By Afshin Majlesi

Christian worshippers to make annual pilgrimage to St. Thaddeus

July 5, 2018 - 12:9

TEHRAN – Hundreds of Christian worshippers from Iran, Armenia and other countries are heading for St. Thaddeus to observe an annual ritual and pilgrimage in the northwestern church from July 27 to 29.

Also known as the Qareh Klise (“the Black Church”), the place of worship is one of the oldest surviving Christian monuments in Iran and is located in West Azarbaijan province, some 20 kilometers form Maku, adjacent to the borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

People will come together to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Thaddeus, one of the twelve disciples killed while he was preaching the Gospel. The legend says, a church dedicated to him was first built in 68 CE where Qareh Klise is standing.

The festivity is of high importance for Iranian-Armenians who mostly come from the cities of Tabriz, Urmia, Tehran, Isfahan and Qazvin, to stage the reunion in groups and families. It also provides them opportunity to go on holiday and visit distant relatives.

Baptism of children and youngsters and having traditional songs and dances are amongst other rituals of the event.

The Qareh Klise 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.

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 and are of high significance from historical and cultural perspectives. They bear credible testimony to interchanges with the ancient regional societies in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox and Persian.

UNESCO says that they are examples of outstanding universal value of the Armenian architectural and decorative traditions.

PHOTO: A view of the Qareh Klise in northwestern Iran