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little carpet, upon which devotees offer coins. The adjacent cloister
consists of a humble building
on the south-west. The church
is surrounded by tombs. Lying
against the north wall are some
interesting old stones, one of
which is exquisitely sculptured
(Fig. 59). It probably consti-
tuted a boundary-stone, and may
have been brought hither as an
offering to the saint. The two
figures which are seen in my
illustration of the building re-
present opposite types among the
inhabitants of Edgmiatsin. The
white-headed abbot on the left
belongs to the old school, with
habits and standards which are
not agreeable or exalted. That
on the right is the figure of Dr.
Arshak Ter-Mikelean, fresh from
the atmosphere of a German uni-

The third and smallest of
the churches marks the site of
the wine-press, where the holy martyrs sojourned and where St. Gregory
resided after his release from the pit at Artaxata. It is situated to the north-
east of Edgmiatsin and to the west of St. Ripsime. It bears the name of
Shoghakath, or Effusion of Light. I was informed that the attendants of
Saints Ripsime and Gaiane were buried in a vault on the south side of the
apse.^ In disposition the building resembles St. Gaiane ; but it is much
longer (58 feet 2 inches) in comparison with its breadth (24 feet 8 inches).
We learn from an inscription over the door of the church that the portal
was added by the Katholikos Nahapet in a.d. 1693. The belfry is due
to the same pontiff;- his grave is conspicuous within the portal (Fig. 60
and plan). The dome rests on four massive piers attached to the wall.
The joints of the pink and grey stone are visible in the interior, as in
the case of the two buildings described ; and so admirably are they fitted

^ According to Agathaiigelus the third chapel was built upon the site of the wine-
press. Further on we are told that it was situated noiih of the town, and that in it was
buried the unfortunate nun who was left behind owing to sickness.

- Brosset (Bull. Scientijique Acad. Sc. St. rdtershoitrg, 1840, pp. 46 seq.) quotes a
letter from Nahabet to this effect.

Fig. 59. Sculptured Stone.



that one would regret the introduction of any internal decoration. A
scrutiny of the exterior reveals the fact that the church has been most
carefully restored, stones having been removed here and there and replaced.
Brosset informs us that mention is made in certain records of Armenian
Councils of the construction by Nerses III. (a.d. 640-649) in the town
of Vagharshapat of a church of Shoghakath ; but he supposes — it would
appear upon inconclusive evidence — that this name is mtended to desig-
nate the cathedral, Edgmiatsin.^ If it be taken to refer to the wine-press
chapel, then all three edifices will have been rebuilt in the seventh
century by the testimony of records. I may add that according to an
inscription in the monastery of Uch Kilisa, near Diadin, that cloister
was also restored in the seventh century.- If the buildings as we now see
them were erected in that century, the framework at least of Edgmiatsin
must be attributed to an earlier date.

I return from this detailed description of the cathedral and
the chapels of the martyrs to the more general tenour of the
contents of this chapter. Edgmiatsin is rapidly developing into
a home of the higher education, and it enjoys the proud privilege
of possessing an institution which is unique in all Armenia for
the comparatively exalted standard of the course of study which
it provides. The Academy at once dispenses the usual curriculum
of a seminary and supplies a higher course, extending over three
years. Such an excessive disporting in the realms of dangerous
knowledge was only sanctioned by the Russian Government on
the understanding that the privilege should be confined to
candidates for the priesthood. The nature of their profession
may have appeared a sufficient guarantee that the learning
imparted would be strictly subordinated to " views." Besides,
there was always the safeguard that the curriculum must be
submitted to the Russian bureaucrac}-, and approved in due
course by these aureoled arbiters, enthroned above the shifting
mists and slippery quagmires among which poor Knowledge
often faints and sometimes sinks. Her youngest and hardiest
offspring, pertinacious Natural Science, has been excluded from
these intellectual preserves ; and I was assured that the mere
mention of the name of this arch-enemy in a prospectus would
produce the same effect among the august censors as a challenge
from the prince of devils among the blessed. The course is
confined to theology, history and literature, foreign as well as
Armenian. To these subjects is added a study which the

1 Biosset, ibid.
- IJelck, \x\ ZeitHhrift fiir Elhiiologic, ISerlin, 1S93, Ilcft ii. p. 77.


Edgfiiiatsin and the Armenian Church 273

Germans have developed under the name of Pddagogik. Within
this formula, I was given to understand, are included at Edgmi-
atsin, besides the art of the teacher, a certain general knowledge of
philosophy and psychology. The students are obliged to pass
a certain standard by examination at the end of each year.

