1894 - Rev. Der Ghevont Nahabedian of Marash and family (Source: Memoirs of Rev. Ghevont of Marash [in Armenian], Yerevan, 2013)

Marash – Monasteries, Pilgrimage Sites and Churches

Author: Varty Keshishian, 22 Nov. 2013 (Last modified 22 Nov. 2013) - Translator: Hrant Gadarigian

Abundant historical evidence and manuscripts attest to the fact that not only was there a large Armenian presence in Marash and its surroundings, but that a widespread and well organized religious-church order existed as well. Clear evidence of this are the Arekin, Parseghyants, Saint Kevork, Unkuzud and Sughr monasteries and monastic complexes, important centers [1] of learning in the 12-13th centuries, located in the surrounding valleys and ravines of Sev (Black) Mountains (Amanos) near Marash. In the town of Marash proper, the history of the Armenian archdiocese and the church dates back to the early 11th century. [2]

A Marash embroidery made of velvet. Various portions of religious clothing worn by the clergy during church rituals. Property of St. Kevork Church, Aleppo. Sewn by the sisters Zvart and Nazeli Koutoudjian in the 1980s (Source: Hrazdan Tokmajian, Marash Needlework, published by Union of Marash Armenians – Kermanig Vasbouragan Cultural Union, Aleppo, 2010).

Monasteries

Monastery of Aykeg

Located in the Sev Mountains (Amanos, Gavur Mountains, Nur Dağları), in the Donkala region of Marash. It is thought that two huge monasteries of the Capuchin Order are located [3] at the present site called Yeniköy (Yenicekale). However, the ruins of the old monastery were still visible until recent times. According to sources, the Aykeg Monastery, or hermitage, was built around 1166-1176, “under the patronage of God revering and miracle worker St. Sion and St. Garabed.” [4] Researchers trace the root of the word Aykeg to the Armenian aykyag (small garden), which leads us to assume that horticulture was widely practiced in this hermitage. The fable writer Vartan Aykegtsi (Vartan of Aykeg) took refuge here in the 12-13th centuries, from which he derived his last name. There, he was busy in the education and training of young clergy, teaching them lessons of his own design. [5]

Monastery of Arekin (Arekni)

The monastery has reached us named after the Arekin village, but it unquestionable had another name in the past. Arekin village (present-day Alabaş) is located to the north of Marash. To the east, it borders the River Ceyhan/Djihan, and to the west, the Zeytoun tributary. [6] It served as the Bishopric Seat of Gaban/Geben. For a short period it was the Catholicos seat of Grigor Vgayaser. [7]

Monastery of Parseghyants (Parseghants)

One of the prominent monasteries of the Sev Mountains. It was a well developed and populated monastery. [8] The church was probably in disrepair when the construction of a new church was launched at the beginning of the 12th century, followed by a festive consecration. The builders, however, never got the chance to enjoy the new edifice due to an earthquake that struck.

Saint Kevork Monastery

Belongs to the Sev Mountains series of monasteries. It is said that one of its clergy, Father Nerses, travelled to England on a fund raising mission. [9]

Monastery (ies) of Enguzud (Enguzeg)

The monastery/bishopric of Enguzud was probably located near the Enguzud Fortress, from which it takes its name. Smpad the Historian writes that Bishop Mkhitar travelled from Enguzud to participate in the crowning ceremony of Levon I of Cilicia in 1129. [10] Numerous manuscripts have reached us with the written or copied line “in the hermitage called Enguzeg”. [11]

Monastery of Hesuants (Hizuants)

This monastery was located near the Sev Mountains monasteries, and served as a bishopric. Madteos Urhayetsi writes that the monastery was “near Marash” and says it was destroyed by an earthquake.

Monastery (Hermitage) of Shughr

One of the prominent monasteries of Cilicia, it was a center of learning. Its specific location is unknown. Writers give contradictory claims as to its location, and they often equate it with the Garmir (Red) Monastery of Kesun. Ghevont Alishan writes, “Someone says it is in Marash or Sis, another, in Kesun…” [12] In his “History”, Vartan the Historian writes the following: “The hermitage of Shughr is probably southwest of Marash.” [13] On the other hand, Father Ghazarian regards it as part of the Red Monastery of Kesun. “It is located in the Andiroun/Andırın-Dongala mountain valley, between Marash and Sis (…), on a promontory in the village of Shughr”, and he adds that until recently “the semi-circular arches of the altar and a portion of the roof were visible.” [14]

