Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Armenians in Jerusalem (Cont'd)

The Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate and Monastery

The Armenian Patriarchate is one of the three Brotherhoods in Jerusalem that, together, share the responsibility and inestimable privilege of being Custodians of Holy Places, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Grave of the Holy Virgin Mary, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and other places.

The Armenian Orthodox Monastery is located on historic Mount Zion, with an area of about 300 acres, almost one sixth of the walled Old City. Apart from the Cathedral of St. James, other historic sites and buildings located within the area of the Patriarchate are: the Church of St. Saviour (the house of Caiaphas), the Church of Holy Archangels (the house of Annas the High Priest), the Chapel of St. Theodorus, the National Cemetery, the Patriarchate’s Secretariat, the Patriarchal residence and Seminary (established in 1843), the Calouste Gulbenkian Library (currently under restoration and renovation), and the Mardigian Museum. The Patriarchate also houses the second largest Armenian manuscript library in the world. It maintains as well an extensive collection of priceless vestments and vessels, inscriptions, paintings, a small bookstore, and two printing plants. The St. James Press, founded in 1833, is the oldest in Jerusalem. Armenians also own a historic seafront monastery in Jaffa, one in Ramleh, a large monastery in Bethlehem, adjacent to the Basilica of the Nativity, as well as other real estate holdings in Israel.

Under Muslim rule, the Armenian patriarchs of Jerusalem and the members of the St. James Brotherhood succeeded in protecting the rights of the Armenian Church – frequently at the cost of their lives. The Patriarchate has remained a haven for Armenian refugees throughout its history. From 1915 to 1923, during the first genocide of the 20th century, more than a million and a half of our faithful were massacred by the Ottoman Turks. This became know as the Armenian Genocide, and during that time, thousands of refugees and orphans were taken in by the Patriarchate.

Throughout the past several centuries, the St. James Brotherhood, headed by able and talented patriarchs, has preserved intact the Patriarchate, its real estate holdings, and various other Armenian sites, and has turned Jerusalem into a major center of research and learning.
The present Patriarch – the 96th successive incumbent to the throne of St. James – is His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, who was elected to the life-tenure position in 1990. His Beatitude returned to Jerusalem after an absence of thirty years, during which he served as Primate of the Western and Eastern Dioceses of the Armenian Church of America (California and New York, respectively). He is a graduate of the Patriarchal Seminary, and was one of its former deans.

Saints James Cathedral

The Cathedral of the Saints James, the seat of the Armenian Patriarchs and the jewel of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, lies just beyond its main entry gate. It was built before the Crusader Era, over older edifices, and on the site of the tombs of the first bishop of the Christian church, St. James, known as “the Brother of the Lord,” and St. James the Apostle, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, known as “the Zebedee Brothers.”

Upon entering the Cathedral, one is immediately captivated by the interior, bedecked by centuries-old “ganteghs” (oil lamps), suspended from the soaring vaulted dome, and tallow candles dotting the three altars. The only source of light, the oil lamps, are still lovingly tended by altar boys, who replenish them at regular intervals. The candles, made by the Patriarchate’s own chandler, try vainly to dispel the elemental darkness that pervades the church, imparting a mystical significance to the Armenian Church rites.

To the left of the entrance are three small chapels. The first nearest the entrance contains the tomb of Makarios, the bishop of Jerusalem in the 4th century. The third from the entrance is the shine where the head of St. James the Apostle is entombed. Armenians believe that he was buried here in the 1st century, after his execution by King Herod Agrippa I, about 44 AD.

In the chancel, beyond the fence, are two thrones. The one closest to the pier with the canopy is the symbolic throne of St. James, the Brother of the Lord, and first bishop of Jerusalem, who is buried beneath the high altar. The Patriarch stands in front of this throne once a year on the feast of St. James, in early January, to symbolize his place in the succession of the bishops of Jerusalem. The other throne is the one normally used by the Patriarch.

The Cathedral has in the past also served as a bomb shelter. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the only sanctuary from the daily bombardment of the city that the Armenians could find was within the solid, reassuring confines of their Cathedral, with its one-meter-thick walls. During one particularly memorable night, over 1,000 shells of all kinds, including the dreaded mortar, landed on and around the Cathedral. But not a single casualty did they claim. Many believers would later swear that they had seen a mysterious figure, dressed in white, standing vigil on the roof of the Cathedral, warding off the shower of missiles with his hands. Believers assert that it was none other than St. James.
The liturgical rites and services of the Armenian Church have long preserved the traditions of early Christianity. As you listen to our pre-Byzantine and pre-Gregorian chants and prayers, we invite you to joinus in our spiritual journey through time and space – as we approach God together in this sanctuary. Therefore, visitors are expected to dress appropriately (shorts, bare shoulders, and/or miniskirts are not allowed) and to conduct themselves with respect and decorum (eating and/or drinking are not permitted inside the Cathedral). The Cathedral is open to visitors during Morning Services, from 6:00 to 7:30, and during Vespers, from 15:00 to 15:30.

At other times, callers are invited to visit the Mardigian Museum through its separate entrance, further south on Armenian Orthodox Patriarchate Road.

P.O. Box 14235, Jerusalem 91141
Telephone: (02) 628-2331 [8 am – 12 Noon and 1 –4 pm]
FAX: (02) 626-4862
E-Mail: (Sylva Natalie Manoogian, Library Project Director)
Visit our official website:


Blogger Joanne said...

Hello, Thank you for the article. I would like to be able to hear the ancient worshipful music of which you speak. How might I be able to do this? Thank you again. +Joanne+

January 27, 2008 6:29 PM  

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