Armenian Jerusalem
                   Ever   since   the   legend   was   immortalized   in   the   opus   of   the   great   French writer,   Alexandre   Dumas,   speculation   about   who   the   prisoner   was,   has been   rampant,   truth   and   fiction   becoming   convoluted,   their   intermingling making    it    difficult    to    give    credence    to    Dumas'    tale    of    treason    and intrigue.      The   prevailing   myth   held   that   the   prisoner   was   a   secret   twin   of   the French   "Sun   King",   Louis   XIV   (1643-1715). And   last   year,   French   cryptanalyst Etienne   Bazeries   claimed   to   have   decoded   a   cipher   which   purportedly revealed    that    the    man    in    the    iron    mask    had    been    a    military    officer, identified   as   Vivien   de   Bulonde,   who   was   punished   for   his   cowardice   in   the face of advancing Austrian troops by being forced to wear an iron mask.                But   lingering   in   the   forgotten   annals   of   one   of   Armenia's   greatest historians,   Maghakia   Ormanian   (184-1918),   lay   a   more   esoteric   plausibility: it   is   palpable,   in   fact   more   than   possible,   that   the   prisoner   of   the   Bastille was    actually    an    Armenian    clergyman,    a    prince    of    the    Armenian    Apostolic church, a lineage paralleling the royal pedigree of Dumas protagonist prince.      Both   princes   were   contemporaries.   Like   the   mythical   twin,   the   Armenian was   an   innocent,   a   victim   of   political   machinations,   held   in   the   Bastille and   subjected   to   cruel   and   abusive   punishment.   Dumas   "Man   in   the   Iron   Mask"   could   thus have easily been inspired by the tale of the misadventures story of the Armenian. Ormanian    recounts    that    the    clergyman,    Avedik    Yevtogiatsi,    had    been    patriarch    of Constantinople   and   later   Jerusalem,   around   the   beginning   of   the   18th   Century,   but   had fallen afoul of French interests because of his staunch anti-Catholic stance.                In   his   monumental   volume   about   the   lives   and   times   of   the   Armenian   Patriarchs   of Jerusalem,   which   took   him   ten   years   to   compile,   the   late   researcher   and   historian   Haig   A Krikorian,   quotes   Ormanian   as   noting   that   although   Avedik   had   influential   friends   and   loyal followers   in   the   then   Ottoman   capital   (Constantinople),   the   machinations   of   the   French envoy   to   the   sultan's   court,   Charles   Ferriol,   Marquis   d'Argental,   eventually   brought   about   the priest's downfall.                     Ferriol    became    an    "active    and    enthusiastic    supporter    of    the    Jesuit    campaign    to proselytize Armenians"   and   encourage   them   to   pledge   allegiance   to   the   Catholic   pope,   rather than the Armenian Catholicos, the head of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic church.                Despite   the   formidable   opposition   mounted   by   Avedik,   Ferriol   would   not   give   up   and contrived   to   convince   the   Sultan   to   exile   Avedik   to   an   island   on   the   Mediterranean   coast   of Syria.      "I will never have peace until somehow I topple him," Ferriol vowed, Ormanian reports.                Clandestinely,   Ferriol   enlisted   the   aid   of   some   malicious   clergy   and   prominent   merchants to heap more woe on Avedi's head, fighting a vicious running battle with Avedik supporters.                But   the   ebb   and   tide   of   politics,   and   vacillating   political   sympathies,   abetted   by   generous bribes   to   Turkish   officials,   derailed   Ferriol's   plots   and   saw   Avedik   re-instated   as   Patriarch   of Jerusalem,   but   not   before   the   Sultan,   exasperated   by   the   French   shenanigans,   had   decreed that   henceforth   Avedik   would   have   to   relinquish   his   Constantinople   seat   and   relocate   to Jerusalem.                Stymied,   Ferriol   promptly   counter-attacked. As Avedik   waited   for   a   ship   that   would   take him   to   the   Holy   Land,   he   was   waylaid   by   a   French   vice-consul   named   Bonald   who   bribed Avedik's Turkish   escort   to   disappear,   and   made   the Armenian   believe   that   a   ship   that   had   just appeared on the horizon was a Venetian vessel bound for Jaffa. It   was   a   ruse,   and   it   worked.   The   ship   was   actually   heading   west   toward   Messina   on   the island of Sicily which at that time was under Spanish sovereignty, Krikorian writes. Avedik   was   handicapped   by   his   lack   of   French   and   could   not   understand   what   was   going   on between   Bonard   and   his   cohorts,   which   included   the   ship's   captain   who   proceeded   to   strip Avedik   as   soon   as   he   boarded,   of   all   his   possessions,   including   a   pouch   containing   180   gold pieces (a hefty sum in those days), his priestly vestments, episcopal ring and pocket watch.                When   they   reached   Messina,   the   captain   handed Avedik   over   to   a   waiting   French   consul, Paul   Soulier   "who   unceremoniously   took   him   to   the   Inquisition   prison   on   the   island,   "   where he remained for several months.                Somehow,   Avedik   contrived   to   smuggle   a   message   to   his   supporters   with   the   help   of   a sympathetic Greek seaman, alerting his flock that he had been kidnapped. The   rage   and   consternation   it   spawned,   spurred   the   Sultan   to   give   Ferriol   a   tongue   lashing and a demand to produce the missing churchman.                But   the   wheels   of   fortune   took   a   wrong   turn   again   when   the   French   king,   at   the   behest   of Pope   Clement   XI,   ordered   Avedik's   transfer   to   Marseilles   "where   he   was   subjected   to   abject humiliation."                     "They    shaved    his    beard,    removed    his    priestly    garb    and    dressed    him    min    typical Frenchman's   clothes,"   before   transporting   him   in   secret   to   the   island   prison   of   Mont   Saint Michel, Krikorian quotes Ormanian.                In   the   dark,   dank   dungeon   there,   Avedik   could   only   ponder   the   ironic   misfortunes   of   a man whose sole purpose in life was serving a benevolent God. On   September   8,   in   the   year   1709, Avedik   was   again   spirited   away   in   secret,   this   time   to   the Bastille, and his undoing. And this was where the legend and confusion with the Man in the Iron Mask were borne.                "It   is   impossible   not   to   pause   and   cast   a   backward   glance   on   the   hard   working   yet painfully   tragic   personality   of   Avedik,   who   at   one   time,   was   confused   with   the   Yergateh Timagov Mart (man in the iron mask)," Ormanian states, according to Krikorian.                What   transpired   in   the   Bastille   remains   a   mystery.   But   according   to Armenian   historians, the   Catholic   church   intervened   again   in   the   person   of   the   cardinal   of   Paris,   Louis   Antoine Noyal, who entertained high hopes of converting the Apostolic priest.                Avedik   had   been   victimized   by   both   the   Turks   and   French,   had   been   stabbed   twice   and had   lingered   near   death,exiled   and   then   exalted,   but   in   the   end,   he   suffered   the   same   fate as Dumas' man in the Iron mask: oblivion.                What   remains   of   him   rests   in   a   grave   in   the   cemetery   of   the   church   of   Saint   Sulpice   in Paris where he was buried after his death on July 11, 1711, at the age of 54.       (Sydney, July 4, 2015)
the Bastille

For three centuries, sleuths, scholars and conspiracy advocates have extrapolated over

the identity of the "Man in the Iron Mask," the enigmatic prisoner of the notorious Bastille.

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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
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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