A Marash embroidery made of velvet. Various portions of religious clothing worn by the clergy during church rituals. Property of St. Kevork Church, Aleppo. Sewn by the sisters Zvart and Nazeli Koutoudjian in the 1980s (Source: Hrazdan Tokmajian, Marash Needlework, published by Union of Marash Armenians – Kermanig Vasbouragan Cultural Union, Aleppo, 2010)

Krikor Kalustian, the Marash History author, writes that this monastery is to be found beyond the village of Döngele and Yenicekale, located to the west of Marash. Krikor Bahlavuni and his brother, Nerses Shnorhali (Nerses the Gracious), were educated and raised in this monastery, having Catholicos Gregory II the Martyrophile (Krikor II Vgayaser) and Catholicos Basil of Ani (Parsegh I Anetsi) as teachers. The monastery produced a group of stellar students, graduates with the appellation “gracious”, who became prominent church figures. [15] It is recorded that in 1849, Archimandrite Karnetsi Hovhannes took great measures to renovate the monastery, but unfavorable circumstances foiled his plans.

Saint Hagop Monastery

This edifice is located in the western section of Marash, on a hill in the Hay Tagh (Armenian District). Of interest is the fact that the site of the monastery, where even ruins are no longer to be found, is still called Tekke (Turkish for monastery), and the neighborhood below, Tekke or Gavur Mahallesi (Armenian Neighborhood) [16]. According to tradition, it is said that the Turks encroached upon and dug around the monastery, claiming that robbers took refuge there and hid their loot. During such forays, the monks were subjected to insult and torment, and the monastery’s silver pieces and other valuables pillaged. [17]

A Marash embroidery made of velvet (Source: Marash Needlework, Hrazdan Tokmajian, published by Union of Marash Armenians – Kermanig Vasbouragan Cultural Union, Aleppo, 2010)

The old folk of Marash, recounting the conversation passed down from their elders, would say that Turk brigands, led by a pteshkh (deputy viceroy), again attacked the monastery during the 1750s. After ransacking it, he ordered the structure be burnt, and then proceeded to torture and bludgeon the monks. Some of the monks fled, and the others killed. One of the monks, Reverend Father Dzerun, wasn’t able to flee due to his age. He was killed in a nearby field and was buried in the Armenian cemetery next to the monastery. It is said that Armenians knew the location of his grave and that it became a pilgrimage site. [18]

The same tradition recounts that after the destruction of the monastery, six defenseless monks of the order petitioned the Turkish prince, asking that he provide them with a place of worship. The prince, exiling the monks outside the city limits, separated them and allowed each to build a small hut. Later on, the six churches of Marash were built on the site of those huts called Papaz Menzili. [19]

According to another tale, when the ancient St. Hagop Monastery collapsed, the monks did not dare enter the town and took refuge in the huts outside, which later are turned into churches [20]. It is said that for this reason all six Marash churches were built on the outlying sections of the town.

Based on the tales regarding St. Hagop Monastery, we can conclude that a despot ruling over Marash demolished the monastery. Scores of hand written texts preserved in the Saint Kevork Church and silver church items, said to have been brought from the St. Hagop Monastery [21], attest to the one-time ornate and luxurious existence of the monastic edifice, as well as the fact that the people never forgot the location of St. Hagop, which remained a pilgrimage site.

Sites of Pilgrimage

Tateos Arakyal

The most revered of pilgrimage sites for Armenians of Marash, called Taksarakol (Tateos Arakyal – Apostle Thaddeus) in the local Armenian dialect. It is located on a hill to the north of Marash, at a spring called Kırkgöz (Armenian-Karasnag). One of the traditional tales of this site recounts that Apostle Thaddeus visited Marash on his way to Armenia, preached and performed medicine in the town during the days and while passing by this hill at night. [22]

We come across similarities to this tale in manuscript sources, which verifies its historical underpinnings; despite that elsewhere it is Bartholomew who is referred to instead of Thaddeus. [23]

According to another memoir, when St. Bartholomew went to Armenia to preach the Bible, he reached Germanicia (Kermanig, Marash) and invited residents to a spot a quarter of an hour outside the town at the site of the Karasun Ag (Forty Springs). There he preached and baptized the faithful in the springs. [24]

The holiday of Vartavar (Festival of Roses) was an occasion for all the people to make a pilgrimage to Taksarakol, when the throngs would head off to the promontory of Kırkgöz (Karasnag). Together, young and old, male and female, would start the climb after midnight. As the first rays of the morning sun shone down, an open-air liturgy would be performed. The pilgrims would offer animal sacrifices (madagh), followed by festive native song and dance. [25] It is also said that when a tragedy or epidemic occurred in Marash, large crowds of the faithful would climb Taksarakol hill to pray and beseech God for an act of salvation.

