Armenian Jerusalem
house of Annas, prison and parish church

Holy Archangels has been the parish church catering to the

spiritual and religious needs of the kaghakatsi community who

look upon it as their own personal gateway to heaven.

         The   traditional   site   of   the   house   of   Annas,   it   is   the   second   major   Armenian church   in   Jerusalem,   but   is   built   on   a   less   grandiose   scale   than   the   Cathedral   of St   James.   Located   at   the   northern   edge   of   the   Armenian   compound,   it   is commonly associated with weddings, christenings and funeral ceremonies.          During   the   recent   restoration   of   the   church,   workers   came   across   ancient Armenian   inscriptions   buried   behind   layers   of   plaster.   Some   of   the   inscriptions have   been   dated   as   far   back   as   the   13th   Century. An   old   baptismal   font   was   also uncovered behind one of the walls.          The   vault   of   the   church   is   supported   on   four   fat   columns.   Stripped   of   their plaster,   the   columns   revealed   row   upon   row   of   distinctive   Armenian   stone- crosses   (Khachkar)   engraved   in   the   masonry   by   Armenian   pilgrims.   The   church boasts   another   unique   distinction:   it   has   no   less   than   seven   altars,   one   of   them marking the site of the prison where Christ was held.           But   the   most   striking   feature   of   the   church   is   the   decorative   array   of   Kutayha tiles   lining   the   walls.   Most   of   the   tiles   are   painted   in   blue   and   carry   traditional Armenian   floral   motifs.   But   a   very   small   number   bear   full-color   illustrations   of Biblical   scenes.   Experts   consider   these   tiles,   and   the   ones   found   on   the   walls   of the Cathedral of St James, masterpieces of Armenian ceramic art.          Father   Emmanuel   Atajanian,   a   member   of   the   St   James   Brotherhood   of   the Armenian   Patriarchate   of   Jerusalem,   notes   the   unusually   low   entrance   to   the   St Archangels convent denotes security concerns.          The   golden   and   silver   receptacles   of   churches   often   tempted   attacks   on   Holy Shrines,"   he   says,   prompting   church   authorities   to   take   such   steps   to   thwart thieves.          The   low   entrance   had   another   purpose   -   it   reminds   the   visitor   of   the   Psalm (51:17),   "The   sacrifices   of   God   are   a   broken   spirit;   a   broken   and   contrite   heart, O God, you will not despise."          "That   is   to   say   that   the   faithful   who   enter   the   church   should   be   humble   and obedient to the commandments of the Lord," he adds.          The   walled-up   olive   tree   has   been   sacred   ever   since   early   Christian   times   and has been the object of reverence for countless pilgrims.    The tree never seems to grow old or die as new roots supplant old ones.            Archbishop    Maghakia    Ormanyan,    one    of    the   Armenian    nation's    greatest historians,   relates   that   on   the   evening   of   Good   Friday,   the   faithful   come   to   this place and a special ceremony is held there. "The   fruits   of   the   tree   are   gathered   while   spiritual   songs   and   hymns   are   sung and   with   the   stone   of   the   fruit   (olive   pits)   rosaries   are   prepared   which   are spread   by   the   pilgrims   everywhere,"   he   writes   in   his   "Armenian   Jerusalem," (1931).          The   fruits   and   stones   of   this   tree   are   said   to   be   miraculous   and   many   have been   the   barren   women   and   those   suffering   from   high   fever,   who   have   been cured by them.          On   the   right   side   of   the   parapet   surrounding,   a   stone   is   wedged   in   the   wall   of the   church   at   a   height   of   about   50cm   from   the   ground,   upon   which   one   can discern a crack in the the shape of a mouth.          This   small   column   has   been   called   the   "Hosanna   Stone,"   the   crack   having opened   upon   Jesus'   entry   into   Jerusalem,   when   he   reprimanded   the   Pharisees for demanding those who were shouting "Hosanna" to be quiet.          "I   will   tell   you,   if   these   were   silent,   the   very   stones   would   cry   out,"   Jesus   had said (Luke 19:40).    Atajanian adds:          The   convent   of   the   Holy Archangels   is   a   typical   medieval   convent.   In   spite   of its    small    size,    the    convent    and    the    church    have    a    great    significance.    It preserves   the   old   Armenian   church   style   which   is   divided   into   two   parts:   the external   vestibule   and   the   inner   church.   