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Iran: The Skeletons of Apostles Found in Saint Stepanos Church

Tehran - 28 July, 2005 (CHN) - The remains of the Apostles' bones that according to some sources had been kept in Saint Stepanos church in Azerbaijan Sharqi (East Azerbaijan) province in Iran were found during archeologists' research. After Qareh Kelisa (the black church), The Saint Stepanos church is considered to be the second church of Iran regarding religious and historical importance.

Existence of the bones of Apostles and Christian Saints, namely Saint Stepanos (saint Etienne), Saint Minos and Daniel, was pointed out in different sources including "six journeys of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier" (1676), some photo-albums in Golestan Palace, and also the photo archives of Adl clan, which were taken by Ali Khan Vali, the ruler of northern Azerbaijan in Qajar era.

"A team of cultural heritage organization experts are currently working for completion of the dossier to register the monument on the World Heritage list. After studying numerous historical texts, they found the remains of the bones in the churche" said Shahriar Adl, the head of research team of Saint Stepanos.

"After the discovery," he added, "the Iranian organization of cultural heritage and tourism sent a letter to the prelacy council of the Armenian Church, and three days ago the bones were gathered in the presence of the council representative".

Meanwhile, Aliakbar Taqizadeh, the director of Azerbaijan Sharqi branch office of Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization indicated "the discovery roves the importance of Saint Stepanos church".

The church that is located in Jolfa region beside Aras River belongs to 10th to 12th century and is the second most important church in Iran.

Beside the remains of the bones which were found between two ceilings of the church, some wood panels were found that belonged to the boxes in which the bones were reserved. Some yellow and amber fabrics, beeswax, ocher and frankincense seeds were also among the discovered items.

"The discovered bones were seriously damaged by the pass of time as well as unsuitable conditions in its immediate surrounding" says Farzad Foruzanfar, a paleoanthropologist, "therefore, we could only identify the bones of one person, and the others are not identifiable". According to him, the bones belonged to a rawboned man of 50 years old.

Regarding that the church is now under restoration, the found bones are transferred to Tabriz to be kept in Azerbaijan prelacy council until the completion of repairing process of the Saint Stepanos church.

As Taqizadeh says, regarding the importance of the discoveries, the bones will be returned to the church with religious rituals and will be kept then on in a special chamber.

Iran Cultural Heritage and Tourism organization has set it in its agenda to register three churches, namely Saint Stepanos, Zur Zur and Qare Kelisa, on UNESCO World Heritage list.

The experts believe the discoveries will facilitate the registration procedure.

... Payvand News - 7/30/05 ... --

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