Saint Gadarineh/Katharine Spring

Is located on the west side of the Taksarakol hill, a bit above the Kırkgöz springs [26]. St. Gadarineh is better known as a pilgrimage place for females, visited by groups of women and girls. The springs are known for the strength of their curative waters, where the sick, especially those afflicted with malaria (Armenian-dent; Turkish-sıtma) would come to bathe and wash. [27]

The Spring of Lepers (Uyuz-Punar)

Is located to the southwest of the town. It has twin springs; one is covered with a dome, the other with an arch [28]. This pilgrimage site is also associated with St. Thaddeus. According to tradition, St. Thaddeus baptized newly converted Christians and cured lepers. Generally, those afflicted with skin disorders or malaria, would come to bathe. The people would tell of the many sic cured and treated in this fashion. The women of Marash, particularly during the fasting week of Vartavar fast, would come here to be cleansed and consecrated by these waters, believing they’d be protected from all types of ailments and diseases. [29]

Saint Toros

This pilgrimage site, (Syup Tyuryus in the Marash dialect), is located in the town’s northern section on a hill where a sole tree once grew. [30] According to sources, the St. Toros Monastery existed here in the past. Despite being barren and in ruins for a long time, it remained a cherished pilgrimage site. On the day of pilgrimage, the second Sunday of Great Lent, many pilgrims would visit, tying bits of cloth to the trees in the belief that their ailments and diseases would thus be transferred to the tress and swept away by the wind. [31]

Churches

Armenian Marash is known for its six churches: St. Karasun Manug, St. Sarkis, St. Kevork, St. Stepanos, St. Garabed and St. Astvadzadzin.

The Marash Armenian is pious and a lover of the church from birth. The evening and morning vespers impart a permanent prayerful atmosphere, while on Sunday or Feast Days, the people go to church en masse and devotedly follow the service from beginning to end. [32]

Churches in Marash are usually called tem - St. Sarkis tem, St. Karasun Mangants tem, St. Kevork tem, etc. [33]. Each district has its own unique church, mostly attended by residents of that district. All the churches, with the exception of St. Stepanos, were built in the town’s outlying districts, thus allowing easy access to residents from all directions. [34]

Churches are maintained by the annual yughakin, a sort of church tax paid by the people, as well as gifts made on various occasions. [35] Each church has its ishkhan-aghas, who generously support the church with gifts. Each church also has its taghayin khorhurt (Neighborhood Council), whose members are elected from prominent public figures of the community. Much later, in the years following the 1908 Constitutional period, the churches started to establish parish councils (hokapartsakan marmin) to manage school and charitable activities. [36] The clergy, especially parish priests, had great influence and enjoyed the unconditional respect and esteem.

The Armenian churches of Marash were always the first targets when nationalist-religious pressures broke out. The Marash churches suffered heavily during the 1895 Hamidian massacres, when the Church was sacrificed to the sword and fire; parishioner and priest alike. After a brief few years of respite and recuperation, what followed were the massacres and eviction of the 1915 Genocide and the final tragic demise of Armenian Marash in 1920. Along with thousands of Marash Armenians, the churches - ancient testaments to their existence – also expired in the ashes.

To complete our depiction of the Armenian churches of Marash, let us wind our way through the hilly streets of the old city, where we will rediscover Armenian Marash with its six churches.

Marash was built on seven high hills and hillsides. These promontories are separated by ravines and valleys and the town’s 41 residential neighborhoods are connected by these byways. Armenian Marash, with its churches, encompasses more than one half of the outer districts, either completely Armenian populated or Armenian-Turkish mixed – Karamanlu, Adjemli, Alchu-köy, Shekerdere, Tekke, Hay Tagh, Kiumbet, Sheikh-mahallesei, Koyudjak, etc.

