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the katholikos has no more than a casting vote. It is true that
he might act by Bull. But such action, were it contrary to the
resolutions of the synod, would, as matters now stand, be revolu-
tionary. In this manner the katholikos is put into leading
strings, of which the ends are held by the officials on the banks
of the Neva, duly instructed by a professed and resident spy.

there are two, namely New Julfa and Tabriz. It will thus be seen that the Armenians
of Turkey have the preponderant vote, and that the clergy have a small majority over
the lay members, to the extent of the synod and seven of the bishops of Edgmiatsin.

At the last election, which took place on the 17th of May 1892, there were present
in the church of St. Gregory 72 electors, including the synod and the 7 bishops.
The number might have been about 135. But several dioceses appointed the same
delegate. The vote for Mgr. Khrimean was unanimous, the second candidate being
only nominal.

Other articles of the Polojenye to which I should like to call attention are to the
following effect : — The usual Russian provision forbidding proselytising is inserted. The
katholikos alone is permitted to make the holy oil. The synod is to consist of four
bishops and four archimandrites, all resident at Edgmiatsin. It is to assemble at least
twice a week. The katholikos is ex officio a member of synod and presides when he is
present. It is not said whether the procurator has a right to be present at the delibera-
tions ; but the minutes and decisions must all be submitted to him. All monasteries
are to be regulated according to the rule of St. Basil, and to become a monk it is
necessary to obtain the sanction of the synod upon the recommendation of a bishop. A
married man may become a monk if he have no children under age and if his wife agree
to enter a convent. The Church schools are recognised ; but their rules and curricula
must be submitted to the synod. The synod must in turn submit them to the Minister
of the Interior, finally it is stated that the Armenian clergy are supported by the gifts
of the Armenian people, and the nature of these gifts is specified.

1 According to Von Haxthausen (journey in 1843) the synod took the place of the
general council of the Church, which it was impossible to assemble. He adds that in
1783 the Patriarch Lukas decreed that it should not consist of fewer than seven
members; in 1S02 there were nine memljers {Traiisiaiicasia, English edition, p. 305).

Edginiatsin and the Armenian CJinrch 235

Nor are the remaining provisions of this double-faced
instrument calculated to shed balm over the wounded dignity of
the head of the Church. It is the Emperor who appoints the
members of the synod, although the katholikos is entrusted with
the important function of submitting two names for the Imperial
choice. It is not legal for the pontiff to punish a member of
the synod without the Imperial consent. The same authority
is necessary should he desire to suspend a bishop. He may
not leave the cloister for more than four months except with
the sanction of the Tsar. When a bishopric falls vacant he
submits names to the Emperor, with whom the appointment rests.
Should the bishop desire to go abroad for more than four
months, application must be made to the same high quarter.
But perhaps the most serious because the most insidious weapon
against the independence of the national Church is the provision
which enacts that a year shall elapse between the death of a
katholikos and the election of his successor. This clause was
accepted with singular want of foresight at a time when travelling
was even slower than it is at the present day, and when it was
difficult to collect the delegates from Turkey and Persia within
a lesser period. In practice it is not easy for the new katholikos
to take up his duties until some time subsequent to his election ;
and, should further delay be of advantage to the Government,
the Tsar can always defer confirming the choice of the repre-
sentatives. Thus a vacancy in the Chair is always accompanied
by a long interregnum, during which the Government plays off
one party against the other, and succeeds in obtaining whatever
concessions may have been resisted during the preceding

An English traveller who visited Edgmiatsin the year after
the conclusion of this enactment found the synod with its
Russian procurator in full swing. The katholikos was at once
reduced to a position of president of the synod, and the synod
to one of subservience to Russian policy.^ Von Haxthausen
speaks of the procurator as a Russian and quite an autocrat ;
this was in 1843." At that time the pontiff Nerses was in
occupation of the Chair, and his conspicuous abilities were

1 Captain Richard Wilbraham, Travels, etc., London, 1839, p. 98. At the time of
his visit in 1837 the procurator was actually an Armenian, but quite Russianised.

2 Transcaucasia, German edition, Leipzig, 1856, vol. i. pp. 256 seq. ; English
edition, pp. 2845;?^. Von Haxthausen speaks of the " Grobheit des Procurators." It is
only just to add that the katholikos was absent during his visit.

