Armenian 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
“Kulkhateer”, StJames Cathedral
While   many   Armenians   know   that   the   Armenian   Quarter   in   Jerusalem’s   Old   City   covers   one-sixth   of   the city,   many   Armenians,   including   even   some   living   in   Jerusalem,   don’t   know   the   many   Armenian-related facts which make our presence in the Holy City so significant. Here are ten such salient facts. 1.THE ST. JAMES ARMENIAN CATHEDRAL. The   name   is   wrong.   The   actual   name   of   the   cathedral   is   Sts.   Jameses   because   two   saints   bearing   that name   are   buried   in   the   cathedral.   The   first   is   St.   James   (known   as   ‘Klkhatir’   to Armenians),   the   brother   of St.   John.   The   second   is   St.   James,   the   brother   of   Christ.   He   was   the   first   bishop   of   Jerusalem.   The   “first” St.   James   was   beheaded   by   Herod Agrippa.   While   his   head   is   buried   in   the   cathedral,   the   rest   of   his   body   is in   distant   Santiago   de   Compostella   in   Galicia,   in   northwest   Spain.   How   the   saint’s   body   wound   up   in   that remote   spot   is   another   story,   if   not   fable   and   legend.   The   “St.   James”   is   popular   because   it’s   easier   to pronounce and to write than Sts. Jameses. 2.THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER The   first   known   monument   to   the   Unknown   Soldier   was   built   by   the   Armenians   in   the   city’s   Musrara neighborhood,   northwest   of   the   city   walls.   It   is   located   in   the   funerary   chapel   of   martyr   St.   Polyeucte,   an Armenian   officer   of   the   Roman   XII   legion.   The   6.30   meter   by   3.90   meter   mosaic   is   made   up   of   forty medallions   which   contain   storks,   partridges,   geese,   ibis,   eagles,   and   ostriches   and   interspersed   flowers. The   mosaic   includes,   in   Armenian,   the   inscription:   “To   the   memory,   and   for   the   salvation,   of   all   those Armenians   whose   names   are   known   to   the   LORD.”   It’s   believed   the   mosaic   was   made   sometime   between 527 to 565 in the age of Emperor Justinian of Byzantium. 3.THE CITY WALL WAS BUILT BY AN ARMENIAN Maymar   Sinan   (1489-1588),   the   Armenian   engineer-architect   from   the   Agirnas   village   near   Caesarea,   was responsible   for   building   the   wall.   As   chief   architect   of   the   Ottoman   palace,   he   was   in   charge   of   the construction   of   more   than   300   structures—mosques,   hospitals,   public   kitchens,   schools,   mausoleums, baths,   palaces,   mansions,   bridges,   aqueducts,   and   caravansaries.   He   circled   (in   the   mid-1530s)   Jerusalem with the 4 kilometer walls including 34 watchtowers and seven gates. For   centuries   the Turks   denied   Sinan’s Armenian   origin.   In   recent   years   they’ve   somewhat   relented   and   say that   he   was   Christian.   Evidence   that   Sinan   was   Armenian   is   the   letter   he   wrote   to   the   sultan   asking   him not   to   exile   his   family   to   Cyprus   when   the   Turks   were   shipping   the   Armenians   of   his   hometown   to   the Mediterranean island. 4.THE SECURITY DECREE. At   the   main   entrance   to   the Armenian   Convent   there’s   an Arabic   writing   etched   in   stone.   It’s   a   declaration which   guarantees   the   integrity   of   the   Armenian   holy   places   and   exempts   Armenians   from   head   tax.   Many people,   including   professional   guides,   wrongly   believe   the   words   are   those   of   Prophet   Mohammed   granting protection   to   the   Armenians   of   the   Holy   Land.   Others   believe   the   words   belong   to   Omar   Ibn-Khattab,   the conqueror   of   Jerusalem.   Still   others   maintain   that   Salah   Eddin Ayoubi   or   Ottoman   Sultan Abdul-Aziz   is   the author   of   the   decree.   However,   the   actual   guarantor   was   Egyptian   Sultan   al   Zaher   Abou   Said   Chakmak (1437).    