1894 - Rev. Der Ghevont Nahabedian of Marash and family

1894 - Rev. Der Ghevont Nahabedian of Marash and family (Source: Memoirs of Rev. Ghevont of Marash, Edited by Vahan Der-Ghevontian, Yerevan, 2013)

St Karasun Manug Mother Church

It is at the southern tip of town, where the markets end, that the St. Karasun Manug Mother Church welcomes us. It is the most attended and prosperous of all Marash churches. This is where the National Diocese is located, and thus it is referred to as the church of the diocesan seat, or the mother church. [37]

The main avenue of Marash, leading to Shahadil, passes in front of the church. An old fort is located behind. The 1884 “great fire” of Marash spread to the perimeter of St. Karasun Manug, but by a miracle, the church was saved from the roaring flames. According to the records of Marash historians, the fire engulfed the southern part of town, from the place called kyulegdji bazar and incinerated two-thirds of the market, along with adjacent buildings, stopping very close to the church. The people credit this to an act of divine intervention. The famous Marash bard Dader, even composed a destan (tale) on the occasion:

Turkish:

Büyük kışla tamamıyla hep yandı,
Ateş Kırklar Kiliseye dayandı,
Dediler üç melek üstüne indi,
Görenler çok, bunun yoktur yalanı. [38]

(Translation):

The large military barracks was completely burnt,
The fire stopped in front of Karasunk church,
They said three angels descended on it,
Many saw this; it is no lie.

Before the 1895 Hamidian massacres, St. Karasunk, as the people of Marash liked to call the church, was renovated, plastered and decorated with pictures. It is natural that Marash Armenians, especially the nouveau riche and prominent elite, would wish to see their church in good condition, especially given that as a mother church, it always enjoyed the attentive care of merchants and the kind hearted people, as well as the sponsorship of princes. [39]

The older generation of St. Karasun Manug parish priests included Rev. Minas and his father, Rev. Vartan Der-Minasian. Archpriest Nahabed Der-Garabedian served the church from 1847-1887. The church had three priests in 1914: Archpriest Ghevont Der-Nahabedian, Archpriest Vartan Der-Minasian, and Rev. Hmayag Varjabedian. [40]

St. Sarkis

Rev. Movses Der Hovhannesian (left); Rev. Arsen Der Hovhannesian (right)

Rev. Movses Der Hovhannesian (left); Rev. Arsen Der Hovhannesian (right) (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934)

The Kiumbet (Armenian-kmpet) neighborhood, with its St. Sarkis Church, stretches over an elevated position at the far eastern edges of the town. In fact, there are two churches here, the old and the new; one is the winter church and the other, the summer [41]. Naturally, having two churches in the same environs wasn’t due to luxury, but rather out of necessity. The old church is completely subterranean, with a few high-standing walls, low windows, and a roof slightly above the ground. It is said, that when the church was being built the Turks opposed the construction and thus the Armenians constructed it underground. Legend goes that the ring leader of the troublesome Turks, Aslan bey (of the Dul Kaderle beys), was punished by the church’s saint in his dream. Riding a steed, the saint, Khderellez (Hıdırellez, Kheder Elias)-Arakahas, tramples the bey underfoot. Afterwards, the bey repents and assists in the construction, even paying an annual amount to the church. [42]

During the winter cold, this squat and dark church continued to serve the spiritual needs of neighborhood residents. But it was not able to accommodate them all. The inconveniences became more noted in the summer and thus a new section was built next to the old church. Half of it was uncovered, so that services could be held “al fresco” in the hot summer months. According to sources, a special edict (hrovardag) was issued by Sultan Mahmud I in 1741 for the construction of the church and the bell. [43]

Rev. Hovhannes Varjabedian (1829-1904)

Rev. Hovhannes Varjabedian (1829-1904) (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934)

Parish priests of St. Sarkis in earlier times include: Very Rev. Mardiros Balian, Rev. Margos Balian, Archpriest Ghazar Aghazarian, Rev. Bedros Sevougian and Rev. Madteos Karayapudjian. Archpriest Hovhannes Varjabedian served the church for many years. The last priests included Rev. Movses Hovhannisian and Rev. Krikor Varjabedian. [44]

St. Stepanos

The church is located on the avenue, from the north of the citadel, leading to the government building. It faces the military hospital. It was a solid, stone structure, with adjacent primary school special buildings. Being next to the citadel, Marash residents called it Kaladibi jam (kalaa-citadel; dib-adjacent, close by; jam-church). [45]

