blessings of modern civilization.
While on this subject, we might take it a stage further and expand on the character of the Armenian element, specifying the qualifications which it has always exhibited by brilliant evidences in the various branches of human activity, and describing the role it has played in the countries and with the peoples among whom Armenians have taken up their abode. But, for the moment, we will abstain from making any allusions of this nature. However, in closing this chapter, we will sum up the situation by adding that the movement towards civilization, progress, and liberty, which has been stirred in the breast of the Armenian nation in Russia, in Turkey, and even in Persia, in modern times, is in a great measure due to the action of her clergy.
The Twentieth Century
The beginning of the twentieth century is distinctly characterized by great literary, philanthropic, and religious enterprises among the Armenians. Those in Russia and Turkey gave great poets, writers, intellectuals and scholars, among whom were highly distinguished and learned clergymen. Everywhere there flourished institutions of higher learning, both colleges and seminaries and philanthropic organizations were established. During 1912-1913 the Armenians all over the world celebrated with exuberant joy and enthusiasm the one thousand five hundredth anniversary of the invention of the Armenian alphabet, and the four hundredth anniversary of Armenian printing.
Unfortunately, this period of great enlightenment and hope came to an end with the dire persecutions and unspeakable massacres perpetrated by the Turks on the innocent Christian population of the Turkish Empire, the great majority of which were Armenians. The story of those horrible events between 1894-1896, in 1909, and specially during th First World War, is known throughout the world. These massacres and deportations are depicted as ‘the blackest’ page in the modern history of mankind.
The Great Powers, in whose ‘Christianity and humanity’ the Armenians put their faith, did nothing to prevent these inhuman acts. All the appeals on the part of the Armenians to these Powers for justice came to naught. The Turks were rewarded at the expense of a Christian nation.
Out of the 2,200,000 Armenians of Turkey only about 1 million survived. These survivors were dispersed mainly in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, France, and the Americas. All the Armenian provinces of the Ottoman Empire, except that of Constantinople, were ravaged and laid in ruins. The See of Aghthamar was wiped out. Most of the Armenians in the Eastern Provinces who escaped found refuge in Russian Armenia. Multitudes of Armenians were massacred in Cilicia and deported to Syria. Fortunately, the age-long dream of an Armenian homeland became a reality in 1918 by the establishment of an independent republic. In December, 1922, that homeland, though decreased in size, was definitely incorporated in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, and since then has been experiencing a renaissance unique in its long and glorious history.
The Catholicate of Etchimiadzin
The Supreme Holy See was stripped of all its civil rights and possessions by the measures of secularization, set out by the new Russian regime. Only the patriarchal residence and the surrounding monasteries were left in the hands of the Catholicos. The Statute, Polojenia, was abolished. The Synod changed its name to Supreme Spiritual Council. The previous mode of election of the catholicos, however, remained in effect. Thus, it was according to the ancient custom, and not that of Polojenia, that the General Assembly, composed of diocesan delegates from all over the world, elected the last two catholicoi, Khoren I in 1932 and Guerg VI in 1945. The General Assembly during those two elections found itself unembarrassed by the Soviet government Statute. The elections took place in perfect liberty without any interference by the government.
The Catholicate of Etchmiadzin now exercises jurisdiction over the patriarchates of Jerusalem and Constantinople and over all the other Armenian dioceses in the world except those of the Catholicate of Cilicia.
After the First World War, when thousands of Armenians were scattered in Europe and America, the see of Etchmiadzin appointed and sent special legates to supervise and direct their spiritual affairs. These legates were commissioned by the catholoicos to choose prelates for the new dioceses and rectors for the churches, to convene local synods, and to found churches and parochial schools. They were given full power to act in all religious matters. They became the link between the Mother See and the Diaspora.
In 1920 Archbishop Khoren Mooratbeguian of Erevan was sent as legate to Europe and America. In 1925 Archbishop Zaven Ter Eghiayan, the former patriarch of Constantinople, was appointed by Etchmiadzin to look after the spiritual affair or the Armenians in Europe. Two years later, Bishop Grigor Balakian of Paris was assigned to the same position. In 1929 Archbishop Thorgom Gooshakian, the prelate of Egypt, was nominated as patriarchal legate for Europe. In 1934 Archbishop Gareguin Hovsepian of Etchmiadzin was sent as legate for all Armenians in the Dispersion. During the Second World Was a delegation was sent to the Middle East to participate at the election of the Catholicate of Cilicia. In 1 946 Archbishop Artavazd Surmeyan of Beirut, Lebanon, was appointed to Paris as patriarchal legate for the Armenians in Western Europe. In 1953 he was followed by the Archimandrite Serovbe Manookian of Jersualem. South American was assigned its own legate in the person of Archbishop Garguin Khachatoorian, the former prelate of California. After his election as patriarch of Constantinople in 1950, bishop Sion Manookian succeeded him at his post. Some of these legates, especially Archbishop Hovsepian, have raised funds to aid the Mother See.
After the death of Catholicos Guerg Soorenian, May 8, 1930, Khoren Mooratbeguian was elected on November 10, 1932. He reigned only six years and died on April 4, 1938. During his reign, in 1934-1935, the one thousand five hundredth anniversary of the translation of the Holy Bible into Armenian was celebrated by all Armenians in the world. From his death until 1945 the See remained vacant. On June 22, 1945, the General Assembly was convened in Etchmiadzin and elected as catholicos the locum tenens, Archbishop Gueorg Cheorektjian. Before his election, archbishop Cheorektjian received back certain churches and monasteries with the territories from the Soviet government. It was through his appeals that Armenians everywhere contributed big sums for David of Sasoon Tank Division, which during the Second World War fought with distinction within the armies of the Allied Nations. During 1946-1947 more than 75,000 Armenians were repatriated, mostly from the Near East and Europe. In 1951-1952, in answer to his encyclical, the Armenians in Russia and the Diaspora celebrated the 1500 th anniversary of the Battle of Avarayr, which was fought in 451 by the Armenians against the Zoroastrian Persians for the preservation of Christianity and the defense of their fatherland.
Catholicos Gueorg VI died on May 9, 1954. He was an influential and resourceful leader who had come to power just at the precise moment in history when the Church needed the very qualities of leadership which His Holiness incarnated. A man of infinite tact and statesmanship, who in these times of political antagonism was able to carry on the normal relations between the Holy See and the dioceses. Through his tireless efforts the official review of the Catholicate, which for about two decades had ceased to appear, was republished in 1944. The famous academy of Etchmiadzin, which was closed in 1917, was reopened by him in 1945. It is at present the only theological institution preparing clergymen for the dioceses in Armenia and Russia.
