Centuries-old Saint George Church still open in northwestern Iran

October 18, 2020 - 17:49

TEHRAN-The Saint George Church in the northwestern West Azarbaijan province is one of the oldest churches of the country which are still in use centuries after being built.

Located in Haftvan village, Salmas county, the original construction of the church dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries based on the inscriptions in the Armenian language, which have been placed on the walls of the entrance gate of the building, however, it was rebuilt and renovated in 1652 during the Safavid era (1501–1736).

The Armenian Apostolic church was restored once again after the 1930 Salmas earthquake, which almost destroyed the historical monument.

To enter the rectangular building, you have to bend your head as the entrance doors were made smaller than other doors to make visitors bow and respect the holy place.

The roof of the church consists of arches and rafters built on four pillars in the middle. Covering the center of the church is a straight dome with twelve skylights. On either side of the altar of the church are two small symmetrical rooms, one a baptismal room, and the other a service room. The altar of the church is in the form of an oval arch. The main materials used in this building are carcass stone and lime sand mortar.

On the west side of the church’s dome is the church bell tower and on the east side of the main hall is a space that in Armenian churches is a place for praying and singing.

The decorations of the building are limited to its entrance, which is decorated by changing the color and gender of the stones, and the decorations of the interior facade also include blue painting on plaster.

A few meters north of the church, there are the remains of the Haftvan Theater. It was built during the Russian occupation during World War I, after 1914, and was used as a theater.

In recent years, porcelain plates and metal utensils bearing the Tsar's logo have been found near the site.

There is nothing left of the building except a beautiful entrance gate and a few ruined walls.

The Saint George Church was inscribed on the National Heritage List in 2001, while Salmas county is home to 24 historical churches registered on the list that belong to the Armenian community of Iran.

Iran is home to several ancient and historical churches. Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians are the most significant religious minorities in the country with Christians constituting the bulk.

West Azarbaijan embraces a variety of lush natural sceneries, cultural heritage sites, and museums including the UNESCO sites of Takht-e Soleyman and Qareh Klise (St. Thaddeus Monastery), Teppe Hasanlu, and the ruined Bastam Citadel.

The region was a center of several ancient civilizations. According to Britannica, it was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC and was named Atropatene after one of Alexander’s generals, Atropates, who established a small kingdom there. Ultimately, the area returned to the Persian (Iranian) rule under the Sasanians in the 3rd century CE.

ABU/MG
 

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