2,000 years of glorious history
Stt Tarkmanchats
St Tarkmanchatz parish school
2,000 years of glorious history
Armenian Jerusalem

For most of the world, Calouste Gulbenkian will always be known as

Mr Five Percent, the man who held that much stock in the Iraqi

Petroleum Company.

               But   for   Armenians   in   general,   and   their   Old   City   of   Jerusalem   in   particular,   the name   Gulbenkian   evokes   notions   of   a   much   grander   and   more   lasting   perspective:   this is   the   family   that   has,   for   over   two   centuries,   held   Jerusalem   above   all   their   joys, lavishing upon it veneration, affection and largesse that can never be quantified.                "Two   centuries   of   Gulbenkian   presence   is   engraved   on   the   town   and   its   stones,   as many   commemorative   inscriptions   and   votive   tablets   proclaim,"   as Astrig Tchamkerten testifies   in   "The   Gulbenkians   in   Jerusalem"   (2006,   Calouste   Gulbenkian   Foundation, Lisbon), her definitive book on the Gulbenkian association with Jerusalem.                The   Gulbenkian   connection   to   the   Patriarchate   of   St   James   in   Jerusalem   is   an ironclad   tradition   established   a   century   ago,   and   destined   to   be   a   permanent   feature of their association.                It   is   no   heresy   to   declare   that   the   Gulbenkian   Foundation,   having   fallen   in   love with   the   unique   entity   that   is   the   Holy   City   of   Jerusalem,   has   decided   to   adopt   it   as its own.                The   affection   is   reciprocated   by   the   Patriarchate   which   continues   to   honor   the dynasty and pray for its endurance and the success of all its endeavours.                Tchamkerten   has   succeeded   in   capturing   the   soul   and   essence   of   the   Gulbenkian affinity towards Jerusalem, an affinity that has passed beyond the bonds of devotion.                There   is   almost   not   a   single   facet   of   the   Patriarchate's   manifold   institutions   that has not benefited from the Gulbenkian munificence and magnanimity.                The   164-page   book,   written   by   Tchamkerten   to   mark   the   50th   anniversary   of   the Foundation,    is    painstakingly    researched    and    lavishly    illustrated    -    some    of    the photographs have never been published before.                     The    oeuvre    provides    a    running    historical    commentary    of    the    Gulbenkian association   with   Jerusalem,   accentuating   the   Foundation's   "respect   for   the   [Christian] faith, for education and for charity."                She   theorises   that   Calouste   Gulbenkian's   personal   attachment   to   Jerusalem   goes back   to   that   memorable   day   when   as   a   child,   he   was   brought   to   the   city   to   have   his hair cut for the first time, in accordance with Armenian tradition.      The Old City would become a lifelong fascination for Calouste.                Tchamkerten   reminds   her   readers   that   the   Armenian   presence   in   Jerusalem   had been   well   and   truly   established   even   before   the   advent   of   Christianity,   in   the   wake   of the conquest of Syria and Palestine by the Armenian emperor Tigranes II.                When   Armenia   adopted   Christianity   as   its   state   religion,   the   influx   of   Armenian pilgrims   intensified,   leading   to   the   establishment   of   the   Armenian   Patriarchate   of   St James in Armenian Compound, that covers over a quarter of the area of the Old City.                Tchamkerten   traces   the   emergence   of   the   Gulbenkian   dynasty   to   the   Reshtouni princes, first mentioned in Armenian historiography in the 5th Century.                The   nobility   is   evident   in   every   philanthropic   undertaking   the   Foundation   has launched,    not    only    in    Jerusalem,    but    in    other    parts    of    the    scattered   Armenian presence.                "The   Calouste   Gulbenkian   Foundation   is   also   an   institution   that   is   open   to   the world,   beginning   with   the Armenian   world   and   its   far-flung   diaspora,"   as   Tchamkerten notes.                "Nobody   but   the   Gulbenkian   Foundation,   with   its   Armenian   roots,   has   faced   so great   a   diversity   of   needs   from   the   various   peoples,   communities,   authorities   and institutions   of   the   diaspora.   This   may   be   the   source   of   the   originality,   strength   and authority    of    the    name    Gulbenkian,    in    Jerusalem    as    in    Lisbon"    where    it    has    its headquarters.                In   an   aside   reminiscent   of   William   Saroyan's   "I   should   like   to   see   any   power   in   this world    destroy    this    race,"    Tchamkerten    wonders    how,    "beyond    this    illustrious [Gulbenkian]   family   and   the   continuous   benefits   they   brought,"   "a   nation   as   small   as the   Armenian   nation   could   have   achieved   such   influence   in   Jerusalem,   within   such   a disturbed    international    city,    when    the    nation    had    neither    the    status    nor    the prerogative    of    a    State?    Perhaps    we    could    identify    some    traits    possessed    by    the Armenians   and   argue   for   them:   their   devoutness,   their   rich   culture,   their   flair   for diplomacy and finance."      Among others.
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