In terms of attendance amongst the churches of Marash, it ranked second behind St. Karasun Manug. Whenever Mgrdich Kefsizian, Catholicos of Cilicia (1871-1894), was in Marash he usually stayed here to be close to the government building. The church reached a pinnacle of prosperity especially during the days of Deovlet Effendi Chorbadjian and sons, enjoying the financial and moral support of this prominent Marash family. [46]

Some of the parish priests of St. Stepanos in the early days were Rev. Mesrob Der-Mesrobian, Rev. Bedros Der Bedrosian and Rev. Vahan Der Shaninian. During later times there were Rev. Sahag Der Bedrosian, Rev. Dikran Merdjenian and Rev. Hagop Aslanian. [47]

St. Garabed

From St. Stepanos we head north. The long road downhill takes us to the Akdere neighborhood and the spiritual environs of St. Garabed, practically on the northern outskirts of the town.

Despite having relatively few parishioners, the church edifice and nearby school were quite beautiful. There was a well manicured flower garden in the church courtyard, conveying a magnificent addition to the site. [48]

The holiday of Vartavar was an annual day of festivities. Throngs of people would head to St. Stepanos as a place of pilgrimage, in a way replacing the old monasteries and pilgrimage sites.

St. Garabed was prospering and in good condition during the time of Very Rev. Krikor Vosgerichian (who belonged to the religious group called muhabbetdji), whose powerful sermons called the people to repent. [49]

The church was often without a permanent priest. At times, visiting clergy tended to the needs of the faithful. During the 1880s, Rev. Garabed Giuliuzian served as parish priest. He later relocated to Ayntab. Afterwards, the church found a worthy successor in the person of Rev. Nerses Shahinian who died during the deportations. [50]

St. Kevork

Marash, May 10, 1895, – Trustees of St. Kevork Church Welfare Society

Marash, May 10, 1895, – Trustees of St. Kevork Church Welfare Society. (Seated, from left): Rev. Harutyun Der Harutyunian, Nazaret Dishchekenian, Tavit Karaoghlanian-Karagyulian, Rev. Harutyun Tabakian, Panos Kalaidjian, Hovhannes Kalaidjian. (Standing, from left): Vartivar Kyurdoghlian, Setrag Giligian, Harutyun Semerdjian, Hampartsum Semerdjian (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934)

This church was located in the center of the Shekerdere/Şekerdere neighborhood, which spread out in a valley connecting three high hills in the town’s outlying western district. Shekerdere was an exclusively Armenian populated neighborhood with 180-185 households. The pride of the neighborhood and residents alike, St. Kevork was a large building with a flat earthen roof, capable of accommodating 5-6,000 people. [51]

The text written by teacher Nshan Saatdjian, for the History of Marash, is an invaluable source regarding the history of Marash Armenians and particularly the neighborhood of Shekerdere and St. Kevork. It contains detailed and valuable information on the clergy at St. Kevork’s, prominent events and personalities. Sadly, according to the author of the History of Marash, the text does not provide such detailed information on the other churches. [52]

Saatdjian recounts that before 1895, Shekerdere was a prosperous neighborhood and the church resplendent. Locals were famous for their bravery, so much so, that the Turks named the place Küçük Zeytun (Little Zeytun). [53]

The parish priests preceding 1895 were: Rev. Harutyun Harutyunian, Rev. Mesrob Dishchekenian, Rev. Kevork Charkhapanian, and the brothers Rev. Garabed and Rev. Zakar Saatdji Keyishoghluyan.

1907 – Ceremonial laying of the cornerstone for the reconstruction of St. Kevork Church

1907 – Ceremonial laying of the cornerstone for the reconstruction of St. Kevork Church (Shekerdere). In the center is Marash Primate, Archimandrite Goryun Yesayan (cassock and cowl). Immediately standing to his left is Senior Archimandrite Paren Melkonian (without cowl) (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).