The   vestibule   has   the   altar   on   the northeastern   side   that   stands   in   memory   of   the   insults   borne   by   Christ   in   the house of the high priest and it is called The Altar of Passions.          As   soon   as   you   enter   the   church   on   the   left   northeastern   corner   there   is   a small   chapel   which   is   our   Lord's   first   prison. Although   this   fact   is   not   mentioned in   the   New   Testament,   we   have   accepted   it   according   to   Church   tradition   that has   been   honored   for   many   centuries.   When   Jesus   Christ   was   brought   from   the garden   of   Gethsemane   to   the   house   of   Annas,   they   incarcerated   Him   there   for some   time.   The   inner   part   of   the   church   has   the   main   altar.   Also,   there   are altars   both   to   the   right   and   to   the   left   dedicated   to   the   angels.   The   arc-shaped ceilings   are   supported   by   four   pillars.   The   church   is   decorated   with   many pictures.          “There   is   another   tradition   linked   with   the   Holy Archangels   Church   mentioned in   the   Old   Testament,   which   says   that   the   prophet   David   from   there   saw   God's angel at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.          'The   angel   of   the   Lord   was   standing   between   heaven   and   earth,   with   a   naked sword   in   his   hand   stretched   out   against   Jerusalem,   when   the   Lord   said:   Enough now! Stay your hand! (2 Samuel 24:16-17; I Chronicles 21:15-16).'"          When   Latin   clergymen   were   ousted   from   their   monastery   on   Mount   Zion,   the Armenians   invited   them   to   reside   at   Holy   Archangels.   Later,   a   special   order   of the   ruling   Ottoman   High   Port   granted   the   Latins   ownership   of   the   St.   Savior's monastery, which was previously called St. John and belonged to the Georgians.          Holy   Archangels   has   been   under   the   care   of   the   Armenians   ever   since   the spread   of   Christianity,   it   foundation   laid   by   Queen   Heghine   (Helen),   the   wife   of King Abgar.          Ancient   records   state   since   time   immemorial   these   have   been   Armenian properties   in   Jerusalem,   their   construction   ascribed   to   Queen   Heghine,   "who   is the first founder of the Holy Places."          Atajanian   reports   that   these   places   since   that   time   have   been   protected secretly   and   openly   by   Armenian   monks   and   faithful   hermits   until   the   time   of the second Heghine (Helen), the mother of Constantine the Great.          "Foreign   historians   for   the   first   time   in   the   7th   century   have   mentioned   that this   convent   belongs   to   the   Armenians.   In   the   course   of   time   the   kings   and rulers of Cilicia have carried out renovations.         Among   the   renovators   was   King   Levon   III   (1286).   He   constructed   a   wall   around the   compound,   and   left   an   inscription.   Grigory   the   Chain   Bearer   was   another. The last time Holy Arhcnagels was restored was in the Eighties.          This   convent   has   also   served   as   a   nunnery   where   nuns   and   women   advanced in   age   lived   together   and   devoted   their   time   to   prayers   and   meditation   and took care of the sanctuary.          The Armenian   Patriarchate   of   Jerusalem   website   notes   the   Church   is   situated in   the   southwestern   part   of   the   Old   City   inside   the   walls of   the   Armenian   St. James Monastery.          “The   main   entrance   of   the   Convent   is   narrow   and   low,   similar   to   the entrances   of   churches   in   the   Holy   City.   The   reason   for   the   construction   of   such entrances   was   for   security   purposes   since   the   golden   and   silver   receptacles   of churches   often   tempted   attacks   on   Holy   Shrines.   The   low   entrance   had   another purpose--it   reminds   the   visitor   of   the   Psalm:   The   sacrifices   of   God   are   a   broken spirit;   a   broken   and   contrite   heart,   O   God,   you   will   not   despise   (Ps.   51:17). That   is   to   say   that   the   faithful   who   enter   the   church   should   be   humble   and obedient to the commandments of the Lord.          "This   convent   stands   in   the   location   where   once   stood   the   house   of   the   high priest, Annas.   Here   our   Lord   Jesus   Christ   was   brought   to   be   tried   by   the   impious high   priest.   