236 Armenia

regarded with suspicion by the Russian authorities. His schemes
for the higher education of the Armenians had come to nothing
owing to Russian opposition. But the hardest blow was
reserved for the year 1885, when the KathoHkos Makar was
appointed by the Emperor in defiance of the expressed sentiments
of the delegates of the nation. It was then realised that the
independence of the Church was at an end. The ukase of investi-
ture confirmed this pessimist view. Instead of the usual
wording " upon the recommendation of the Armenian people,"
the appointment was based " upon the recommendation of the
clergy." Instead of the pictures from Armenian history which
adorned the ukase of the pontiff George, Russian insignia and
coats of arms enlivened the scroll. The constitutional phrase
has been restored to the ukase confirming the present pontiff, but
not the patriotic pictures ! ^

Still, in spite of the fetters which have been imposed upon
the actions of the katholikos, as much by the manner in which
the Polojenye is worked by the Russian bureaucracy as by the
provisions which that statute contains, the average Armenian and
especially the lower classes are immensely interested in the
event of the coming days. At Batum, at Kutais, at Alexand-
ropol, at Erivan — wherever we have been in the society of
Armenians, talk has centred upon the triumphal journey and the
approaching consecration of His Holiness Mekertich Khrimean.
It is not only the ancient ceremony, and it is not merely the
assembling of delegates from all parts of the Armenian world
that appeals to the heart of the nation. It is the personality and
reputation of the man. The people forgets, but it does not
change. The imagination of the race still sees in the holder of
the pontifical office not alone or so much an archbishop or
katholikos — the keystone of the edifice of the Church — as a
high priest in the old Biblical sense. Khrimean is the ideal of a
high priest. He is a figure which steps straight out from the Old

1 I was shown the documents in the Hbrary. The method of the election of the
Katholikos Makar affords great sport to the Jesuit Vernier. He hails with delight the
constitution of Edgmiatsin into a state prison "oil I'elu de la nation demeure sous la
garde d'un geolier Moscovite. Cet elu a fini par deplaire au despote couronne de .St.
I'etersbourg ; le czar vient de rejeter avec mepris I'oecumenique qui avait reuni la
majorite des suffrages, et de lui substituer arbitrairement un Russe qui n'a d'Armenien
que le nom. Dans qiielques aitiu'cs de par le knout, ce nom meme disparaitra, et
qiielque pape cosaque remplacera I'.^rmenien russifie et occupera a Edgmiatsin le trone
de saint Gregoire. Terrible et juste vengeance de Dieu. ..." The italics are mine
{Histoire du Patriarcat Ann^nien CathoUqite, Paris, 1891, p. 285).

EdgDiiatsin and the Aruienian C/uirch


Testament with all the fire and all the poetry. At the ceremony
of his consecration it seemed as if at the foot of Ararat the
ancient spirit were still alive, and that the holy oil which
descended upon that venerable head from the beak of the golden
dove anointed a law-giver to the people who announced the
Divine Word. This im-
pression was in part
derived from the Semitic
cast of his features. The
large brown eyes and
aquiline nose above a long
and full beard, are char-
acteristics which we as-
sociate with the Jewish
nation, but which are not
uncommon among the
Armenians. What is
more rare among this
people is the spirituality
and refinement which is
written in every line of
this handsome face (Fig.
48). But the whole
character of the man
would seem to have been
moulded upon a Biblical
model rather than upon
that of the Christian hierarchy. He is the tried statesman to
whom the people look for guidance in the abeyance of the
kingly office. W^ith him religion and patriotism are almost
interchangeable terms ; and the strong reality which he has
given to the old Armenian history may be illustrated by an act
which those who lack sympathy with such a character might
almost regard as childish. In the cloister of Varag near Van,
over which he has presided for many years, are buried the
remains of Senekerim, king of the Van countr}', who abdicated
his kingdom in favour of the Byzantine emperor, Basil II., and
retired to the town of Sivas in Asia Minor, which he received in
exchange. Over his tomb a wooden canopy had been erected
and decorated in a manner befitting royal rank. But such
honours, paid to so unworthy a monarch, shocked the keen sense

Fig. 48.

