Last week my blog was about how passionate the Armenians are about their churches and all the hard work they put into making them look nice and unique. This week my blog continues to address the pride that the Armenian people take in Christianity, and the best way I figured to continue is to talk about a key element that you can see in front of any Armenian Church, the Khachkar.
The Khachkar, also known as the Cross-Stone in the English language, has been a key symbol of Armenian pride when it comes to anything related to the Armenian Apostolic Church. One could argue that the designs of Khachkars comprise a significant part of Armenian architecture. In addition, each one is completely hand made.
There is a rule that no Khachkar can be duplicated, the design could be the same, but the size of the stone would have to either be bigger or smaller than the one that is being duplicated. The idea of not having the same size or design of the Khachkar is to keep it unique. These Khachkars are not only used in front of Armenian Churches or in an Armenian garden, but they are also put in place as tombstones. The artists of these Khachkars don’t want to make the same design over and over again, they want to change it up and bring new life into their work.
Khachkars were created after the Armenian nation adopted Christianity. The idea behind these Cross-Stones was to celebrate religious events, important events, and victories in battle. They were placed in holy lands, graveyards, and on top of hills. The oldest Khachkar that is in decent condition in Armenia today was carved in the year 879 and it is located in the City of Garni. In present day Armenia, there are over 50,000 hand-made Khachkars.
Armenians also brought these Khachkars to America and wherever else Armenians have settled around the world. Many of these Khachkar’s found in America will be located on the grounds of most Armenian Churches. If you take a look at this interesting website, it will show you some pictures of different types of Khachkars. At the bottom, it will show some pictures on how these artists work on these hand-made Khachkars. http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Khachkar
These Khachkars were found all over Historic Armenian lands. Unfortunately, over the past hundred years, Turks in Turkey destroyed these Khachkars in an act of hatred for the Armenian people and in an attempt to remove the Armenian History from stolen lands. On the eastern border of Armenia, Azeri’s in Azerbaijan also followed in the footsteps of their Turkish brothers in removing these Khachkars off of the stolen Historic Armenian lands by destroying every piece of the Khachkars and burning the remnants.
By: Vahe Assarian
The Armenian people are proud Christians. The first Christian church in Armenia was built in the 4th century and is the oldest and most famous Christian church in Armenia called Echmiadzin. The architectural design of the churches between the 4th and 7th century lives on today in the 21st century. Sadly, the churches that are in present day Turkey have, for the most part, been destroyed. Armenians accepted Christianity over 1,700 years ago. In 301 AD, under King Trdat the third, Christianity became the official religion of the Armenian people and made Armenia the world’s first Christian state.
One of the most famous lands in Armenian History regarding churches is the City of Ani, which is also known as the City of a 1001 Churches. The City of Ani today is not what it once was when the Armenian people populated that region. The churches today are unmanned and are falling apart. The once great land of the Armenian people with many proud Armenian churches has turned into a ghost town.
Below, I have put in a link that will show you how the churches in the City of Ani look today in present-day Turkey or, as I like to call, in Eastern-Armenia. http://www.kuriositas.com/2011/01/ani-ghost-city-of-1001-churches.html
There are multiple types of church designs that the Armenian people have created and kept over the years. The most famous design is the shape of a cross, ranging from the second to the first floor. Also on inside of each church is its own unique ornament sketch on the wall.
The next link will show you churches that have been destroyed or have fallen apart in present-day Turkey. These blueprints show the shape of some of the churches in Armenia. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see some styles of the ornament sketches on the walls. http://www.virtualani.org/tomarza/index.htm
Aside from churches in the Historic Armenian lands, the Armenian people also have their own private Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. There are four Quarters in Jerusalem – the smallest is the Armenian Quarter, and the others are the Christian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter. It is an honor for any religion to own a piece of the holy land and it is even greater an honor for the Armenian people to own a piece of the holy land. Even more fascinating is the fact that the Armenian people built their own church in the Armenian Quarter.
Here in the United States, Armenian-Americans are trying to pass a bill in Congress to have Turkey return Christian churches back to their rightful owners. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is working hard to pass House Resolution 306 (H.R. 306). The bill has passed through the United States Foreign Affairs Committee and in the United States House of Representatives in December 2011. The United States Senate is next on the list to pass H.R.306, but this vote has yet to be scheduled.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and viewing the pictures in the links. Now, if you are really interested in getting involved, please help the ANCA in passing H.R.306 by calling or e-mailing your representatives and asking them to co-sponsor this bill while helping the Christian populations gain their rightful churches back from the Turkish government. http://www.anca.org/action_alerts/action_disp.php?aaid=61080991.
His Holiness Aram gave a lecture at UCLA, where the hall was filled to its maximum capacity. People from various different backgrounds were in attendance representing different cultures, religions and ideologies; however, the one common interest in the room was, eagerness to see the man who led the Middle Eastern Council of Churches for almost 14 years. With devotion worthy of a religious leader committed to the ideas of peace, brotherhood and forgiveness, he oversaw unprecedented cooperation and balance between different Churches and their leaders.
One of the greatest surprises for me was his realistic approach to world politics in general and to the Middle East’s current situation in particular. The Utopian idea of world peace was not what The Catholicos was working tirelessly for, but a much more achievable, and thus more important objective – attaining mutual respect and tolerance in the region, where different cultures and religious groups will not clash as often as they do now and will be able to peacefully coexist. He believed that the understanding and acceptance of each others’ differences will create the necessary preconditions leading to cooperation grounded on the idea of comradeship. The Catholicos was a strong supporter of the idea of secularism. He saw the division of Religion and State as one of the most important prerequisites for attaining democracy and harmony in the Middle East. He was skeptical about the direction Arab Springs were taking, stating that it is still too soon to make predictions as to what the condition of repressed Christian communities will be in the new regimes.
While praising Lebanon’s Government and other similar democracies that Christians enjoy, he commented on the ineffectiveness of using its model in other states. He emphasized the differences in deeply embedded cultural, social and religious norms, and traditions, as well as the current demographic picture shaping the Middle Eastern countries, pointing out that one must approach each of them in a unique way. A successful model in one country cannot necessarily be successfully applied to the other. Moreover, he refused to comment on the Palestine-Israel conflict, demonstrating his brilliant diplomatic skills which indeed make him one of the most influential religious leaders in what can be said to be the most turbulent and religiously intolerant region of the world. Finally, he stressed the need to give moral and spiritual support to the repressed Christians in that region, who are caught between the “Muslim religious-centrism and Jewish ethnocentrism”, concluding with the statement that the unification of Christians is the key to the balance and prosperity of the Middle East.
The question/Answer segment quite interesting. The Catholicos captivated and dominated the audience with just his voice, his charisma and with the undeniable spiritual power that he possessed. I left the meeting invigorated, empowered, and with an indescribable sense of pride that I share the name – “Armenian”- with this great individual.