5th-century church being restored in northwestern Iran

November 30, 2020 - 23:19

TEHRAN – The ancient Saint John Church has undergone some rehabilitation works in the village of Sohrol, near Shabestar city in East Azarbaijan province, the deputy provincial tourism chief has announced. 

The restoration involves the reinforcement of the main structure, filling small cracks, as well as erecting retaining walls for stabilizing soil from a potential landslide, Alireza Quchi said on Sunday. 

Also known as Sohraqeh Church, the Armenian Catholic church was built in circa 5th century, but it was rebuilt on the older church foundation in 1840 by Samson Makintsev, a Russian general in the service of Iran during the Qajar era. 

The historical monument was inscribed on the National Heritage list in 1968. 

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.

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

The provincial capital Tabriz embraces several historical and religious sites, including the Jameh Mosque of Tabriz and Arg of Tabriz, and UNESCO-registered Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex to name a few. The city became the capital of the Mongol Il-Khan Mahmud Gazan (1295–1304) and his successor. Timur (Tamerlane), a Turkic conqueror, took it in 1392. Some decades later the Kara Koyunlu Turkmen made it their capital, it was when the famous Blue Mosque was built in Tabriz.

Tabriz retained its administrative status under the Safavid dynasty until 1548 when Shah Tahmasp I relocated his capital westward to Qazvin. During the next two centuries, Tabriz changed hands several times between Persia and the Ottoman Empire. During World War I, the city was temporarily occupied by Turkish and then Soviet troops.


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