Some    scholars    believe    he    was    of   Armenian    origin    and    was    related    to   Armenians    who    were prominent in the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt. 5.QUEEN MELISENDE. Although   Queen   Melisende   of   Jerusalem,   the   greatest   Crusader   female   personality,   had   an   Armenian mother   and   strengthened   the Armenian   presence   in   the   Holy   Land,   few   people   know   about   her   or   that   she is   buried   in   the   Church   of   Virgin’s   Tomb   (“Asdvadzamayr”   in   Armenian),   adjacent   to   the   Garden   of Gethsemane.   Her   mother   (Queen   Morphia,   the   second Armenian   queen   of   Jerusalem)   is   also   buried   in   the underground   church   at   the   foot   of   Mount   of   Olives.   Queen   Melisende   was   born   (1105)   and   raised   in Urfa/Edessa.   She   came   to   Jerusalem   with   her   family   at   the   age   of   ten   when   her   father,   the   ruler   of   Urfa, became   King   Baldwin   II,   the   second   Crusader   king   of   Jerusalem.   Her   mother   tongue   was Armenian   and   she received Armenian upbringing while in the Armenia city of Urfa. Queen   Melisende   was   the   eldest   of   four   sisters.   She   was   tall,   had   dark   eyes   and   brows.   She   was   described by   a   contemporary   chronicler   as   “beautiful,   wise,   sweet   and   compassionate”.   Others   described   her   as   a willful   ruler   who   didn’t   suffer   fools   gladly.   She   was   passionate   about   horse   riding   and   was   resented   by some   Crusaders   because   of   her   gender   and   her   half-Armenian   origins.   While   married   to   Count   Fulk,   she shared   the   throne   with   her   husband.   After   the   early   death   of   her   husband   during   a   hunting   accident,   she became regent and sole ruler. A   talented   diplomat,   she   avoided   conflict   with   Muslims.   She   was   interested   in   the   arts   and   in   urban development.   The   Holy   Sepulcher   was   reconstructed   through   her   intercession.   She   also   built   the   Bethany Abbey   for   nuns,   the   St.   Anne   Church,   three   covered   bazaars,   and   a   scriptorium   for   the   production   of illuminated   manuscripts.   She   was   also   instrumental   in   the   expansion   of   the   Armenian   Quarter.   Melisende spread   her   influence   through   the   arranged   dynastic   marriages   of   her   two   sisters   to   Crusader   royalty.   She died in 1161 following a stroke. 6.WHEN WERE THE ST. JAMES CATHEDRAL AND CONVENT BUILT? The   original   cathedral,   which   was   destroyed   by   the   Persians   in   the   7th   century,   was   built   in   the   4th century.   The   present   building   dates   from   the   Crusader   era   and   is   in   many   ways   a   replica   of   the   Haghpad Cathedral   in Armenia.   The   convent’s   roots   also   go   back   to   the   Crusader   era.   However,   most   of   the   convent land   were   acquired   and   developed   in   the   17th   and   18th   centuries   through   the   donations   of   wealthy Armenians    in    the    diaspora    and    pilgrims.   A    number    of    prominent    buildings    (Gulbenkian    Library,    Sts. Tarkmanchats   Secondary   School,   Jarankavorats,   the   defunct   printing   press)   were   built   in   more   recent times. The seminary, across from the main entrance to the convent, was built in the 1970s. 7.CHRISTMAS DAY ON JAN. 18. Why   do   Armenians   of   Jerusalem   celebrate   Christmas   on   Jan.   18   when   the   Armenian   Apostolic   Church celebrates   that   feast   on   Jan.   6?   Depending   on   the   source,   there   are   two   answers:   the Armenian   Church   of Jerusalem   uses   a   different   church   calendar   from   that   used   by   the Armenian Apostolic   Church.   The   second explanation?   There   was   a   time,   nearly   two   centuries   ago,   when   Jerusalem   Armenians   and   the   local   Greek Church   celebrated   Christmas   on   Jan.   6.   This   resulted   in   huge   crowds   of   pilgrims   (Armenian,   Greek,   and Russian)   crammed,   at   the   same   time,   in   the   Nativity   Church   to   celebrate   Christ’s   birth.   