The Church of Armenia has taken part in the recent Ecumenical Movement of the Christian Church. To the Lausanne World Conference on Faith and Order of 1927, and to the Edinburgh in 1937, the See of Etchimiadzin sent delegates with the instruction that they were ‘to participate as consultants, give a whole picture of the Conference, and report the decisions to His Holiness the Catholicos to be deliberated upon and examined in a General Ecclesiastical Assembly, and according to the latter’s resolutions, the delegates will decide their position in the future meetings of the Conference..’ At the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Amsterdam, archbishop Artavazd Surmeyan and archimandrite Shnorhk Koallostian attended as observers. Upon the invitation of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan and Bishop Terenig. Poladian were present at the Lund Conference of 1952 as special consultants the same clergymen took part as observers in the deliberations of the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Evanston, IL in 1954.
Because of the massacres and deportations of the First World War, about one million Armenians were dispersed to the four corners of the world. In the new countries where they dwelt theChurch had to face new situations. In view of this fact the last three catholicoi, Gueorg V, Khoren I, and Gueorg VI, determined to draw up a new constitution for the Armenian Church that would be applied everywhere by all the faithful. That constitution was to be based upon the rites, doctrines, canons, and traditions of the Church of Armenia. To this end, in June, 1917, seventy delegates were convened in Etchmiadzin from the Armenian dioceses of Russia to consider mainly ritual and canonical problems. The two Assemblies which met in 1932 and 1945 did preliminary work to draw up a new statute and delegated the task to a general synod to be held in Etchmiadzin for that purpose. Because of adverse political conditions, such a synod has not yet been convened.
During the Second World War the Soviet government created a Council for the affairs of religious worship. The purpose of this Council was to facilitate the relations between the State and the Churches or the religious bodies, without interfering in the internal life of the latter. Soviet Armenia has her own Council in Erevan which deals solely with the affairs of the Armenian Church.
The Catholicate of Cilicia
The Catholicate of Cilicia was struck by the same fate as that of the Mother See. About half a million of the Armenian population of Cilicia were tortured, deported, and killed in the period of 1915-1918. After the Armistice, as soon as peace was restored, the survivors returned to rebuild their ruined homes. But hardly had these persecuted people settled in their fatherland, when France abandoned Cilicia and thus again persecutions and deportations ensued. Armenians fled Cilicia in panic and despair. The patriarchal see at Sis was confiscated. The catholicos Sahak II Khabayan took refuge in Syria with the remnants of his flock. Until 1930 he did not have religious quarters in which to reside or the facilities to organize the spiritual affairs of his people.
But the re-establishment and the organization of the Cilician See were indispensable for the catholicos, specially so because both Etchmiadzin, the center of the Supremem Hierarchy, and the patriarchate of Constantinople were very limited in their action. The patriarchate of Jerusalem facilitated the task of the catholicos by placing at his disposal certain buildings and properties which it had held from ancient time s in Syria (Damascus and Laodicea) and Lebanon (Beirut). Eghishe Doorian, the Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem, yielded to His Holiness Sahak II not only these possessions of his See but also this portion of his diocesan jurisdiction These events took place in 1929.
As a result of this, in the following year the catholicos established his seat in Antelias, Lebanon, a village about four miles north of the city of Beirut. On this property, beginning in 1922, the Near East Relief had been caring for numerous Armenian orphans. Since 1 928 the orphanage had been vacant. Thanks to the beneficence of the Near East Relief the Catholicos installed the See in Antelias. In the fall of 1930 a theological seminary was opened at the same location under the direction of bishop Shahe Kasparian.
After the installation of the See, the organization of the dioceses was begun. Catholicos Sahak II, because of his advanced age, called to his help, as coadjutor, archbishop Babguen Guleserian, the former prelate of Angora, Turkey, who at that time was teaching in the Armenian seminary of St. James, Jerusalem. Archbishop Babguen organized the dioceses in the regions of Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus, Laodicea, Antioch, and in the Isle of Cyprus. He was solemnly consecrated Catholicos in Aleppo, on April 25, 1931. The following year Catholicos Babguen I established a printing press and began to publish the Hask, the official, religious, literary, and philological monthly review of the Catholicate.
Babguen I died in 1936. Then Archbishop Petros Sarajian was appointed by the vernable Catholicos Sahak II, as vicar-general. He made possible the purchase of the Antelias property from the Neaer East Relief. In 1939 Sahak II, the ninety-year-old Catholicos, died. He was succeeded by Petros Sarajian, who died the following year.
In 1939 the French government ceded Sandjak, the northern territory of Syria, to the Turks, In consequence of this, the Armenians in the diocese of Antioch, numbering 25,000, left their churches, schools, and all their possessions, and took refuge in Syria and Lebanon, where the great majority are still in dire need. Thus one of the five dioceses of the Cilician Catholicate was annihilated.
On May 10, 1943, Archbishop Gareguin Hovsepian, the primate of the Armenian Church in North America, was unanimously elected Catholicos. In June, 1945, Catholicos Hovsepian, with some ecclesiastical delegates from the Cilician See, went to Etchmiadzin and participated in the election of the supreme patriarch of the Church of Armenia. It was the first time in history that a Catholicos of Cilicia had participated in the election of the Catholicos of all the Armenians. He presided at the meetings and also at the consecration of the supreme catholicos.
During the reign of Catholicos Hovsepian the See became very prosperous, specially in educational, literary, and philological publications. The number of the students at the Antelias Theological Seminary, which was about twenty, was raised to seventy. The number of the faculty was also increased. Bishop Terenig Poladian was appointed dean. The seminary sends some of its graduates to European and American universities to acquaint them thoroughly with Western thought.
Catholicos Hovsepian died on June 21, 1952. Besides being a great ecclesiastic, he was also a foremost scholar. Through him and Gueorg VI the relations between the hierarchical sees became very congenial and thus the unity of the Armenian Church in its entirety was accomplished. At present the see is vacant. The affairs of the Catholicate are administered by a locum tenens. The dioceses over which the Catholicate of Cilicia at present exercises jurisdiction are Aleppo, Damascus, Lebanon, and Cyprus.
The Patriarchate of Jerusalem
The patriarchate of Jerusalem suffered less than the other Armenian sees. At present its spiritual jurisdiction extends over Israel and Jordan. The patriarch is elected by the General Clerical Assembly of St. James. In former days he was elected by the General Assembly of the patriarchate of Constantinople and confirmed by the sultan.
After the First World War Great Britain occupied Palestine. Thus liberated from the Turkish misrule, a new era of progress ensued for the patriarchate. During the reigns of patriarchs Eghishe Doorian (1921-1930) and Thorgom Gooshakian (1931-1939), the theological seminary in St. James’ monastery flourished considerably. Its graduates are at present serving in the Armenian churches all over the world, mainly in the United States. The patriarchate publishes an official monthly review, Sion, devoted to religion, literature, and philology. It possesses a printing press where a great many religious, liturgical, and philological books are published. The library is very rich in Armenian manuscripts numbering more than four thousand.
During the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, the see and her flock, numbering about 8,200 souls, suffered enormously. The great majority of the Armenians if Jaffa, Haifa, and the new part of Jerusalem lost their properties and belongings, and sought shelter in Jordan and Lebanon. The monastery of St. James and the holy places in its vicinity were damaged. During and after the Jewish-Arab war Armenian refugees flocked into the precincts of St. James’ monastery. These destitute people still live a miserable life.