In 1895, the church falls victim to the Hamidian massacres and is put to the torch. The survivors gather around the ruins and begin to restore their church. [54]

Just 10-11 years after the neighborhood and the church were set ablaze, the people launched the construction of a new church. The former edifice was pulled down to make way for a new church with polished stones. It is important to single out the direct assistance and support of Very Rev. Goryun Yesayan, the primate at the time. Backed by the church faithful, in 1907 he launched the construction of an expansive, multi-arched church with a capacity of 7-8,000, which was completed in 1908. The entire cost of the church, some 800 Ottoman gold pieces, was donated by the local aghas and the people, who gave beyond their means. “No one knew from where and how that large amount was collected,” writes Saatdjian. “From the midst of the ruins, like a phoenix from the bosom of a resurrected people, when a mere 40 gold pieces were in the coffers when the time came to lay the foundation.” [55]

On the eve of WWI, the St. Kevork parish priest was Rev. Harutyun Jamgochian.

St. Asdvadzadzin

Now we come to St. Asdvadzadzin, a thousand year-old church majestically situated in the center of Hay Tagh (Tekke Mahallesi); elevated and built of stone. St. Asdvadzadzin is the only old church in Marash for which we come across records dating back from the 11th century. In 1084, during the day of Prince Philaretos, this church is mentioned as a bishopric, “Srpo Asdvadzadzna Badger”, under Archbishop Hovhannes. [56]

Of note is the fact that this church wasn’t very far from the historic St. Hagop Monastery in the same neighborhood. This leads us to assume that starting from the early Middle Ages this site was a fairly active and important religious and educational center.

Let us now skip from these pages of rich historical record to more modern times. By the middle of the 19th century, Hay Tagh had lost its former brilliance, role and position, even while retaining its Armenian component – its population, unique churches, and name. The population of Hay Tagh, and consequently the majority of church members, came from poor families. There were no prominent merchants to take care of the church’s needs. Nevertheless, a small church school continued to operate.

By the late 1880s, a group of educated and progressive youth dedicated themselves to church and educational activities. In 1879, as a result of the efforts of the Mamigonian Society [57], an airy two story new school building was constructed on the church grounds. [58]

The name of Rev. Garabed Aghayian (Agho irets) is recorded as one of the parish priests. During more recent periods, the clergy included: Rev. Garabed Garabedian, Rev. Hovhannes Der Hovhannesian and Rev. Arsen Der Hovhannesian. The last priest at St. Astvadzadzin was Rev. Hagop Dalkeledjian who, along with his parish, was martyred during the last massacre in Marash in 1920.[59]

Armenian Catholic Churches

St. Pergich

Interior of St. Pergich Church of Marash

Interior of St. Pergich Church of Marash (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).

Construction began in 1860 in the Khatuniye neighborhood of the old city, on a parcel of land that was delineated and purchased by a sultan’s edict. The church was consecrated on December 29, 1865.

As a piece of architecture, St. Pergich really stood  out amongst the city’s other buildings. This is what the author had to say regarding the architectural plan for the church: “The new stone church of St. Pergich was beautiful in form, built with six small and large domes and on a base of twelve stone pillars.” [60]

On the outside, it had a right-angled design, with a length of 31 meters and a width of 16. According to church descriptions, all the walls were adorned with frescoes. There were three altars - Jesus the Saviour, the Holy Mother of God, and St. Gregory the Enlightener – each with a depiction of the saint. The oil painting of St. Gregory was especially valuable. [61] Above the main portal of the church, there was an oil painting of the city’s first Armenian Catholic Primate, Bedros Apelian.

We know that the people paid for the majority of the construction costs for the church and diocese. In passing, Kalustian claims that Emperor Napoleon III generously assisted in the construction. [62]

Also located on church grounds were rooms for the celibate priests and a girl’s school, both built by His Eminence Apelian.

Archbishop Geghemes Mikayelian (1820-1890)

Archbishop Geghemes Mikayelian (1820-1890) (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).

Later on, a six room nunnery was built on the northern side of the church. Before completion, however, it burnt down on June 4, 1865. It was rebuilt in 1868 with the financial assistance of the French government, but it wasn’t as beautiful or solid as before. [63]

Rev. Hovsep Vartanian notes, “St. Pergich was also a kind of cloister and nunnery. It had a score of celibate priests and nuns.” [64]

In 1889, during the period of Bishop Geghemes Mikayelian, Marash prominent merchant Hagop Agha Khrlakian pays for a beautifully columned belfry to adorn the church. The inscription reads: “This belfry was constructed during the Primacy of his Holiness Geghemes Mikayelian of Ankara, Bishop of Germanig, paid for by Hagop Agha Khrlakian and other benefactors of the nation; 1889.” [65]