The idea of founding such an institution was conceived by
Nerses V. (d. 1857), whose liberal mind sought to satisfy by this
project the needs of his countrymen both in secular and religious
education.^ His proposal was rejected by the Russian Govern-
ment, and he was himself sent into honorary exile. Better
fortune attended the instances of George IV. ; and the Academy
was actually founded during his pontificate in 1873 or 1874. An
inscription over the door records that the principal aim of the
founder was the encouragement of the study of Armenian
theology and literature. It is interesting to note that the bulk
of the scholars do not in fact become enrolled in the priesthood.
As a rule there are about i 50 to 200 students in the various
grades of the seminary and the academy ; but I was informed
that during the last ten years only about i 5 had taken orders.
The rest have become teachers in the Armenian schools, or
migrated to universities in Russia, or adopted professional or
commercial pursuits. I enquired as to the nature of the instruc-
tion in theology, and learnt that until the year 1892 that pompous
term had been applied to a simple course of religious instruction.
In that year a promising scholar who had been sent to Germany
for education appeared upon the scene. I have already mentioned
the name of Dr. Arshak Ter-Mikelean ; he took his degree in the
University of Jena, and now presides over the theological course. At
the time of my visit two young Armenians were studying theology
at Leipzig' at the expense of the Armenian Church. At the same
date the students in the academical course numbered about forty.

My reader is aware that in Russian Armenia the word
seminarist does not necessarily apply exclusively to candidates
for the priesthood. The seminary is nothing more than the
highest grade in the Armenian school system, with the single
exception of the more exalted course provided by this Academy.
The great majority of the pupils are maintained out of the
revenues of the cloister ; but those who are able pay what they
can. A youth enters the seminary when about thirteen or four-
teen years old, and the academy at about nineteen or twenty.

1 Haxthausen, Transcaucasia, p. 295.

2 74 Annejiia

Both institutions are housed in the same building. Each diocese
is invited to make a certain number of presentations ; and boys
and young men are encouraged to come from the Turkish
provinces. As a matter of fact few are able to avail themselves
of the offer. The scholars reside within the building, one
dormitory being allotted to the academy and another to the
seminary. These dormitories are kept scrupulously neat and
clean. There is a fine music room with a grand piano, and there
is also a nice library with casts of the immortal works of Greek
sculpture illuminating the shadows above the shelves. How
strange they seem in this distant land, where the study of the
classics is not included even in the Jiigher education I

The effect which is being produced upon the character of
the monastic priests by the wise solicitude for education which
has characterised the Armenian movement is almost incalculable.
In old days the monks were chosen by the bishops from among
their attendants ; and this custom obtained even after the
development of seminarial instruction within the cloister. But
in 1892 the synod issued a decree enjoining that, except in
very special circumstances, no person should be ordained monk
who had not passed through a seminary. He is nominated by
the bishop, but must be approved by the synod. It is a pity
that hitherto no steps have been taken to raise the standard of
the ordinary clergy. But we must admit that it would not be
easy to effect such a reform from above. For all practical
purposes we may count three grades in the hierarchy of the
Armenian Church. In the first figure the bishops, the second
comprises the monks and parish priests, and the third includes
the deacons. Over all three is exalted the authority of the
katholikos, the keystone of the dome of the edifice. Celibacy is
imposed upon the bishops and monks, while marriage is rendered
obligatory upon the parish priests. Thus a sharp division exists
between the two orders of clergy, arising out of a complete
difference in mode of life. Moreover the ordinary clergy are
elected by the laity — a custom to which the people jealously
cling. The inhabitants of a town or village select their future
pastor from among their own number. Of course the bishop
might refuse to ordain. But such a course would only be
warranted in very special circumstances ; the same being
predicated of the right of the bishop to depose a priest. Thus
the parish clergy occupy a special and somewhat independent

Eo^dmiatsin and the Armenian Clinrch 275


position. In the rural districts the spread of education has not
yet commenced to touch them ; nor will they emerge from their
present deplorable debasement until a general quickening of
public opinion shall take place.