Thorgom Gooshakian was followed by Archbishop Mesrop Nshanian, who died in 1944. Kuregh Israelian succeeded him. In 1945 he was one of the distinguished leaders at the General Assembly convened in Etchmiadzin for the election of the catholicos of all the Armenians. Patriarch Israelian lost his life in 1949 through nervous exhaustion caused by the Arab-Jewish war and his efforts in defense of his people. Since his death the see has remained vacant because of the uncertain situation created in the Holy Land by the Arab-Jewish conflict. The see is now being administered by a locum tenens.
The Patriarchate of Constantinople
The patriarchate of Constantinople before the First World War had 2,200,000 people under its jurisdiction, scattered all over the Ottoman Empire. Because of the wholesale massacres and deportations by the Turks, only 100,000 Armenians now are left in Turkey the great majority of whom live in Constantinople or Istanbul as it is now officially called. All the dioceses under the Ottoman rule were destroyed. The jurisdiction of the patriarchate at present extends mainly over Constantinople and some districts in Turkey where small remnants of the Armenian people still exist.
The new government in Turkey deprived the patriarchate and all the churches under its jurisdiction of some of its properties and institutions. The Armenian Constitution (Sahmanadrootiun), by which the patriarchate was governed and which constituted a part of the Ottoman Law, was annulled by the Turkish government. The secular privileges which the Church had obtained with great difficulty under a despotic regime were lost under a ‘democratic’ regime.
In 1916 the Turkish government attempted to dissolve the patriarchate of Constantinople and annex it to the Catholicate of Cilicia and the patriarchate of Jerusalem. Sahak II Khabayan was appointed catholicos-patriarch of all the Armenians in the Turkish empire having its see established in St. James’ monastery in Jerusalem. The Turks did this intentionally in order that the Armenians in Turkey should sever all their relations with the catholicos of Etchmiadzin. Fortunately, this new status created unlawfully within the Church of Armenia lasted only until the Armistice. In February, 1919, Archbishop Zaven Ter Eghiayan, the patriarch of Constantinople, who was exiled in Baghdad because of his annexation, was reinstalled in his office. But in December 1922, under Turkish pressure, he left the see and took refuge in Bulgaria.
Until 1927 the see remained vacant and its affairs were administered by a locum tenens. The patriarchate was deprived of its civil rights, though the National Assembly and the Councils still continued to administer the affairs of the see. In 1927, the National Assembly elected Archbishop Mesrop Naroyan patriarch, but the government did not confirm him by reason of the new constitution of the state. However, the government recognized him as patriarch. After his death in June 1944, until December 1950, the see was governed by a locum tenens. In that year Archbishop Gareguin Khachatoorian, the legate of Etchmiadzin in South America, was elected patriarch. He organized the patriarchate, and in 1954 he opened a seminary in Uskudar, Constantinople.
The greatest and the most important problem which the Church of Armenian faces today is the preservation of its existence and integrity. In Soviet Armenia the Church is weak because of the great lack of clergymen. Armenians in Europe and the Americas are gradually losing their national and religious identity. Those living in non-Christian countries can preserve more easily their religious and doctrinal individuality, but there also the future generations will be in danger of losing their national identity and integrity. The future of the Armenian Church all over the world depends mainly upon the continuing supply of duly prepared clergymen.
Armenians throughout the world believe that their Church, a martyr Church through the ages, can continue to hold aloft the light of Christ in their midst even as holy Etchmiadzin and Mt. Ararat, their pride and glory, stand unshaken upon the earth.
The Reestablishment of The Catholicosate of Cilicia
In 1375, the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia was destroyed by the Mamelukes of Egypt. The Catholicate remained in Cilicia, but because there was peace in Armenia Major now, many Armenians wished to return the see to its original home in Etchmiadzin. Catholicos Grigor Mousabegyantz, however, did not wish to leave Cilicia. Instead, a new Catholicos, Kirakos of Virab, an ascetic, was elected at Etchmiadzin in 1441. Henceforth, there have been two Catholicates, the Catholicate of All Armenians in Etchmiadzin and the Catholicate of the Great House of Cilicia. Both Catholicates have their own jurisdiction and have generally cooperated and worked together harmoniously.
During the fourteenth century Latin missionaries attempting to unite the Armenian Church with the Latin Church were active throughout Armenia. In response to this threat to the distinct character of the Armenian Church, many Armenian clergymen and theologians defended the doctrines and practices of the Armenian Church. Among the most notable of these theologians is St. Gregory of Tatev (1346-1410). A gifted teacher and preacher, St. Gregory wrote a number of theological works in defense of Armenian orthodoxy.
Although the early Latin missionaries in Armenia did not succeed in converting a substantial number of Armenians to Roman Catholicism, their activities did eventually have significant consequences. One positive consequence was the translation of many medieval Western theological works into Armenian. Another is The Catholic Mekhitarist Order, founded by Mekhitar of Sebastia (1676-1749), and today having monasteries in Venice and Vienna. The order is noted for its invaluable intellectual and scholarly achievements and for its role in the renaissance of Armenian culture in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, the establishment of a distinct Armenian Catholic community and church in 1831 has caused a lasting and often bitter division among Armenians. The see of the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholics is located in the monastery of Bzommar in Lebanon.
Beginning in the nineteenth century, Protestant missionaries were also active in Armenia. Protestant missionaries established schools and charitable organizations and exposed many Armenians to the influence of progressive Western ideas. But Protestant missionary activity further divided the Armenians religiously with the recognition in 1846 by the Ottoman Government of a separate Protestant community.
The destruction of an Armenian church in Kütahya revives a history of erasure
Kütahya is a town with an interesting history. In 1915, when the Ottoman military junta ordered the liquidation of Armenian communities across Turkey, governor Faik Bey refused to follow orders, which helped to save the town’s Armenian community.
Ara Sarafian, a historian whose work I made a film about in 2016, told me that “The Armenians in all of Kütahya province were saved in 1915. They numbered around 4,000 people according to official Ottoman statistics. In neighbouring Bursa and Eskişehir around 75 per cent of Armenians disappeared between 1915 and 1916 according to Talaat Pasha's report on the Armenian Genocide.”
Unfortunately, Kütahya’s Armenians did not survive the formation of the Republic, and in 1922, they were forced to leave by the National Army, “as a result of their complaints to their spiritual leaders in Kütahya”, according to an author on this discussion forum about the city’s Armenian past. The forum lists three Armenian churches which were said to have been in the city before 1915:
Սուրբ Աստուածածին/Surp Asdvadzadzin/Holy Mother of God
Սուրբ Թորոս/Surp Toros/Saint Toros
Սուրբ Սարգիս/Surp Sarkis/Saint Sarkis
I think that one of these churches must be one of the church towers you can see in this old image of the town I found online. The other one is probably the tower of a Greek Orthodox church which is still standing, though in very bad repair.