Archbisop Avedis Arpiarian was the last Armenian Catholic Primate before the final depopulation of Marash. The church had some ten celibate priest and nuns. [66]

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2
3
4

1) Funeral of Archbishop Geghemes Mikayelian. The deceased appears in the middle of the photo. Kneeling (left) is Harutyun Effendi Arekian. On the right is Kevork Agha Kherlakian (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).
2) Armenian Catholic clergy of Marash – 1897. (Seated, from left): Rev. Mesrob Mesrobian, Archimandrite Hovsep Tatlian, Archimandrite Manvel Boyadjian, Mgr. Avetis Tyurkian, Rev. Kapriel Kechedjian, Archimandrite Hovhannes Kemamdjian, Archimandrite Levon Kechedjian. (Standing, from left): Brother Garabed Ghzghenian, Archimandrite Kevork Gordikian, Archimandrite Vartan Baghchedjian, Archimandrite Mikayel Kechedjian, Archimandrite Andon Mavian (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).
3) Armenian Catholic clergy of Marash and community members – 1915. (Seated, from left): Archimandrite Bedros Gostanian, Archimandrite Hovhannes Kemamdjian, Archbisop Avedis Arpiarian, Archimandrite Khoren Garabedian, Archimandrite Boghos Chalekian. (Standing, center row, from left): Archimandrite Hovhannes Shadarevian, Archimandrite Manvel Yalentakian, Archimandrite Hovhannes Terzian, Archimandrite Geghemes Maldjian, Archimandrite Harutyun Maldjian. (Standing, top row, from left): Yesayi Mumdjian, Brother Levon Sarkisian, Brother Garabed Ghzendjian, Archimandrite Djaburian, Mgrdich Dosdoghrevian (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).
4) 
Armenian Catholic Sisters of Marash. (Seated, from left): Lousia Dourayan, Mariam Nahabedian, Kohar Tatlian, Sdepania Chakmakdjian, Takuhie Maldjian. (Standing, from left): Mariam Kemanedjian, Ovsanna Fettalian, Josephine Partamian, Markrid Kiredjian, Pepe Apelian, Sbasuhie Yerezian (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).

Church of the Franciscan Fathers

The Franciscan Fathers first built their monastic house-chapel in Marash, on a large plot of land called Abarabaşı. After the 1895 Hamidian massacres, they launched the construction of a beautiful large stone church – St. Anthony of Padua. This church-cloister, built on a picturesque site, was one of the outstanding buildings in Marash, visible from all points of the town. A primary school operated adjacent to the church. [67]

Panorama of Marash. To the right, on a hill, is the Franciscan St. Anthony of Padua Church

Panorama of Marash. To the right, on a hill, is the Franciscan St. Anthony of Padua Church (Source: Michel Paboudjian collection).

The Franciscan Fathers who served in Marash include: Materno Muré (35 years), Patrice Verkli, Alberto Amarissa, and Francesco di Vittorio. Marash Armenian Franciscan Fathers include: Stepano Yalenkatian, Berardo de Shadarevian, Leonardo Akelian, and Gregorio Devoghluyan.

1
2

1) Marash – St. Anthony of Padua Church of the Franciscan Friars (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).
2) Members of the Franciscan Mission – 1914. (Seated, from left): Rezkallah Sakkal (teacher), Father Francis de Vi Horis, Habib Edde (French Consul General in Marash), Father Patrice Verkli, Father Materno Muré, Brother Olivier, Nazaret Danayan (teacher). (Standing, 2nd from left): Vartan Matosian (teacher) (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).

Armenian Protestant Church

The first spiritual assembly of Armenian Protestants took place in the 1850s, at the house of the brothers Sarkis and Hagop Patpatian. [68]

The Patpatian house was too small to accommodate the ever increasing number of attendees. A decision was made to build a new church. A plot of land where a house had burnt down in the Divanlı neighborhood was purchased and the church foundation was laid. The first service was held on the first Sunday in September 1859 in the still uncompleted church. [69] On Sunday, April 29, 1860, 1,500 individuals participated in the celebratory service dedicated to the new church. Rev. Benjamin Schneider offered the sermon and Mr. Powers led the prayer of dedication. [70]

Pastor Avedis Gosdanian (left); Madatia Karakashian (right)

Pastor Avedis Gosdanian (left); Madatia Karakashian (right) (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).

