Vanak Cathedral

Vanak Cathedral

Vanak located in Isfahan province as one of the most beautiful churches in Iran and even the world, is the central artistic and architectural treasure of the Armenian Christians migrated to Iran during the 17th century. The cathedral was started to be built up at the time of reign of Shah Abbas II of Safavid dynasty. Since the church was not big enough for the growing Armenian community in Isfahan, in 1655 the cathedral was rebuilt. The process of its reconstruction took nine years.

The expenses for rebuilding the cathedral was provided by the Armenian migrated to Iran. Paintings in the church are created by Armenian craftsmen. These marvelous craftsmen had learnt their craft in Europe and were influenced by Dutch and particularly Italian masters. The inner dados of walls are covered with the ceramics dating from 1710-1716. Both Inner and outer walls of the church are full of inscriptions that invite the readers to pray for the constructor and his descendants. Shah Abbas II is mentioned in the entrance inscription written in Armenian. Also, the Armenian dates of 1104 and 1113 (1692 and 1701 A.D.) are mentioned in the inscription. These dates indicate of the start and the end of the construction of the church.

The translation of the full description of the inscription is as follows:

“The construction of this Holy Savior Cathedral was started in 1655 AD and ended in 1664 AD. It was built up during the reign of Shah Abbas II and Catholicos "Philippus" and the leaders of the Caliphate "David" with the help of righteous people of Jolfa. The reward of the worship performed in this church is dedicated to those who are alive or passed away."


This marvelous church contains a domed sanctuary which is an obvious feature of Persian mosques. However, the noteworthy addition of a semi-octagonal apse and high chancel is typically observed in western churches. The cathedral's outer walls have been constructed in relatively modern structure and are remarkably plain in comparison with its intricately ornamented inner walls.

The inner walls are enclosed with fine murals and gold-plated carvings and contain a wainscot of amusing tile work. The central dome painted in blue and gold illustrating the Biblical stories of creation of the universe and Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden. Pendentives all over the cathedral are painted with a noticeable Armenian theme of a cherub's head surrounded by folded wings. The top of the entrance is painted with subtle flowery ideas in the Persian miniature style. Two sectors, of fresco go around the inner side of walls: the upper unit portrays the life of Jesus Crist, whereas the down part portrays agonies the Armenian martyrs endured during the invasion of the Ottoman Empire.


The yard covers a huge freestanding belfry towering over the graves of Orthodox and Protestant Christians. A tile plate inscribed in Armenian could be observed by the arrival of the church; tombs are also located on the sideways of the exterior wall before the arrival, with inscriptions in Armenian. There is upraised area in the corner of the yard which is built to commemorate the 1915 Armenian Genocide took place in Turkey. The building included a library and a museum is located across the yard; several carved stones are placed outside of this building suggesting stories and scenes from the Bible.

Over 700 handwritten books as well as many exceptional and irreplaceable sources of Armenian and medieval European languages and arts could be found in the library. Numerous historical pieces from Armenian community could be found in the church’s museum.


The valuable collection of commands issued by Iran's rulers since Safavid dynasty regarding Armenian is one of the astonishing historical attraction of the museum. These commands are among the most significant and reliable resources of history. 

The Print shop is yet another facility located in the church yard created by the hard work and perseverance of the leader of Armenians at that time in Jolfa in 1636 AD. The first book was published in this print shop was David’s Psalms. There is only one book of this type in the world which is being held in Oxford, England.


The pictures of this book is open to the public. Vank church library with some 25000 books as one of the best resources is being used by Armenian and some other religions researchers.





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