On January 26, reports began to circulate on Twitter that the second of these churches, Surp Toros, had been bulldozed by its owner, despite being the subject of a cultural heritage protection order in 2019. Aris Nalci, writing for ArtiGercek, included an image of the protection order, which doesn’t name the church, but says that it is in the Gazi neighbourhood of Kütahya.
HDP MP Garo Paylan asks how the historical Surp Toros Armenian Church in #Turkey’s Kütahya province could be demolished despite being under protection: “It was also an important site of memory as it was the church where musicologist Gomidas was baptized” https://t.co/nWgcVuGnh1 pic.twitter.com/eahGizbcy9
— bianet English (@bianet_eng) January 27, 2021
Finding out more about this church interested me, because I’m doing a project to record all the cultural heritage and archaeological sites in Turkey - which includes the Armenian churches, schools and monasteries that existed before 1915 - using Wikidata, the Open Data sister site of Wikipedia. Creating Open Data about the historical locations of Armenian sites is important because that data can be read by computers and be used to create interactive maps and other visual materials. There are thousands of these sites, and no publicly available list of them all currently exists.
I found out that the church which had been destroyed was probably on a street called Sinema Sokak, because the church had been used as a cinema after the Armenian community left. You can travel down this street on GoogleMaps, and this is what you can see.
I also contacted Aris Nalci, who showed me some other photos of the church taken by a friend of his, and reprinted here with permission.
The outside wall certainly looks like the same place. Of the other two Armenian churches that were in Kütahya, the other two have probably already been destroyed. Through Ara Sarafian's contacts, we discovered that one of the other churches had been demolished to make way for a PTT post office. I’ve marked the location of the PTT office and Sinema Sokak on this Google map of the city.
While it is important to highlight examples of the destruction of cultural heritage sites, it should be pointed out that there are examples of successful heritage preservation in Turkey. An Armenian church in Kayseri was repurposed as a library in 2018, even if Hürriyet managed to avoid using the word ‘Armenian’ in its article about the building.
Historic Virgin Mary Church in Turkey's Kayseri to become libraryhttps://t.co/76Z8gtTYGB pic.twitter.com/hEsKGAq0Ea— Hürriyet Daily News (@HDNER) May 23, 2018
When I visited South Eastern Turkey in 2015, I also saw that many Kurdish communities are taking care of Armenian sites, including the restored Surp Giragos church in Diyarbekir, which was restored after work by Kurds and Kurdish Armenians in the city. Likewise, in the village of Por, local Kurds had agreed to prevent the Armenian monastery there from destruction by gold diggers.
But still, much Armenian and other minority heritage is being erased from Turkey’s geography, so it’s more important than ever to record it digitally before it is lost. That’s why I have recently scanned an Armenian encyclopaedia from 1903 which Sarafian lent to me, with the intention of using it as a source to create Open Data about every Armenian school, church and monastery which existed in Turkey before the 1915 genocide. There is now only one dilapidated Greek Orthodox church left in Kütahya, which you can see in the video below. It also looks like it is in serious danger of collapse if it is not protected.
With digital preservation, we can create interactive maps that show the location, as well as hopefully photographs and other media about every single Armenian site in Turkey. This should help in cases like that of Surp Toros, which was destroyed despite being registered as a protected site on 27 August 2019 by the Ministry of Culture Regional Protection Board. According to Nalci’s article, the owner, Hakan Değirmencioğlu, said of the destruction, “As a result of the struggle I have been fighting for years, it was demolished in January 2021. Saray cinema took its place in Kütahya’s history. It will live in memories."
It seems highly unlikely that Değirmencioğlu did not know that the building was an important historical structure, not just a cinema, but we cannot just blame this man for his ignorance or lack of care for history. The institutional neglect of Armenian sites across Turkey and lack of commitment to protecting heritage created the opportunity for destruction. While authorities point to specific buildings like Akhtamar Church on Lake Van island as examples of protection, these examples are rare, and minority communities often do not have enough money to pay for expensive restoration work on their own. A good example of this is the Greek Orthodox Orphanage on Istanbul’s Prince’s Islands.
There are hundreds more churches across Turkey like Surp Toros, but most are unrecorded, and without good records, it will be hard to protect them. The Turkish Culture Ministry has no publicly available list of heritage sites which others can use. This is why I am trying to make my own, and I know that other organisations are doing similar work. But why should it be left up to volunteers to spend time and effort to protect Turkish cultural heritage? Turkey’s government seems to care more about limiting academic freedom than working with academics to preserve cultural heritage.
Its rich cultural history could help Turkey generate more tourism, as well as contributing to a better academic understanding of the past. The Turkish Culture Ministry needs to do more to record and preserve heritage sites in danger of destruction, because this is unlikely to be the last time an old church is bulldozed in Turkey.
There were two choices for the Armenians prior to the Ottoman-Russian War (1877-1878):
a. Remain loyal to the Ottoman State and the Turkish people
b. Side with the European powers in their intervention of the Ottoman Empire
Following the war, however, the Armenian situation would shift drastically. As detailed in a letter sent by Patriarch Nerses to the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lord Salisbury stated on April 13, 1878:
"It is no longer possible for the Armenians and the Turks to live together. Only a Christian administration can provide the equality, justice, and freedom of conscience. A Christian administration should replace the Muslim administration.
Armenia (Eastern Anatolia) and Kilikya are the regions where the Christian administration should be founded. The Turkish Armenians want this. That is, a Christian administration is demanded in Turkish Armenia, as in Lebanon."
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Western Diocese of the Armenian Church
3325 N. Glenoaks Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91504
Telephone: (818) 558-7474
Fax: (818) 558-6333
Email: [email protected]
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A BRIEF HISTORY
By Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan
The origins of the Armenian Church date back to the period of apostolic evan­ge­li­za­tion. During the first centuries of Christianity, Armenia had close relations with the West where the new religion had spread. The influence of Syrian Christians came from the south. According to tradition, the founders of the Armenian Church were the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, whose graves can be found in Armenia and are honored as holy shrines. A succession of Armenian bishops, whose names are remem­bered in manuscripts, lived in Armenia from the early evangelical period until the beginning of the fourth century, when the country officially accepted Christianity as the state religion. Apart from this, numerous persecutions of Christians took place in Armenia when Christianity was an underground movement, particularly in the years 110 A.D, 250 A.D., and 387 A.D.
The complete and official conversion of Armenians to Christianity was realized in 301 by St. Gregory the Illuminator, who was an Armenian Parthian by birth and had studied in the city of Caesarea in Cappadocia. He is the patron saint of the Armenians.