The Katholikos Mekertich

238 Armenia

of the patriot in Khrimean ; he stripped the frame of its
trappings and ornaments, and the structure stands bare to this
day. The simple surroundings among which his Hfe has been
passed recall the setting of a Bible story. At a later stage of
our journey, when we arrived in the town of Van, I was shown
the house where he had resided and which he has now devoted
to a school for girls. As I alighted to visit the school a man
with the appearance and dress of a peasant stepped forward to
hold the reins of my horse. Yet this individual was none other
than the nephew of the Katholikos, and the brother of Khoren
Khrimean, who has accompanied his uncle to Edgmiatsin, and
who does the honours of the patriarchal household with so much
dignity and natural grace. During our stay in Van, his native
province, we were afforded an instance of the magnetic influence
which through a long life Mekertich Khrimean has exercised
upon his countrymen, and which takes the form of superstitious
veneration among the humble and the poor. As we were
winding up the slopes of Mount Varag on our way to the
ancient monastery where he lived so long, teaching in the school
which he had founded within its walls, and often taking this very
path from the cloister to preach in the little church of Hankus-
ner, on the outskirts of the gardens of Van, our attention was
called to a spot where an assassin had lain in wait for him,
deputed by his enemies to kill him as he rode unaccompanied
towards the town. The story is told that when the man per-
ceived him and raised his rifle to his shoulder, a sudden fear
seized his limbs, his arm shook like a wand ; and he fell upon his
knees before his victim, whose look he had been unable to bear.
As a writer Khrimean has expressed through the vehicle of a
prose which is full of poetry and emotion conceptions of Scripture
and thoughts upon the troubles of his time which might have
sprung from the warm imagination of the early Christians in the
East. He has often suffered for the fire of his sermons, and he
possesses both the style of the consummate orator and the personal
charm which keeps an audience under a spell. He has for many
years been in the forefront of the Armenian movement ; and it
was he who pleaded the Armenian cause at the Congress of
Berlin. A people whose spirit has been crushed and whose
manhood has been degraded gather new life from such a teacher
and learn to become men. But perhaps the most striking quality
in a character which is at once complex and clear as the light of

E dgmiat sill and the Annenian C/utrch 239

day is the ever-wcllinLj kindness and open-armed sympathy with
which he shares the troubles of his fellow-men. As the throng
press round him, the holder of their highest office, and en-
deavour to kiss his hand or gain a glimpse of his face, the mind
travels back to that solemn scene in which the Greek king
receives his stricken and distracted people : " O my poor
children, known to me, not unknown is the subject of your
prayer ; well am I aware that you are sore afflicted all ; yet,
though you suffer, there is not one among you who suffers even
as I. For the grief you bear comes to each one alone —
himself for himself he suffers — and to none other else ; but my
soul mourns for the State and for myself and you." ^

Side by side with personal relations of greater freedom than
I had anticipated towards this remarkable man, there grew up at
Edgmiatsin and during the course of subsequent travel a fairly
intimate acquaintance with the events of his life. He was born
on the 5th of April 1820; and it is therefore in his seventy-fourth
year that he ascends the throne of St. Thaddeus and of St.
Gregory. His father and uncle were well-to-do citizens of Van,
who had come to be known under the name of Khrimean because
of a trade which they had conducted with the Crimea. The
young Mekertich had a single brother and no sisters ; and he
appears to have been educated with some care by his uncle. His
youth and early manhood were devoted to secular pursuits. For
five or six years he acted in the capacity of an overseer in a
weaving business. But already in 1841 he had become a
traveller and a thinker ; in that year he made a journey in the
province of Ararat and visited Edgmiatsin. At the age of
twenty-five he married and in due course became a father ; but
his ^\■ife died after giving birth to a daughter who only lived to
be six or seven years old. To a layman of intellectual tastes
among the Armenians of Turkey there is scarcely any other
profession open than the honourable but ill-paid calling of a
teacher. Shortly after his marriage Khrimean proceeded to the
capital and earned his living by private tuition. His first book
appeared in 1850, and consisted of a description in poetry of his
travels in Ararat, The period of his residence in Constantinople
was diversified by further journeys ; to Jerusalem and the Holy
Land, of which he published an account ; and to Cilicia, the seat
of the latest Armenian dynasty, where he remained some time as