The monks or celibate priests are, I believe, always connected
with convents ; they are known under the style of vardapet, or
doctor, which is attached to their individual names. They are
governed according to the rule of St. Basil of Caesarea, the
contemporary and monitor of the Armenian pontiff, Nerses the
Great (A..D. 340-374). They do not practise the tonsure, and
they wear their beards. They are attired in long black robes
with conical cowls. Their numbers must have considerably
diminished since 1700, at which date we are informed this
convent alone contained over a hundred monks.^ At present
there are in all not more than some fifty vardapets within the
wide limits of the Russian provinces. Of these about half reside
at Edgmiatsin. As members of the synod or as bursars, as
overseers of the printing press or as editors of the official journal,
Ararat, their profession is no sinecure. All monks in Russian
territory are ordained at Edgmiatsin, and it is the custom for
all bishops, whether in Russian Armenia or abroad, to be conse-
crated in the church of the Illuminator.

The revenues dispensed by the katholikos are derived from
several sources. There is the property of the monastery, consist-
ing of lands and villages in the valley of the Araxes and elsewhere,
to which, in the absence of statutes of mortmain, additions are
constantly being made. The income from this source and from
offerings and contributions of various kinds amounts, I believe, to
about ,^8000 a year. The general property of the Church is also
administered from Edgmiatsin, the synod being specially invested
with this important function. Donations in lands or money are
frequently forthcoming, and are devoted to the support of the
various institutions. The accounts of the monasteries and
bishoprics in Russia are audited and passed by the synod. But
the clergy are supported by their own flocks; and, beyond submit-
ting their accounts to the proper authority, the parishes are practi-
cally autonomous.

There can be little doubt that the overseeing by the

^ Schillinger, Persianische unci Ost-Indianische Reise, Niirnberg, 1 707. I do not
credit the statement of Evliya, who visited Edgmiatsin in A.D. 1647, to the effect that
at that time the monastery was inhabited by about 500 monks.

276 A7'"menia

katholikos and synod of the administration of the funds of the
Church in Russia has already effected a salutary change. Should
Russia become possessed of the Turkish provinces, and should
her counsels incline to the sounder policy of encouraging the
Armenians to work out their salvation in their own way, this con-
centration is likely to promote a general reform of the Armenian
clergy. The authority of the katholikos at the present day
extends to practically all Armenians professing the national
religion. That authority suffered division during the troubled
period of long duration which followed the overthrow of the
Bagratid dynasty (A.D. 1045) ^^^ the gradual dispersal of the
Armenian people. But the Katholikos of Sis has quite recently
professed his spiritual allegiance to Edgmiatsin ; ^ and the recluse
of Akhtamar, that beauteous island in the lake of Van, alone
continues pretence to the title and station of a supreme pontiff
His jurisdiction is confined to his rock and a few villages on the
mainland. The patriarchate of Constantinople is an institution
which is the result of political exigencies, and which in no way
derogates from the spiritual supremacy of the successor of St.
Gregory, enthroned in the cloister near the banks of the Araxes.

My reader has perhaps divined from a perusal of the foregoing
paragraphs that an interesting feature of the Armenian Church is
the power enjoyed by the laity, which indeed may be described
as predominant. With them rests the choice of the ordinary
clergy, and in practice their voice prevails in the selection of
a katholikos. That Church is indeed a compromise, so far as
her ministers are concerned, between opposite principles in the
organisation of Christianity. The monastic priests represent the
principle of elevating a hierarchy into a position of lofty inde-
pendence. From among their ranks are taken the bishops. But
the great body of the clergy are strictly the ministers of the
people, supported by their voluntary contributions. From these
conclusions, derived from a study of contemporary conditions, I
pass to a brief examination of the Edgmiatsin legend, and of the
history and character of that interesting ecclesiastical edifice which
rises in the background of all that I have written in the present

The Armenians boast that the Gospel w^as preached to their
ancestors by the first apostles, and that they were the first people

^ Bryce, Transcaucasia and Ararat, note to 4th edition, London, 1896, p. 314.