The Christian evangelization of Armenia continued during the fourth century with the great help of Greek and Assyrian evangelists. But the spreading of the Gospels faced obstacles because Armenians did not have their own alphabet. To overcome this problem, Mesrob Mashdots, an Armenian monk, invented the Armenian alphabet in 405 A.D. with the support of King Vramshabouh and Catholicos Sahag. During the next thirty years, the Bible was translated into Armenian from the Greek Septuagint as well as the important writings of the Fathers of the Church. These translations successfully rival Latin and Greek renditions of the Holy Bible in their clarity and richness of language and precision of syntax. This Cultural Revolution resulted in a political uprising against the mighty Persian State led by Saint Vartan the Warrior. In the battle of Avarayr in 451, the Armenians defended their faith and secured their right to practice Christianity freely.
The Arab invasion of Armenia lasted from 640 A.D. to 885 A.D. In the next period (885-1045), an independent kingdom was established by the Pakraduni Dynasty and later the Roupinian Dynasty set up the independent Kingdom of Cilicia (1199-1375). From 1375 until the recent past, Armenian history was shaped by foreign rule in Armenia and in the other countries where Armenians immigrated to and settled.
Since the first days of Christianization, Armenians have followed the Church of Alexandria doctrinally and in ecclesiastical direction principally through the Cappadocian Fathers. Christologically, they have held the same doctrine as Saint Cyril and have professed the creed &ldquoOne Nature of the Incarnate Word of God,&rdquo while at the same time anathematizing the teaching of Eutyches. The Armenian Church teaches that Christ became a real and perfect Man in body, mind, and soul without ever ceasing to be God (miaphysitism). Of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Armenian Church has accepted the decisions of the first three (Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, and Ephesus in 431), rejected the fourth and has refrained from pronouncement relating to the subsequent councils. The Armenian Church accepts the infallibility of the Church in the Ecumenical Councils. The Armenian Church&rsquos teachings on sacraments and church order do not differ from the other Orthodox Churches.
 St. Gregory the Illuminator descended from Arshakuni (Arsacid) dynasty of Parthia (Persia).
 Ruled from 389 till 417 AD.
 Sat on the patriarchal throne of St. Gregory from 387 till 428.
 The primary Greek translation of the Old Testament by the seventy Jewish scholars.
 Eutyches first came to notice in 431 at the First Council of Ephesus for his vehement opposition to the teachings of Nestorius (disunion between the divine and human natures of Christ). His condemnation of Nestorianism as heresy led him to monophysitism, another extreme that describes the divine and human natures of Christ intermingled in one nature (mostly divine).
OUR PARISH HISTORY
As is typical of a mid-sized Armenian community, the early beginnings were quite modest and humble. This generation’s grandparents and parents came to the area with little knowledge of the language, culture or customs of their newly adopted country. All they hoped for was freedom from oppression and the opportunity for a better life for their families.
A better and more fulfilling life begins with spiritual renewal and affirmation. And so it began that the local church had its origins in 1899 when a dedicated group of Armenian leaders decided to form a parish despite the fact that there was no priest available to conduct Divine Liturgy. In those early days, church services, when observed, were held at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Troy, thanks to the kind invitation of its vestry.
Original bylaws established annual dues at fifty cents. Visiting clergy were paid anywhere from $7 to $15. One has to remember that these were lean years since the average weekly pay was about $10 and the work week was slightly over 50 hours.
The Armenian resolve to establish its Christian faith took a major step forward in 1913 when it was decided to purchase a church in the Village of Green Island for $2,500. By 1916, the mortgage was paid off. Church membership grew and the official consecration of the Church took place that year. The “Godfather” was Mr. Harootun Santigian who had donated the large sum of $50. He chose the name “St. Peter” for the church.
There were many difficult periods ahead, mostly financial, but slowly they were overcome. As the Armenian community grew still larger, a larger house of worship was needed. In 1927, a Search Committee learned of a Methodist church, built in 1854, that was available in the City of Troy.
The sale of the Green Island church produced $1,500, and so, with a down payment of $10,000, the edifice on Fifth Avenue and Jacob Street was purchased in 1927 for $30,000. The dedication of the congregation, the Parish Council and the Clergy during the next four decades cannot be overemphasized. Their dedication and sacrifices are too many to enumerate. It was their devotion to church and the Armenian community as a whole that laid the foundation for the survival of their language, customs and culture in this area. We owe them our undying gratitude.
During the early 1960’s, the Parish Council and the congregation faced structural problems of the church. Costly repairs were made and consideration was given to purchasing land for a new house of worship.
Through the gracious consent of Mrs. Agnes Wiswall, 45 acres of land was sold to us for the small sum of $12,000. The land in Watervliet, situated on a hill, had a commanding view of the local region. Our pastor at that time was Very Rev. Hmayak Intoyan.
Committees were formed, and over the following years, fund-raising activities of all kinds took place. Long hours were spent over the architectural design. First estimate costs were $350,000 in 1967. With changes in design and other delays, costs rose to $650,000 during the following years. Final costs totalled $750,000 when the new St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church was consecrated by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian in September of 1971.
Father Garen Gdanian was our priest at the time and he faithfully served us until his retirement in 1989. He now serves as our Pastor Emeritus. Following Fr. Gdanian’s retirement, Father Tateos Abdalian served for four years. He was followed by Father Masis Galstian.
In 1995, Deacon Gregory Doudoukjian came to our community as Deacon-in-Charge of the parish. In February of 1996, he was ordained in our Church as Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian and had been our young and energetic spiritual leader for twelve years until he began a minsitry with St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. In 2007, Fr. Bedros Kadehjian served as the Parish Priest. He served the parish for two years.
In September of 2010, Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian returned to St. Peter Armenian Church to begin a second tenure as Parish Priest of the church community.
The Growth of an Armenian Capital
In the 9th century, Ani had been incorporated in the territories of the Armenian Bagratuni dynasty. At this time, the capital of the territory moved from Bagaran to Shirakavan, and then Kars. Finally, the capital was moved to Ani in 961. It was during this time that Ani began its rapid expansion, and in 992 the Armenian Catholicosate, the hierarchical see of the apostolic church, moved its seat to Ani. By the start of the 11th century the population of Ani was well over 100,000 and it gained renown as the “city of forty gates” and the “city of a thousand and one churches.” Ani also became the site of the royal mausoleum of the Bagratuni kings of Armenia. In the middle of the 11th century, King Gagik II opposed several Byzantine armies and was able to fend them off for a time. However, in 1046, Ani surrendered to the Byzantines and a Byzantine governor was installed in the city.
Evangelical Church of Armenia: Christian mission rooted in the Nation’s History*
The Armenian Evangelical Church, established in Constantinople on July 1, 1846, was the culmination of a pietistic reform movement within the Armenian Apostolic Church for two main factors. The Armenian Renaissance of the 19 th century ushered in a more scientific outlook and humanistic values as freedom, fraternity, and equality. The “Mother Church”, as the Armenian Evangelical Church refers to the Apostolic Church, needed to change. Oppression, excommunication, and silencing of the reform-minded clergy gave birth to a new church – The Evangelical Church of Armenia.