1 Sophocles, QLdipiis Tyraunas, 1. 58.

240 Armenia

a teacher in the convent of Sis. In 1854 he returned to his
native city, and in the following year took orders and became a
vardapet or monastic priest. It is at this date that the more
conspicuous portion of his life may be said to have commenced.
The pulpit gave full scope to his natural eloquence ; while the
qualities of the student and writer, which he had carefully
cultivated, were displayed in the colum.ns of a journal which he
founded about 1856 and named the Eagle of Vaspurakan, or
of the province of Van. The proceeds of the sale of this
periodical, which was at first printed at Constantinople, whither
he had returned in 1855, enabled him to purchase an instrument
of great rareness in Turkey, which the Armenians prize with the
same childish affection and reverence as the Persian highlanders
value a rifle or sporting gun. Khrimean re-entered Van with the
title of abbot of the famous monastery which overlooks the
landscape of the city and the rock and the waters from the slopes
of Mount Varag. He came the proud possessor of a printing
press, with which to conquer the sloth of the faint-hearted among
the laymen and edify the crass ignorance of the priests.

In the good old times in Turkey one might read or write
what books one liked, and the freedom which was enjoyed by the
average individual might have excited the envy of the citizens
of some of the European states. When the abbot of Varag
cast his stone into the stagnant waters, the report woke little echo
beyond the borders of his native province and the ranks of his
countrymen. But the waves which he set in motion have never
yet subsided ; and who can tell upon what shore of promise or
disappointment they are destined to break and disappear? If
ever there was a good cause, such was the cause which he
championed, and no advocate could be more pure-minded than
himself. His avowed object and real aim was the elevation of
the Armenians and their preparation for the new era which he
foresaw. That era he conceived as one of national activity in
the rapid decline of the Mussulman peoples and the approach of
new influences from the West. If we tax him with having
resuscitated a realised and played-out ideal — that national ideal
which is still the bane of our modern Europe, but which, except
perhaps in the case of some paradoxical German Professors, has
lost its hold upon educated minds, he might reply that it is the
only talisman with which to touch the Armenians, the most
obstinate nationalists which the world has ever seen. He might

Edgniiatsin and the Ainnenian C/nircJi 241

further point to the almost hopeless condition of the Ottoman
Empire, and under his breath he might suggest that the methods
of Russian despotism were not such as to excite the enthusiasm
of a strongly individual people capable of assimilating Western
culture at first hand. Lastly, he might dwell upon the fact that
the Armenians have a long history, and that their progress, to be
solid and permanent, must be based on a revival of consciousness
in the dignity of their past.

But the inculcation of such doctrines in the minds of his
countrymen was sure to produce a ferment among a people
who have been regarded as the inferiors and almost as the
slaves of the Mussulmans for upwards of eight hundred years.
It was imputed to him that, he was working to revive the
old Armenian kingdom — ^a consummation which a sensible
Turk should regard with equanimity, since the time neces-
sary to attain this end would far exceed all possible limits
which he might assign to his solicitude for posterit}^ But
sensible people are a minority of the inhabitants of this globe,
and they are not numerous in the governing circles of the
Ottoman Empire. The great activity of the Abbot of Varag,
who trained his youths in the school of the cloister to conduct
unaided the redoubtable magazine, slowly aroused the suspicion
of the authorities. His own party in the Church supported him
with much zeal, and another monastery, still more famous, that of
Surb Karapet above Mush plain, was added to his spiritual
administration. No sooner was he installed than a second
printing press was set up and another school founded. The
Armenians of the plain of Mush were edified by a new local
journal, the Little Eagle of Taron. In 1869 he was elected
Patriarch of Constantinople, a dignity which he only held for four
years. The Turkish Government had become alive to his great
and growing popularity, and it was found expedient that he
should resign. Then came the tribulations of the Russo-Turkish
war, during which the new movement among the Armenians cost
them several little massacres and untoward events. When the
Congress met at Berlin the ex-patriarch, who had been busy with
literature, undertook, in concert with an archiepiscopal colleague,
a mission on behalf of his nation to the German capital. This
was his first visit to the West, and he extended his journey to
Italy, France and England. The result of his efforts and of those
of Nerses, Patriarch of Constantinople, was the insertion of the

