Emergency Restorations Completed on St. Thaddeus Church
Maryam TabeshianTehran, 8
December 2006 (CHN) -- Renovation experts ended their emergency
restorations on the Church of Saint Thaddeus, locally known as Qara Kelisa (The
Black Church), built 1700 years ago in the Iranian northwestern province of West
Azarbaijan, in an attempt to inscribe this ancient monument in UNESCO’s list of
World Heritage Sites in 2008.
St.Thaddeus Cathedral, known as
Qara Kelisa (Black Church)
Qara Kelisa had previously been put up by Iran for
UNESCO world registration in 2007, but the international organization turned
down the application due to lack of substantial documents including those
pertaining to the value of the building and maps of its precincts. Experts of
Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) are now working on the
Church’s dossier to be forwarded to UNESCO for a final review in
According to Qara Kelisa project manager, Mehdi
Shoja-del, an equivalent of 60,000 US dollars had been allocated to the Church’s
initial restorations which recently came to an end.
Heavy rains had washed away the mortar gluing the
stones on the dome of the St. Thaddeus Church, causing cracks on the dome and
its columns which, according to Shoja-del, were restored by experts during the
initial phase of this project. He also said that the Church’s surrounding site
was reorganized, the northern fortified tower was restored and the southwestern
one was strengthened during the recent restoration works by experts.
This expert further added that the next phase of
the project will begin once its plan is approved by the Council for the
Management of Churches in Iran and will include restoration of stones on the
Church’s façade, renovation of its museum, and construction of a center for
archiving documents close to the Church.
Northwest Iran is home to the oldest churches in
the country among which Qara Kelisa, St. Stepanous, and Zoorzoor stand out
because of their antiquity.
The Thaddeus Church, locally known as Qara Kelisa
or the Black Church, is considered one of the oldest churches in the world,
whose construction began 1700 years ago. Historians believe that the Church is
the tomb of Thaddeus who is said to have been one of Christ’s disciples who
traveled to Armenia, then part of the Persian Empire, for preaching the
teachings of Christ.
Armenians, an ethnic group living in the Persian
Empire, followed Thaddeus’ teachings and converted to Christianity in 300 AD.
Thaddeus was later martyred and buried in present-day West Azarbaijan province.
A tomb was erected on his burial place by his followers who turned it into a
small prayer house. The building was later changed into a cathedral in the
seventh century AD.
According to the inscriptions remained there, the
Church was ruined in by a devastating earthquake but was later restored in its
current form by a Christian religious figure.
Today the church is known as Qara Kelisa and
belongs to the Armenian community of Iran. It has an international reputation
and hosts annual meetings of world Armenians each year in July-August.
Initially, this church comprised of a small hall
with a pyramid-shaped dome on the top and 12 crevices similar to the Islamic
dome-shaped buildings from the Mongol era. The main part of this pyramid
structure followed Byzantine (Eastern Roman) architecture, including the
horizontal and parallel fringes made of white and black stones in the interior
and black stones on the exterior facing.
The monument has two sections: The old one which is
made of black stones, hence the name Qara (black) Kelisa (church) was given to
it by the locals, and the new one which is made of white stones, each with its
Special features, antiquity, architectural style,
decorations, its religious importance among the world Armenians, and the
celebrations held annually in Qara Kelisa make the Church worthy of inscription
in UNESCO’s list.
Experts from Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism
Organization are also intending to have other famous churches in the province
such as St. Stepanous Cathedral in Khoy and Zoorzoor Church in Chaldoran
included as annexes to St. Thaddeus Cathedral after its
View images of Qara Kelisa here
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