The second factor in the development of the Armenian Evangelical Church was the input by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and Danish, German, Swiss mission organizations. They extended a helping hand and rendered invaluable contributions by emphasizing the primacy of faith over works, scriptures over tradition, the importance of a Christian lifestyle, the significance of education for both sexes, and the establishment of schools, hospitals, orphanages, and the printing press. The Armenian Evangelical Church was officially recognized by the Ottoman rule as Protestant Millet (community).
The first ethnic cleansing of the 20 th century – the Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Ottoman regime in 1915, devastated the vibrant Evangelical community which had 137 churches, 179 pastors, 13,891 communicant members, about 51,000 adherents, hundreds of elementary schools, 34 secondary schools, 7 colleges, and 3 seminaries. The Genocide led to the creation of diaspora communities around the world that are now fully equipped with churches, schools, universities, cultural, charitable, and sports organizations, newspapers, and political parties.
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Armenia
The root causes of the establishment of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Armenia in the 19 th century were similar to that in Constantinople. The Russian authorities were not sympathetic with the Evangelical Church’s activities, and it was only in 1914 that they granted it an official registration as Armenian Evangelical Ararad Community in Yerevan. The Church expanded its ministry during WWI and after the Genocide. American, German, and Swiss missions helped in the development of the Church’s relief work and humanitarian aid by establishing orphanages. The Near East Relief, for example, continued its services in Armenia until it was officially terminated in 1931.
The first independence of Armenia on May 28, 1918, helped the Church to grow, counting 8 churches and 3000 parishioners in Armenia and 4000 in the Caucasus. In 1923, with a total of 15 parishes, the Soviet regime in Armenia – by now one of the republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, officially recognized the Church as Armenian Evangelical Ararad Community. However, in 1930, growing restrictions on religious freedoms halted all church activities, as functions and worship services were banned. In spite of the prevailing situation, small congregations continued their activities in Yerevan and Leninagan (now Gumri) until 1944, when the decree on the “freedom of conscious” was officially endorsed throughout the Soviet republics. In 1945, the Ararad Community was reorganized with 46 communicant members and one worship center in Yerevan.
As the Baptist Union was formally endorsed by the Soviet regime, all evangelical churches were grouped under this Union and called the Evangelical Christian and Baptist Church. In 1946 though Soviet Armenia officially recognized the Armenian Evangelical Church as the Armenian Evangelical Christian Baptist Church.
The Armenian Missionary Association of America
The ministry of the Armenian Evangelical Church is supported by the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). The latter was established in 1918 during the 17 th annual meeting of the Armenian Evangelical Union in Worcester, Massachusetts, to
strengthen the spiritual life of our churches and rebuild the ruined churches of the fatherland with a deep conviction that our martyred Armenian nation will survive and continue to exist as a nation. As the first Christian nation in the world, she has a divine and noble calling to not only confess her Savior, the Lord Jesus, and to bear Christ’s Cross of afflictions to the knowledge of the entire world, but she also intends to become the torch-bearer of the lofty Christian civilization among the peoples of the Middle East.
In 1990 when Armenia declared its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Evangelical Church of Armenia restarted its mission when AMAA launched its humanitarian aid program in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Gumri in 1988.
In 1991, AMAA established its headquarters in Yerevan, then in Gumri, Vanatzor, Stepanavan, in the Republic of Artakh in 1995, and in Goris, Armenia, in 1997. The humanitarian programs were soon followed by the establishment of the Evangelical Church of Armenia, which was officially recognized by the authorities on July 1, 1994. In 1997, Armenian Evangelical Seminary was established to provide the local pastors with theological and academic training. The same year witnessed the publication of the periodical Armenian Evangelical Church.
The Armenian Evangelical Church has always been a pioneer in education. It firmly believes that Christian and Biblical teachings are best provided in conjunction with daily school curricula. On September 20, 1999, Khoren and Shoushanig Avedissian daily high school was inaugurated. The school is considered to be one of the leading schools in Armenia.
Today, 23 churches operate in Alavert, Apovian, Ardashad, Armavir, Ayntabi, Gaban, Gumri, Hraztan, Ichevan, Koris, Noyemperian, Pert, Shiragamoudi, Sisiani, Spitak, Stepanagert, Artsakh, Talin, Tilichan, Toumanyan, Vartenis, and Yerevan. A total of 13 ordained ministers and 15 licensed preachers minister in Armenia and Artsakh.
As for the AMAA, presently it is active in 24 countries.
Mission in the Republic of Artsakh
Since its liberation in 1990, the Republic of Artsakh has been on the priority list of the AMAA. The latter started its aid programs in Artsakh in 1995. The Artsakh government officially recognized AMAA in 1998. The AMAA is the first diaspora mission organization to be registered in Artsakh. The AMAA helped in establishing an Armenian Evangelical Church in Stepanagert in 2003 and 4 Christian Education centers in Askeran, Mardagerd, Shushi (had a Swiss mission station in 1821), and Stepanagert. The Shogh Community is an educational day center operating in Askeran and Shushi, where 52 mentally and physically challenged Armenian children aged 6-14 receive care and education. AMAA is actively involved in providing food and financial aid packages to more than 200 families and organizes summer camps and daily vacation Bible schools for thousands of children.
The recent 44-day war, from September 27 to November 9, 2020, was very devastating for Artsakh and Armenia. AMAA pledged one million USD for humanitarian aid programs for Artsakh and together with the Church have been actively involved in helping the internally displaced by providing shelter, food, and clothing. AMAA is initiating psychiatric sessions for traumatized children. The AMAA center in Stepanagert was damaged during the war but is being renovated now. “We already renovated the center to resume our mission work and restart the church services to uplift the hurting souls of the Artsakh people,” says Harout Nercessian, AMAA director in Armenia. AMAA lost one of its important headquarters in Shushi to the Azeris. “We believe that one day we will have it back,” continues Nercessian.
AMAA was the first charitable organization that entered the villages of Artsakh after the ceasefire and distributed food, baby milk, and warm clothes to the refugees who were temporarily sheltered in the villages. “We want to continue our spiritual and social services to our homeland in Armenia and Artsakh,” says Rev. Hovig Hovsepian, Associate Pastor of the Armenian Evangelical Church in Yerevan. “It is important that we share the message of hope in this post war period. We want to do that with great care and loyalty. We want to encourage our people to seek our Lord’s guidance.”
At the 92 nd AMAA annual banquet in 2011 in Los Angeles His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, said, “Because of historical circumstances and this is indeed a confession, the Armenian Orthodox Church laid an emphasis on the national dimension of our church’s life and witness. There was a vacuum. And the Armenian Evangelical Church came to fill that vacuum.”
The Armenian Evangelical Church in Armenia follows the Reformed tradition in its theological and doctrinal belief. It maintains very good relations and cooperation with the Armenian Orthodox and Armenian Catholic churches. It also has good relations with Baptist, Pentecostal, and other non-denominational congregations. The Armenian Evangelical Church believes in ecumenical relations and is actively involved in many inter-church and para-church Christian organizations. The Church is an integral part of the Armenian nation and upholds the historical, national, and cultural legacy it has inherited. It remains committed to its primary Mission: To preach the Gospel message in Armenia through educational, social, humanitarian, relief, community development, and other ministry functions and opportunities.