242 Aruiema

well-known clause in the Treaty of Berlin pledging Europe to
supervise the execution of reforms in the Asiatic provinces of
Turkey inhabited by Armenians. Khrimean returned to his
native country the object of the resentment of the Ottoman
authorities ; much of this portion of his life was spent in Van.
But Armenian discontent was spreading ; the alarm of Govern-
ment was increasing; and in 1889 the eloquent preacher was
sent to Jerusalem in honorary exile. In the month of May
1892 he was elected to the primacy of the Armenian Church.
The Russian bureaucracy perhaps reflected that their safeguards
at Edgmiatsin were quite sufficient to bridle the vigour of a
septuagenarian. These shrewd diplomats therefore humoured the
Armenians in the matter, and the election was allowed to stand.
The Sultan raised difficulties about releasing the exiled prelate
from his Ottoman nationality and oath of allegiance. When this
objection had been overcome his consent was qualified by the
condition that the katholikos- elect should not pass through
Constantinople. A year elapsed in these parleyings. For two
years the Armenian Church had been without a head. During
that period it had been ruled by the Russian procurator. Now
in the autumn the elect of the nation is at length presented to
the delegates who have assembled from all parts of the Armenian
world. And he comes from Russia, from the north, released from
exile in Turkey at the pressing instance of the Tsar. One must
admire the extraordinary cleverness of these Russian bureaucrats !
The sun was already high when we sallied forth from our
lodging, having with great difficulty prepared our breakfast in
the crowded room. We passed down the long and dusty
street of the village, which is dignified by the historical name of
Vagharshapat. Nothing remains of the capital of King Tiridates,
which was built upon this site or in the immediate neighbourhood.
You are shown the remains of an old bridge which spanned the
Kasagh, or river of Vagharshapat, some little distance north-west
of the present settlement. The river has changed its course since
it was erected. But the character of the masonry is rather that
which was prevalent in the Middle Ages — conglomerate piles,
faced with carefully hewn and jointed blocks of stone. Several
shops bestow a modern appearance upon the street, having
windows and being disposed as in Europe. A commonplace
edifice with many windows and standing in private grounds
recalls an Institute in one of our provincial towns. It is the

Edgviiatsin and the Armenian CJmrch 243

Academy or Seminary. We entered the cloister from a door on
the north, through which we issued into an open space on the
west of the great court. A covered way conducted us to the
quadrangle, in the centre of which rises the cathedral (Fig. 49,
taken from south-west).

Imagine the Old Court of Trinity College at Cambridge
without the gateway, the hall and chapel, and with a church of
some size placed in the centre where the fountain stands. All
four sides of the figure are defined by low buildings, resembling
the dwellings which constitute two sides of the Cambridge court. I
had always understood that our quadrangle at Trinity was the
largest in the world ; although I believe some American university
was building one a few^ inches bigger not so very long ago. But
the great court of Edgmiatsin perhaps already makes the
record ; it has a length, from west to east, of 349 feet 6 inches,
and a breadth of 335 feet 2 inches. These measurements I took
myself, much to the astonishment of the crowd which assembled ;
they were at a loss to find a theory which might explain so
strange an act. The length will be very much increased in a
short while, when the condemned east side has disappeared. A
fine row of stone buildings is in course of erection, which will
enlarge that dimension by many yards. Our cousins across the
Atlantic must bestir themselves.

The western side of the court on the south of the covered
way is devoted to the residence of the Katholikos, while the block
on the . north of the same passage is occupied by the bishops.
There is no style or pomp about the pontifical dwelling ; and it
would bear the same relation to the Master's Lodge at Trinity as
a four-roomed cottage to a mansion. At the back is a little
garden. The north side consists of the rooms inhabited by the
monks, and a terrace, raised on pointed arches, extends from end
to end. The building on the east is in process of demolition,
and, like its fellows on the two sides which have already been
described, is composed of comparatively fragile material. I was

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