They   arrested   Him   and   took   Him   to   the   mansion   of   the   high   priest Annas   via   the   Gethsemane   and   the   lower   part   of   the   city   wall   by   the   south- eastern   entrance   which   is   now   called   Dung   Gate. As   it   is   testified   in   the   Gospel: So   the   band   of   soldiers   and   their   captain   and   the   officers   of   the   Jews   seized Jesus   and   bound   Him.   First   they   led   Him   to Annas;   for   he   was   the   father-in-law of   Caiaphas,   who   was   high   priest   that   year.   It   was   Caiaphas   who   had   given counsel   to   the   Jews   that   it   was   expedient   that   one   man   should   die   for   the people (John 18:12-14).          "In   the   house   of   the   high   priest   the   religious   council   of   the   Jews   was gathered.   Annas,   even   though   he   was   not   the   high   priest   of   that   year,   was raised   to   the   honor   of   high   priest   in   the   ninth   year   AD,   and   later   was   deposed by    the    procurator    Gratus,    after    reigning    nine    years.    But    being    wealthy, intriguing   and   foxy,   Josephus   tells   us,   he   succeeded   in   having   his   own   sons appointed   as   his   successors,   and,   four   years   later,   his   son-in-law,   who   continued in   office   for   nineteen   years. Annas   was   still   the   soul   of   the   Sanhedrin,   and   that was   the   reason   the   divine   prisoner   was   taken   first   to   him.   The   high   priest   then questioned   Jesus   about   His   disciples   and   His   teaching.   Jesus   answered   him,   I have   always   taught   in   synagogues   and   in   the   temple,   where   all   Jews   come together;   I   have   said   nothing   secretly.   Why   do   you   ask   Me?   Ask   those   who   have heard Me, what I said to them; they know what I said. When He said this, one of the   servants   standing   by   struck   Jesus   with   his   hand,   saying,   ?Is   that   how   You answer   the   high   priest   (John   18:19-22)??   The   boldness   with   which   the   Son   of God   was   slapped   terrified   the   angels   and,   as   the   holy   fathers   of   the   Church interpret,   the   holy   angels   covered   their   faces   with   their   wings.   The   Armenian Catholicos,   St.   Nerses   the   Gracious,   writes   in   the   hymn   of   the   church,   "Aysor Antchar":    "The servant slapped that face,    "Which cherub did not even dare to look at "   But hid his face behind his wings.          "The   local   people   called   this   convent   Der   al   Zeytune   --the   Convent   of   the Olive Tree, to which our Lord was tied before being tried.          "When   the   Lord   was   brought   to   the   presence   of   the   high   priest Annas   for   trial, he   was   busy   with   another   trial,   so   they   tied   Christ   to   the   nearby   olive   tree   and then   imprisoned   Him.   This   olive   tree   has   been   sacred   ever   since   the   earliest Christian   centuries   and   has   been   the   object   of   reverence   for   pilgrims.   Special care   is   taken   of   the   tree   and   new   shoots   grow   from   its   roots.   Archbishop Malachia   Ormanyan   relates   that   on   the   evening   of   Good   Friday,   the   faithful come   to   this   place   and   a   special   ceremony   is   held   there.   The   fruits   of   the   tree are   gathered   while   spiritual   songs   and   hymns   are   sung   and   with   the   stone   of   the fruit    (olive    pits)    rosaries    are    prepared    which    are    spread    by    the    pilgrims everywhere   (Armenian   Jerusalem,   1931,   p.   128).   The   fruits   and   stones   of   this tree   are   miraculous.   Miracles   are   told   related   to   barren   women   and   those suffering from high fever.          "On   the   right   side   of   the   parapet   surrounding   this   tree   which   is,   at   the   same time,   one   of   the   walls   of   the   church,   it   is   possible   to   see   a   stone   about   half   a meter   high   from   the   ground   upon   which   can   be   seen   openings   like   the   mouth   of a   human   being. This   small   column   has   been   called   Hosannas   Stone. According   to tradition,   those   cracks   were   opened   when   Christ   entered   Jerusalem   gloriously and   reprimanded   the   Pharisees,   (who   demanded   the   silencing   of   those   who were   shouting   "Hosanna!")   saying:   "I   will   tell   you,   if   these   were   silent,   the   very stones would cry out" (Luke 19:40).          “The   convent   of   the   Holy Archangels   is   a   typical   medieval   convent.   In   spite   of its    small    size,    the    convent    and    the    church    have    a    great    significance.    