In its 175 years, the Evangelical Church of Armenia paved the way for a Christian mission which has been and still is deeply rooted in the history of the Armenian nation. And the mission is to contribute in building this nation’s history with the biblical principles of the New Life offered to us by our Savior Jesus Christ. The New life that survives against all the odds.
* Published in German in Religion and Gesellscaft in Ost und West, Zurich, Switzerland, February 2021 issue
Armenian Evangelical Church in Eastern Armenia, 2020. Yerevan, Armenia, Armenian Evangelical Church in Armenia.
AMAA Centennial Book, New Jersey, USA, 2018.
Artsakh – 25 years of Service, AMAA Armenia, Yerevan, 2020.
Azk Armenian Weekly, 4 December, 2020. Yerevan, Armenia.
*Hrayr Jebejian is General Secretary of the Bible Society in the Gulf. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Bible Engagement from the New York Theological Seminary. Jebejian is the author of three books, along with articles published in academic journals and encyclopedias. He is a recipient of the Ambassador of the Motherland medal from the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia.
A History of Destruction: The Fate of Armenian Church Properties in Adana [i]
Genocidal processes involve the loss of large numbers of human life. The motivation behind these processes is always related to the destruction of a certain group of people. However, it is not only the people that make a community the idea of the community is also related to shared values, everyday routines, culture, literature, and religion. Thus, genocidal processes not only target certain groups of people, but also the symbols, buildings, and monuments that belong to them. This article examines the fate of religious buildings in Adana after the Armenian Genocide of 1915, in a process of destruction that aimed to erase the proof of Armenian existence in the region.
The Armenian district of Adana in ruins (Photo source: The Armenian Genocide Museum Institute)
The Adana region had been inhabited by Armenians since the 4 th century. As Adana was one of the first regions in the Ottoman Empire to integrate with the world economy through cotton production, it presented a great location for the Armenian community to prosper. This prosperity was reflected in the number of schools, monasteries, and churches functioning in the region. Armenians occupied with trade and artisanship actively participated in the public life of the city. Apart from the central district of Adana, Tarsus, Hadjin, Sis, and Cebel-i Bereket were the four major areas in the Adana province that had a considerable Armenian presence. As the administrative structure of the Ottoman state was based on the millet system, Armenians were given representation on the administrative council on the basis of religious difference. The Apostolic, Catholic, and Protestant communities were represented by their religious leaders in this council. The Armenians of Adana mostly lived in the Khidir-Ilyas neighborhood, around the Notre Dame church, and in the city center, around the Saint-Etienne parish. Reflecting the size and prosperity of the community in the province was the dynamic intellectual and educational community life present. [ii] There were 1,500 students at the Abkarian, Ashkhenian, and Aramian colleges in 1913. There was also a girl’s school that had more than 500 students. According to the statistics of the Patriarchate, there were 25 schools with 1,947 male students, 808 female students, and 69 teachers in the province. Seven of these schools were in Sis, and provided an education to 476 boys and 165 girls, with 19 teachers.[iii]
Genocide and Armenian properties
Following the deportation decision, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) carefully controlled the state of Armenian properties. There were two parallel processes regarding the Armenian properties: one legal and one illegal. The legal process began with the cabinet decision to protect the Armenian properties left behind and allocate them to immigrants from the Balkans and Caucasus.[iv] Another legal decision was a secret order to inform local governments about the management of the Armenian properties. This secret order included the establishment of liquidation commissions to manage the properties, including the sale of movable properties and the distribution of land, houses, and crops to the immigrants and tribes.[v] Finally, on Sept. 27, 1915, the CUP adopted a law regarding the abandoned Armenian properties it was defined as a temporary law: “the law about the abandoned properties, debts, and credits of the population who were sent elsewhere.”[vi] While it did not include any articles different from the secret order, it served to legalize the aims of the order. In a practical sense, the CUP used the properties for different aims: the settlement of immigrants,[vii] the establishment of a national economy,[viii] and the provision of the needs of the state, people, and military.[ix] Sacred places like churches and monasteries were excluded from the expropriation and appropriation practices. It was declared that they would be protected and taken care of. Existing goods, pictures, and holy books from the churches were to be registered and preserved. In a new regulation adopted in November1915 defining the procedures of liquidation, usage rights of the materials from the schools and monasteries were transferred to the Ministry of Education.[x] This declaration, however, stayed on paper and the properties that were declared protected were also confiscated by the state.
Confiscation in Adana
The CUP aimed to de-Armenize the Adana province—which included the plain of Adana, Mersin, Sis, and Tarsus—and fill them with Muslim immigrants from the Balkans and Caucasus. The genocide struck Adana in the summer of 1915, when the CUP ordered the deportation of Armenians from the villages of Adana province. In this order, the government also requested the names of the villages and number of deportees. [xi] The CUP government then targeted the provincial towns. The complete deportation of the Armenians of Sis was ordered on June 17, 1915. [xii] Other towns followed one by one. In October 1915, 9,000 Armenians were deported from Dörtyol. With the exception of Baghdad Railway employees and military staff, Armenians were to be “deported without exception” (bilâ-istisna teb’id). [xiii] The Abandoned Properties Commission of Dörtyol was authorized to proceed with the liquidation of Armenian immovable property and its transfer to the Muslim population. [xiv] The immovable properties were used for various, multifaceted aims, including fostering Turkish business in Adana and resettling the now-empty villages and towns with Muslim immigrants from the Balkans.
According to Talat Pasha’s own notebook, 699 buildings were confiscated in Adana province:
Table 1: Confiscated buildings in Adana
|Name of district||Number|
These buildings ranged from individual houses to large farms and estates. The losses in Sis/Kozan are striking: They add up to one-third of all the buildings confiscated in the entire province of Adana.
The Ottoman state also confiscated properties belonging to the community: Eight schools and churches, covering a territory of 14,400 m 2 with an estimated value of 46,400 Turkish gold liras, were seized by the state. Fifty-six community buildings and plots, covering 16,488 m 2 and worth 43,785 Turkish gold liras, were also seized.[xv]
The Catholicosate of Sis overlooked the town and was a large building—constructed on 1,250,000 m 2 —with 50 rooms and halls. The building was coated with high-quality earthenware Kütahya tile and housed a library of 4,000 books and 400 manuscripts, along with an antique art museum. The tax the Catholicosate paid was roughly 100,000 Turkish gold liras. The diocese was also in possession of a historical church and residential buildings covering 14,500 m 2 and worth 2,000 Turkish gold liras. The Catholicosate also owned several houses and shops, two water mills, a 10,000 m 2 garden, a 30,000 m 2 field, and a 10,000,000 m 2 farm with depots, stables, plots, 130 cows, 30 muzzles, and flocks of goats and sheep. The properties of the Catholicosate of Sis covered a total of 11,687,100 m 2 and were worth 167,520 Turkish gold liras. [xvi]
The churches in the provinces and neighborhoods also experienced astronomical losses. These losses were counted and documented in the archives of the Armenian Catholicosate in Antelias, Lebanon: [xvii]
—Surp Asdvadzadzin in the Hidir Ilyas neighbourhood
—A school in the compound of that church ( Ferman of February 1816): 6,000 m 2 , 25,000 Turkish gold lira (TL)
—Surp Stepanos and school in the Bucak neighborhood, burned in 1909 ( Ferman lost): 5,000 m 2 , 18,000 TL
—Church in Hiristiyanköy ( Ferman of March 1848): 1,000 m 2 , 1,000 TL
—Church in İncirlik ( Ferman lost): 800 m 2 , 800 TL
—Church in Sheikh Murad ( Ferman lost): 1,000 m 2 , 1,000 TL
—Church in Abdo-oghlu, burned during the French occupation ( Ferman lost): 200 m 2 , 200 TL
—Church in Missis, burned during the French occupation ( Ferman lost): 400 m 2 , 400 TL.
