Monastery of Saint Thaddeus, a UNESCO-inscribed tourist spot in far northwest corner of Iran

January 15, 2017 - 13:1

TEHRAN – The Monastery of Saint Thaddeus is a tourist destination in the far northwest corner of Iran, adjacent to the borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Alternatively known as Qareh Klise (meaning black church), the property presents important vestiges of Armenian culture in the region.

Together with St. Stepanos Monastery and the Chapel of Dzordzor, Qareh Klise was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008 under the name “Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran”.

All the three sites are located in West Azarbaijan Province and are of high significance from both historical and cultural perspectives. They bear credible testimony to interchanges with the ancient regional societies in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox and Persian.

UNESCO experts say these edifices are examples of outstanding universal value of the Armenian architectural and decorative traditions.

Narratives say Qareh Klise was built as a memorial to Judas Thaddeus, who traveled to Mesopotamia and Persia as one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus.

Splendid outside, yet quite plain indoor, the monastery shows off elaborate bas-reliefs of flowers, animals and human figures on its façade and exterior walls. It bears verses of Old and New Testament in Armenian calligraphy as well.

The church has largely been underwent stages of renovation projects, notably following an earthquake in 1319 CE, and later in the early 19th century upon the order of Qajar prince Abbas Mirza.

St. Thaddeus has always been a place of high spiritual value for Christians and other inhabitants in the region. Every summer, it hosts gatherings of pilgrims coming from Iran and Armenia to observe special religious ceremonies such as Holy Communion and baptism.

 Under tourists’ eyes:

Here is a select of comments that visitors to the monastery have posted to TripAdvisor, one of the most popular travel websites in the world:

For me this was jewel in the crown

During my time in Iran I saw so many beautiful buildings but St. Thaddeus Monastery is special to me. Our party of eight visited on a spring afternoon with plenty of time to walk around the building, visit inside and walk to a neighboring chapel on a hill behind to enjoy this spectacular building in the surrounding countryside… (Penelopespiers from Sydney, visited April 2016)

Beautiful, historic & cultural church

Wow, such a beautiful old church. Historically this is the Monastery of St. Thaddeus (AKA Jude, one of Jesus Christ’s 12 disciples). Iran's cultural heritage is working on fixing this historic church since its now a UNESCO World Heritage Site… (GZCS from San Francisco, visited May 2015)

Fascinating history from time of the Apostles

This ancient monastery has links back to Jude the Apostle, and leaves a very deep impression. Armenian Christians visit in July each year for a special service. The site is very isolated, but worth the journey if you are in West Azerbaijan Province. (Peter from London, visited August 2015)

PHOTO: A view of the Monastery of Saint Thaddeus, a UNESCO-inscribed tourist spot in West Azarbaijan Province of Iran.


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