Edgmiatsin and the Armenian Chtirch 277

to adopt Christianity as the religion of the State. They separate
these two events by a respectable interval, for they attribute the
conversion of king and people to a miracle performed by St.
Gregory towards the close of the third century. We have seen
that the current version of that miracle comprises a vision by
which Jesus Christ becomes in effect the Founder of their
cathedral church. The inference is perhaps legitimate that they
hold their own Church, as an organisation, to have been established
by Christ Himself ; and its independence of all hierarchies, whether
of the East or of the West, to be based upon the same supreme
sanction.^ We are carried back by a discussion of these claims
to the very dawn of the Christian religion ; and it will be wise
to keep them before us as prominent landmarks to control the
discursiveness of an enquiry which must also be brief

I. The apostles mentioned by Armenian writers as having
carried the Gospel into Armenia are St. Bartholomew, St. Thaddeus
— the son or brother of St. James — St. Simon and St. Jude."- Of

1 It is interesting to place together the two following passages, the first taken from
a modern and representative Armenian source, the second from the work of a German
scholar. I translate both from the German. Dr. Arshak Ter-Mikelean, professor of
theology in the Academy at Edgmiatsin, writes {^Die Arvienische Kirche in ikren
Beziehiuigcn ziir byzantinischen, Leipzij^, 1892, p. 9) : "The mother church of Gregory
was not founded by him nor even by the apostles, who are only mortal men ; but the
everlasting Founder, the only Head of the Church, Himself descends in glory from
Heaven and commands him to build a church after His plan and His directions on a
prescribed site in the royal city, Vagharshapat. Christ Himself appears to Gregory in a
vision and instructs him what he shall do . . . " ; and Professor Gelzer draws the
inference {Die Anfdnge der armenischen Kirche, in Berichte iiber die Verhandhmgen
der K. S. Gesell. der Wissenschaften zti Leipzig, Phil. -Hist. Classe, 1895, P- 127) : " The
ancient capital Vagharshapat . . . bears at the present day the name Edgmiatsin, ' the
Only Begotten descended from Heaven,' in everlasting remembrance that Christ
Himself founded the Armenian Church and thereby established her as autokephalous and
completely independent of every patriarchate, whether of the East or of the West.''

^ Moses of Khorene mentions St. Bartholomew and St. Simon (ii. 34, in Langlois,
Collection des hist, de VArmhiie, Paris, 1867-69, vol. ii. p. 98), and says that the former
suffered martyrdom in the town of Arevban, while the other was reputed to have met the
same fate in Veriospora. According, to Gelzer (article Armenien in Realencyklopcidie
fiir protestantische Theologie, Leipzi(/, 1896) the martyrdom of St. Bartholomew in
Urbanopolis, a town of Great Armenia, was known to Greek writers as early as the
fifth century. Urbanopolis, Albanopolis, or Korbanopolis (Armenian, Arevbanos or
Arebonos-Kaghak) may perhaps be identified with Arabion castellum, where in fact Vardan
{c. 1270) tells us that the saint was murdered. Arabion castellum was a fort on the
Stranga, or Great Zab, which Mr. F. C. Conybeare {Key of Truth, Oxford, 1898, p. cii. )
connects with the modern Deir, where at the present day the monastery and church of St.
Bartholomew stand. I surmise that nothing is known of the site of Veriospora. Moses,
following the Edessene tradition, speaks of St. Thaddeus as one of the seventy disciples,
relates at length his mission to King Abgar of Edessa (Urfa in Mesopotamia), and
speaks of his conversion of King Sanatruk, successor of Abgar, and of his martyrdom
in the canton of Chavarchan, called in his day Ardaz, as well-known facts. For St.
Jude I rely on Issaverdens {Armenia and the Armenians, Venice, 1878, vol. ii. p. 21),
who relates that he was put to death and buried in the city of Urmi in Azerbaijan.