The state used the Armenian properties for its various interests. Some were transferred to Turkish firms. Others were shared among local officials and citizens. Big buildings like churches were converted into prisons. The local authorities in Adana offered the conversion of six buildings in the province into prisons. Reporting to the Interior Ministry, the governor of Adana claimed Adana was in serious need of a new prison and offered to transform a church—and the school next to the church—into a prison with some refurbishing. [xviii] The Interior Ministry accepted the offer and authorized the governor to put the plan into practice. In the end, those holy places that had been declared “protected” were converted into prisons. [xix] Before this change, the prison was a room in an old police station. Not by chance, this police station was also moved to a different building—one on Armenian property. [xx] Church buildings and fields were also used for different purposes. According to the memoirs of Damar Arıkoğlu, who was a CUP representative for Adana and represented the province as a parliamentarian from 1920-46, an apprentice school was established in the yard of an Armenian church in the province. [xxi]
After 1918, surviving Adana Armenians attempted to return to their homes. Restitution soon became an obstacle. The heirs of murdered and deceased deportees encountered difficulties when trying to reclaim property. The principle of “appearance in person” (isbât-ı vücud) was in force, and only the person registered on the property could claim it back. Many of those people had, of course, been killed, and their documentation often lost.
A few dozen Maronites, Greek Catholics, and Armenian Catholics stayed in the region. These communities were also dispossessed in Adana, Mersin, and Tarsus. The state confiscated storehouses, rectories, churches, gardens, farms, houses, and convents, and used them for its own purposes. As the Treaty of Lausanne did not name any specific groups that were guaranteed minority status, the government declared that these communities were not covered under the Treaty of Lausanne, and thus did not have the rights guaranteed for minority communities. The government ordered the seizure of all properties belonging to these communities on Jan. 21, 1926. The bell tower of the Maronite church in Tarsus was demolished and was converted into the district governorship in 1928. Maronite and Greek Catholic properties in Mersin were given to the Ministry of Education. [xxii]
Young Turk officials also bullied Father Ignace Terzian out of Tarsus, then terrorized the priest Jean Khalkovian in Mersin. Local newspapers participated in this pressure policy by launching a campaign of defamation against Khalkovian, claiming he had cooperated with the occupying French forces. Khalkovian was deported to Kastamonu and in 1926 was expelled from Turkey. Removing such an important community figure from the scene, the authorities were even more free in confiscating the properties of the Armenian Catholic community—18 hectares of agricultural land, a storehouse, shops, and many other belongings. The community was stripped to such an extent that the last Catholic Armenian in Adana, Msgr. Pascal Keklikian, was renting the Catholic community’s own property from the government. Although he tried to improve the conditions of his community, his efforts proved to be unsuccessful the state was determined to destroy the same community he was trying to protect. In January 1927, the governor of Adana, Reşat Mimaroğlu (1880-1953), ordered the categorical confiscation of all Catholic Armenian properties in that province. The community had now lost everything: its church, rectory, schools, shops, land, houses. The dispirited and defeated Keklikian had no other option than to depart for Syria. [xxiii]
It is a widely reproduced myth that the Ottoman and Turkish states protected Armenian properties, especially its holy places. It is so popular that one can find this historically ungrounded myth in the declarations of state officials, not only those from Turkey but also from the U.S. However, one should look at the history without political bias to see the difference between myth and reality. This short article attempted to do this, sharing a motivation with other ongoing efforts to look at the history of the Armenian Genocide from a purely academic point of view free from politics.
[i] This article is based on the study Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property (London/New York: Continuum, 2011) by Uğur Ümit Üngör and Mehmet Polatel.
[ii] Raymond H. Kévorkian and Paul B. Paboudjian, Les Arméniens dans l’empire ottoman à la veille du génocide (Paris: Editions d’Art et d’Histoire, 1992), pp. 265-7.
[iii] Kévork K. Baghdjian, La confiscation, par le gouvernement turc, des biens arméniens–dits abandonnés” (Montréal: K.K. Baghdjian, 1987), p. 253.
[iv] Ottoman Prime Ministerial Archives (BOA), Meclis-i Vükelâ Mazbatası, 198/24, in Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü Osmanlı Arşivleri Daire Başkanlığı (2007), Osmanlı Belgelerinde Ermenilerin Sevk ve İskanı, Ankara, pp. 155-157.
[v] Original document in Genelkurmay Askeri Tarih ve Staratejik Etüd Başkanlığı (December 1982), “Ahval-i Harbiye ve Zaruret-i Fevkalâde-i Siyasiye dolayısıyla Mahall-i Ahire Nakilleri İcra Edilen Ermenilere Ait Emval ve Emlâk ve Arazinin Keyfiyet-i İdaresi Hakkında Talimnamedir,” Askeri Tarih Belgeleri Dergisi, pp. 147-153. For the English translation of the original document in the Prime Minister Directorate General of Press and Information (1982), Documents, Ankara, pp. 74-80.
[vi] Takvim-i Vakayi, Oct. 28, 1915, no: 2303.
[vii] An example for settlement of immigrants: Republican Prime Ministerial Archives (BCA), 272, 12, 36, 10, 1, Oct. 5, 1915 and Oct. 16, 1915 an example for use of properties for needs of immigrants: BOA /DH.ŞFR, 61/247, Interior Ministry to Trabzon, March 3, 1916.
[viii] An example for showing the distribution of Armenian properties to Muslims to foster the national economy: BOA /DH.ŞFR, 59/239, Jan. 6, 1916.
[ix] An example for army: BOA /DH.ŞFR, 55-A/143, Sept. 8, 1915 an example for public use: BOA /DH.ŞFR, 55/330, Aug. 24, 1915
[x] Takvim-i Vakayi, Nov. 10, 1915, no: 2343.
[xi] BOA , DH.ŞFR 53/113, Interior Ministry to Adana, Bitlis, Aleppo, Erzurum, May 25, 1915.List of site sources >>>