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Vank Cathedral in Isfahan
Located at the Armenian neighborhood of Jolfa lies one of the highly respected Armenian churches in Iran. Every year, many local and foreign tourists come to visit this excellent site and its great halls with its most gracious paintings which retell Biblical stories. These paintings on the walls and the ceiling are so beautiful that your spirit will be blown away. What makes this church distinctive hides in its architecture, which is different from the typical churches in Armenia, and that’s for the effect of Persian architecture and design on its construction process.
This cathedral was built in the early 17th century and with the encouragement of the Safavid emperors to honor the Christian Armenians who came to live in Isfahan during Ottoman-Safavid war; therefore, the whole building is a mixture of Persian and Armenian architecture. The exterior image of the cathedral is plain brickwork with no ornamental design compared to the interior design of the cathedral. That’s why you’d be highly impressed as you step in the main hall. Similar to Persian mosques, there’s a main sanctuary in this structure that has a dome and is decorated with fine tiling, frescoes, and gilded carvings. The paintings inside the building depict the biblical stories, martyrdoms, and pantomime demons in the form of Persian miniatures, and pained bars with floral motifs are all over the place. On the other hand, the scattered traces of western architecture of cathedrals are visible as you see the raised chancel and the semi-octagonal apse.
Visiting this place is not only an adventure into the small world of Christians who live among Muslims, but it’s also a great pleasure looking at the collection of old manuscripts, bibles, and other objects relating to Armenians if you’re interested in the footprints of the history of Christianity in Isfahan. After visiting this piece of art, you can join the hospitable Christians of Jolfa whose culture is tied with that of Iranians and Muslims, learn about them, and laugh with them. Either along the Zayande-rud River or in the cafés of this neighborhood, you get to see groups of people chattering while drinking coffee or tea.