On March 9, 1864, 84 members split from the first church and established a second church in a house they rented in the Şekerdere Dışkapı neighborhood. [71] It is recorded that Mr. Powers, who led the dedication prayer at the first church, did the same at the second church twelve years later. [73]

On February 9, 1873, with the consent of the United Assembly of the two churches, a third Protestant church was formed with 54 members. [74] Dedication ceremonies for the new church in the Akdere neighborhood took place on January 6, 1901. [75]

1890 – Participants at a general assembly of the Cilician Union of the Armenian Evangelical churches in Marash

1890 – Participants at a general assembly of the Cilician Union of the Armenian Evangelical churches in Marash (Source: Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, New York, 1934).

The first pastors who served the Marash Protestant community include: Avetis Gosdantian, Murad Gyuleserian and Arisdages Nuskhedjian [76]. In the latter period there were: Kevork Kazandjian, Garabed Harutyunian, Aharon Shiradjian, Avetis Bulgurdjian and Nazaret Heghinian. [77]

  1. [1] Krikor Kalusdian, Marash or Kermanig and Heroic Zeytun, 2nd Edition, New York, 1988, page 234. (In Armenian)
    [2] Ibid., p. 580.
    [3] H. Hamazasb Vosgian, Monasteries of Cilicia, Mkhitarian Printers, Vienna, 1957, p. 101 (In Armenian)
    [4] Ibid., p. 102.
    [5] Ibid., p. 103.
    [6] Kalusdian, p. 77; Cilicia. An attempt of the modern geography of Cilicia, Matenadaran “Araksi”, Petersburg, 1894. p. 345. (In Armenian)
    [7] Vosganian, p. 118.
    [8] Ibid., p. 133.
    [9] Ibid., p. 144.
    [10] Ibid., p. 200.
    [11] Ibid., pp. 200-201.
    [12] Ibid., p. 267.
    [13] Ibid.
    [14] Ibid.
    [15] Kalusdian, p. 268.
    [16] Ibid, p. 235.
    [17] Ibid., p. 236.
    [18] Ibid.
    [19] Ibid.
    [20] Ibid., p. 571.
    [21] Ibid., p. 236.
    [22] Ibid., p. 232; Hovsep Der-Vartanian, The 1920 Massacre of Marash, Aleppo, 2010, p. 47 (In Armenian)
    [23] In his work dedicated to the history of Marash, Krikor Kalusdian notes an discrepancy regarding the names (p. 232), whereas the names constitute a unity, especially when we take into account the fact that the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew are generally recounted together, as the first proselytizers of the Bible in Armenia.
    [24] Kalusdian, p. 232; Der-Vartanian, p. 48.
    [25] Kalusdian, p. 233.
    [26] Ibid.; Der-Vartanian, p. 48.
    [27] Kalusdian, p. 233.
    [28] Ibid.
    [29] Ibid.
    [30] Ibid.
    [31] Ibid., p. 234.
    [32] Ibid., p. 569.
    [33] Ibid.
    [34] Ibid., p. 571.
    [35] Ibid., p. 569.
    [36] Ibid.
    [37] Ibid.
    [38] Ibid.
    [39] Ibid.
    [40] Ibid., pp. 571-572.
    [41] Ibid, p. 572.
    [42] Ibid.
    [43] Ibid., p. 572.
    [44] Ibid.
    [45] Ibid.
    [46] Ibid.
    [47] Ibid., p. 572.
    [48] Ibid.
    [49] Ibid.
    [50] Ibid., p. 573.
    [51] Ibid.
    [52] Ibid.
    [53] Ibid.
    [54] Ibid., p. 577.
    [55] Ibid., p. 579.
    [56] Ibid.
    [57] Ibid., p. 493.
    [58] Ibid.
    [59] Ibid., p. 581.
    [60] Ibid.
    [61] The three paintings are now in Aleppo.
    [62] Kalusdian, p. 635.
    [63] Ibid.
    [64] Der-Vartanian, p. 21.
    [65] Kalusdian, p. 640.
    [66] Der-Vartanian, p. 50.
    [67] Ibid.
    [68] Kalusdian, p. 662.
    [69] Ibid., pp. 663-664.
    [70] Ibid., p. 666.
    [71] Ibid.
    [72] Ibid.
    [73] Ibid.
    [74] Ibid.
    [75] Ibid., p. 667.
    [76] Ibid., p. 666.
    [77] Ibid., p. 667.