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Saint Stepanos Monastery of Julfa in Iran [Photos]

Saint Stepanos Monastery

SHAFAQNA- Saint Stepanos Monastery is the most important Armenian church in Iran after Qareh Kalisa. This beautiful and remarkable Monastery is located in a lush green and scenic area, 11 kilometers northeast of Julfa, next to the Aras River.

This structure was registered as one of Iran’s national treasures on February 24, 1963, with the registration number 429, and due to its ancient history, religious significance, and unique architectural style, it was also registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.

While this church is respected by all Christians and nearly all religions, it actually belongs to the branch of the Gregorian Christians (followers of Gregory the Illuminator) who reside in Armenia. On one day of the year, thousands of Armenians gather at this site to pay their respects, perform their special ceremonies, and hold their rituals.

Structure of Saint Stepanos Monastery

The church is situated in an enclosed area surrounded by trees and a green valley, with a tall stone wall encircling it. The fortified wall features seven watchtowers and five cylindrical stone buttresses, resembling the fortresses of the Sassanian period and early Islamic eras. The main entrance gate is located in the center of the western wall and has a wooden door with iron ornaments. Delicate stone carvings are used in the foundations of the side sections and the semi-circular arch, and a prominent relief of Mary and the infant Jesus is noticeable on the facade of the semi-circular apse.

The church consists of three main and distinct buildings, as well as various subsidiary sections. The three main sections are the main prayer hall, the Daniel’s Fireplace, and the bell tower. Furthermore, the interior space of the church is in the shape of a cross, formed by three parts: the narthex, the prayer hall, and the sanctuary.

Underneath the main dome, there are paintings in the style of the 16th and 17th centuries, which adorn the interior space of the sanctuary. On the exterior walls of the church, there are beautiful relief sculptures, such as the sanctification of Saint Stepanos on the eastern side, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the western side, and the ascension of Jesus Christ.

Source: IMNA

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