2/8 Armenia

these the two first named are alone in general repute. But the
fame of St. Thaddeus reposes upon no less a title than that of
having executed a commission from Jesus Christ Himself to the
court of an Arsakid king of Lower Armenia or Mesopotamia,
whom the Armenians claim as one of their own royal line. King
Abgar of Edessa is said to have corresponded with the Saviour
and to have begged Him to come to his capital and heal him of
a malady. The letter is preserved which purports to contain the
reply of Jesus, to the effect that after His ascension He would
despatch one of the disciples. With this epistle came a portrait
of the features of the Redeemer, which in subsequent times was
the peculiar pride of Edessa. In due course the disciple arrived
in the person of St. Thaddeus, and the king was restored to
health. Monarch and people embraced the Christian faith.
After the death of Abgar, which appears to have taken place at
no long interval, his dominions were divided between his son and
nephew. The former returned at once to the religion of his
ancestors and reopened the temples of the gods. The latter, who
seems to have reigned over a portion of Armenia proper, and
who bore the name of Sanatruk, was visited by the apostle and
embraced the faith. But fear of the Armenian nobles compelled
the ruler to apostatise ; the disciple was overwhelmed by the
storm which he had himself aroused, and perished in the border
province of Armenia on the side of Persia, in the country which
receives the eastern slopes of Ararat.^ The legend of Abgar and
his correspondence has provoked the attack of modern criticism
and has perished in the unequal affray." But the preaching and
martyrdom of St. Thaddeus at the hands of King Sanatruk are
well known to one of the earliest and most reliable of Armenian
historians ; and the same authority of the fourth century speaks
of the throne of the Armenian pontiffs as the chair of St.
Thaddeus.^ In the absence of conclusive evidence that this saint
did not preach in Armenia I shall prefer to suppose that he did.

' Moses of Khorene, ii. 30-36, in Langlois, op. cit. vol. ii. pp. 95 seq. ; and Saint-
Martin, M^moires, etc. vol. i. p. 127.

- Professor Carriere (La LJgende tTAhgar dans r/iistoiir dc Mo'isc df Khoraic, Paris,
1895) shows that Moses used an Armenian version of the legend of Abgar which
commenced to form about the middle of the third century but was subsequently
remodelled. The same writer in this work relegates the unfortunate Moses of Khorene,
or rather the writer who assumes the mask of this name, to a position inter dt'os minoi'es
and to a period not earlier than the eighth century. He had previously been made to
step down several places, and was shivering somewhere in the seventh century. See
Gutschmid, Kleine Schriften, Leipzi4, 1892, iii. p. 335.

■' Faustus of Byzantium, iii. i, and iv. 3, in Langlois, <?/. cit. vol. i. pp. 210, 237.

Edgniiatsin and the Armenian Church 279

The name of St Bartholomew is often mentioned in connection
with that of St. Thaddeus ; he is said to have been active in the
mountainous region to the south of Lake Van, and to have been
flayed alive by the same monarch who put his colleague to death.^
These stories were perhaps invented at a comparatively late
period. We are on surer ground when we surmise that Chris-
tianity was professed in Armenia long anterior to the miraculous
cure of King Tiridates and his conversion by St. Gregory.
Indeed it would be strange if such had failed to be the case.
The interposition of one vast desert between the Holy Land
and Armenia is a comparatively modern geographical fact. It
is due entirely to bad government. In the first century the two
countries were united by a long string of cities, the populous
capitals of the low-lying districts. From such centres as Edessa
and Nisibis the religion was carried into the border ranges, and
over the passes to the plains of the tableland. There the first
regions designated by Nature to receive the new culture were
situated in the fertile country about the shores of Lake Van,
and further east around the margin of Lake Urmi. As early
as the middle of the third century we hear of an Armenian
bishop, whose name, that of Merujan, would naturally connect
him with the great Artsruni family, which possessed extensive
territories in the neighbourhood of Van and subsequently furnished
to that country a line of mediaeval kings." It is also probable
that the Archelaus, in whose mouth is placed a disputation with
Mani towards the close of the same century {c. A.D. 275-277),
was bishop of a see not far removed from Van.^ These early
ecclesiastics would almost certainly have made use of the Syriac
character, and it is more than likely that many among them
were Syrians. Their activity and the circle of their disciples
may not have extended to Northern Armenia ; although there
is presumptive evidence to show that the Christianity of Albania
(Eastern Caucasus or Daghestan) and Siunik (country around

^ Issaverdens, ii. 20, and Saint-Martin, i. p. 131.

- Eusebius {Hist. eccl. vi. 46, 2), speaking of Dionysius of Alexandria (A.D. 248-
265), says, " And in the same manner he writes to those in Armenia over whom Merujan
was bishop on the subject of repentance." For the probable connection of this bishop
with the Van country see Gelzer {Die Anfiinge., etc pp. 171 seq.).

3 Mr. F. C. Conybeare {Key of Truth, Oxford, 1898, pp. ci. seq.) discusses the
locality of the see of Archelaus. He is called in the Acts of Archelaus bishop of Karkhar
{iiria-Koiros Kapxapujv or Kacrxapwi'), which again is called a city of Mesopotamia, three

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 49)