The   simultaneous celebrations   resulted   in   a   cacophony   of   competing   hymns,   discomfort   for   all   and   in   the   occasional   fight. To resolve   the   problem,   the   Armenians   delayed   their   celebrations   to   Jan.   18   but   in   lieu   received   certain rights from the Greek Patriarchate. 8.THE JERUSALEM CROSS. The   Latin   (Catholic)   Patriarchate   of   the   Holy   Land   has   a   distinctive   cross   which   is   known   as   the   Jerusalem Cross.   It   comprises   of   a   square   cross   with   four   smaller   crosses   over   and   below   its   horizontal   arms. Although the Catholic Patriarchate has made it its “logo”, the cross is of Armenian origin. In   Eastern   Armenia,   long   before   the   arrival   of   the   Crusaders   to   the   Middle   East,   Armenians   etched   the identical   cross   on   rocks,   churches   and   monastery   walls.   The   four   small   crosses   symbolized   the   four disciples   who   wrote   the   New   Testament.   These   ancient   crosses   can   still   be   seen   in   the   Republic   of Armenia.   When   following   the   Seljuk   invasions   a   significant   percentage   of Armenians   moved   to   Cilicia,   they took   the   cross   design   with   them.   A   number   of   Armenian   Cilician   noblemen   adopted   it   as   their   flag.   The Crusaders   saw   the   cross   while   passing   through   Cilicia   on   their   way   to   the   Holy   Land.   After   conquering Jerusalem,   they   declared   it   their   flag.   In   time   the   Latin   Patriarchate   of   Jerusalem   appropriated   the   cross as its own. Another   proof   of   the   cross’s   Armenian   roots:   across   from   the   entrance   to   the   Sts.   Jameses   Cathedral, visitors   can   see   more   than   half-dozen   khachkars   (stone-crosses)   embedded   in   a   high   wall.   They   have   four small   crosses   around   them.   One   of   these   khachkars   has A.D.   965—more   than   130   years   before   the   arrival   of the Crusaders to Jerusalem. 9.FOUR THOUSAND MANUSCRIPTS. The   second-largest   collection   of   Armenian   illuminated   manuscripts   is   at   the   modest   St.   Thoros   Church located   in   the   lay   residential   district   of   the   Armenian   Convent.   The   4,000-manuscript   collection,   which includes   works   by   such   masters   as   Toros   Roslin   and   Sarkis   Pitzak,   is   the   second-largest   after   the   one   in Yerevan (10,500). At one time there were 100,000 Armenian illuminated manuscripts: most were burned by the Turks. 10.THE LAST QUEEN OF ARMENIA After   the   fall   of   Sis   in   1375,   King   Levon   V   (the   last   king   of Armenia),   his   family   and   his   retinue   were   taken prisoners   by   the   Memluks   and   incarcerated   in   Egypt. Years   later,   when   several   European   noblemen   paid   the ransom   demanded   by   the   Memluks,   King   Levon   was   released. After   acting   as   governor   of   Madrid   for   a   few years,   he   settled   in   Paris   as   a   permanent   guest   of   the   king.   During   the   years   King   Levon   was   incarcerated in   Egypt,   his   wife   Mariyoon   (the   last Armenian   queen)   and   daughter   Penna   settled   in   the Armenian   Convent of   Jerusalem   where   they   died   a   few   years   later.   They   were   buried   side   by   side,   next   to   the   pillar   facing the chapel of St. James (“Klkhateer) northwest of the cathedral. During   his   “retirement”,   King   Levon   tried   to   arrange   peace   between   France   and   England   hoping   to   launch another   Crusade   after   the   two   neighboring   countries   had   made   peace.   But   the   kings   of   France   and   England were   not   interested   in   a   peaceful   solution   to   their   conflict.   King   Levon   died   in   1393   in   Paris   and   was   buried in   the   same   mausoleum   where   French   royalty   were   buried. After   the   French   Revolution,   the   royal   remains were   reburied   at   the   St.   Denis   Cathedral   outside   Paris.      More   than   a   century   after   King   Levon’s   death,   King James I of England, who was a distant relative, acquired the title of “King of Armenia”. (June 29, 2017)
(Courtesy Dikran Abrahamian,- ,  and Jirair Tutunjian)