It preserves   the   old   Armenian   church   style   which   is   divided   into   two   parts:   the external   vestibule   and   the   inner   church.   The   vestibule   (15m*16.5m)   has   the altar   on   the   northeastern   side   that   stands   in   memory   of   the   insults   borne   by Christ   in   the   house   of   the   high   priest   and   it   is   called   The   Altar   of   Passions.   As soon   as   you   enter   the   church   on   the   left   northeastern   corner   there   is   a   small chapel   (1.5*   1.75m)   which   is   our   Lord?s   first   prison.   Although   this   fact   is   not mentioned   in   the   New   Testament,   we   have   accepted   it   according   to   Church tradition   that   has   been   honored   for   many   centuries.   When   Jesus   Christ   was brought    from    the    garden    of    Gethsemane    to    the    house    of    Annas,    they incarcerated   Him   there   for   some   time.   The   inner   part   of   the   church   has   the main   altar.   Also,   there   are   altars   both   to   the   right   and   to   the   left   dedicated   to the   angels.   The   arc-shaped   ceilings   are   supported   by   four   pillars.   The   area   of the   church   including   the   altars   and   pillars   is   15m*   8.5m.   It   is   decorated   with many pictures.          “There   is   another   tradition   linked   with   the   Holy Archangels   Church   mentioned in   the   Old   Testament,   which   says   that   the   prophet   David   from   there   saw   God's angel   at   the   threshing   floor   of   Ornan   the   Jebusite.   The   angel   of   the   Lord   was standing   between   heaven   and   earth,   with   a   naked   sword   in   his   hand   stretched out   against   Jerusalem,   when   the   Lord   said:   Enough   now!   Stay   your   hand!   (2 Samuel 24:16-17; I Chronicles 21:15-16).          "For   a   certain   time   Armenians   invited   Latin   clergymen   to   reside   in   this   place after   they   had   been   ousted   from   the   monastery   of   Zion.   Later,   by   a   special order   of   the   Ottoman   High   Port,   they   obtained   today's   St.   Saviors   monastery, which was previously called St. John and belonged to the Georgians.          "The   Holy Archangels   Convent   has   been   under   the   care   of   the Armenians   ever since   the   spread   of   Christianity.   The   foundation   was   laid   by   Queen   Heghine (Helen),   the   wife   of   King   St.   Abgar.   One   of   the   Armenian   priests   writes:   "The construction   of   this   church   is   contemporaneous   with   the   construction   of   Holy Places,   such   as   the   house   of   Caiaphas   (Armenian   Holy   Savior   Monastery)   as   well as this place."          "Since   time   immemorial   these   have   been   Armenian   properties   and   their construction   is   ascribed   to   Queen   Heghine,   who   is   the   first   founder   of   the   Holy Places,   because   during   the   reign   of   Titus,   part   of   the   buildings   built   on   Mount Zion   remained   standing.   These   places   since   that   time   have   been   protected secretly   and   openly   by   Armenian   monks   and   faithful   hermits   until   the   time   of the   second   Heghine   (Helen),   the   mother   of   Constantine   the   Great;   among   these Holy   Places,   St.   James   is   included.   Foreign   historians   for   the   first   time   in   the 7th   century   have   mentioned   that   this   convent   belongs   to   the Armenians.   In   the course   of   time   the   kings   and   rulers   of   Cilicia   have   carried   out   renovations,   such as   Armenian   King   Levon   III   in   the   year   1286.   He   has   constructed   a   wall   around the    monastery    of    the    Archangels,    and    has    left    an    inscription.    Similarly, constructions   and   restorations   have   been   carried   out   by   Gregory   the   Chain Bearer. For the last time it was restored in the eighties of the present century.          "This   convent   has   served   as   a   nunnery.   Virgins   and   women   advanced   in   age lived   together   and   devoted   their   time   to   prayers   and   meditation   and   took   care of   the   sanctuary.   This   convent   has   its   superior   and   a   priest-in-charge   who   is   the parish priest of the Armenian community of Jerusalem."      (Courtesy Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
This project has been supported by the Gulbenkian philanthropic Foundation, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and members of the worldwide Armenian community. Reproductions of the genealogical documents [domar’s] are courtesy Photo Garo, Jerusalem. Copyright © 2007 Arthur Hagopian
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