The Armenian Prelacy of Erzindjan/Yerzenga, 1907. On the right is the roof of the Holy Trinity Church (Source: Erzindjan Illustrated Album, Constantinople, 1907, prepared for Bishop Maghakia Ormanian).

Erzindjan/Erzincan/Yerzenga - Churches and Monasteries 1

Author: Robert Tatoyan, 04/11/2019 (Last modified: 04/11/2019) - Translator: Simon Beugekian

The Yerzenga Diocese and its Leadership

Yerzenga was the administrative center of the Yegeghyats District, located in the Upper Hayk Province of historical Greater Hayk. The city is mentioned in medieval Armenian texts as Yerez, Yeriza, and Yerazavan. It was one of the religious centers of Armenia, first pagan, later Christian [1].

Yerzenga was home to the main temple of one of the principal deities of the Armenian pagan pantheon, Anahit [2]. The temple housed a golden statue of the goddess (for this reason, Anahit was often referred to as Vosgemayr [mother of gold], Vosgedzin [born of gold], and Vosgehad [sliver of gold]) [3]. The city and the temple of Anahit were particularly crowded on the days of Navasard (the first half of August), when thousands of pilgrims converged on the area to celebrate the beginning of the Armenian new year [4].

The neighboring town of Til was also famed for its temple of Nane, daughter of Aramazd and the Armenian goddess of wisdom and war [5].

According to legend, Saint Krikor/Gregory the Illuminator (Lousavorich) confessed to being Christian to King Drtad (Tiridates III) in the temple of Anahit in Yerzenga, during the offering of sacrifices to the goddess. The confession was followed by the confrontation between the two men (in later years, the Charcharanats (Bearer of Sufferings) Saint Illuminator Monastery was built at the site where the saint was tortured on the king’s orders) [6].

After the adoption of Christianity by Armenia as the state religion, Yeriza and the province of Yegeghyats were gifted as a fiefdom to Gregory the Illuminator’s family. Til became one of the seats of the Armenian catholicoses, and a cathedral was built there, alongside a mausoleum for the catholicoses of the house of Gregory the Illuminator. Among those buried in Til were catholicoses Arisdages I (served from 325-333) and Nerses the Great (served from 353-373), after whom the Choukhdag-Hairabed [Twin Abbots] Monastery, also in Yerzenga, was later named. The cathedral of Til was destroyed in in the seventh century, during the Arab invasions. The site of Nerses the Great’s grave was forgotten until 1275, when it was rediscovered thanks to a vision. His remains were brought to the main cathedral of Yerzenga with great ceremony, and some of the relics were kept at the Dirashen Saint Nerses Monastery near the village of Ki near the city (on the eve of the Genocide, Ki was Turkish-populated) [7].

The archbishopric of the Yegeghyats district was founded by Gregory the Illuminator, who also appointed one Archbishop Movses, who had once been a pagan priest, as the archbishopric’s first prelate [8]. After the creation of the Armenian alphabet, between 420 and 430, Mesrop Mashdots opened many schools in the district, which was under Byzantine rule at the time. Tanan Yegeghetsatsi was appointed as the overseer of these schools [9].

The ecclesiastic life of the Yerzenga area experienced a period of growth between the 13th and 15th centuries, mostly thanks to the fac that the city became an important center of trade after the Mongol conquest of the area. The works of Hovhannes Blouz of Yerzenga (1220-1293 CE), a celebrated religious figure and the “pride of Yerzenga” [10], are testament to progress the area had made. He was part of the Armenian renaissance and a polymath, and contributed to Armenian philosophy, theology, astronomy, biology, interpretive literature, semiology, art criticism, aesthetics, pedagogy, music, and prose [11]. Among the other intellectual figures of Yerzenga between the 8th and the 15th centuries were pedagogist Movses Khradakir Yerzngatsi (1250-1323) [12], Bishop Sarkis (listed as a participant in the ecclesiastic summit that was held in the city of Sis in Cilicia in 1307) [13], Kevork Yerzngatsi (1350s-1416) [14], and others.

Avedik Yetvogatsi (Patriarch of Constantinople from 1702 to 1706), who served as the abbot of the Saint Hagop Monastery of Yerzenga in the 1680s, was one of the area’s most notable figures of the era. It was thanks to his efforts that the Saint Hagop Monastery was completely renovated, in addition to the Diranashen Saint Nshan Monastery, the Saint Mariam the Madonna Church in the city of Yerzenga, as well as many other churches and monasteries throughout the Yerzenga Diocese [15].

Another important ecclesiastic figure from Yerzenga was Mardiros Kulhandji Yerzngatsi, who even served as the Patriarch of Constantinople for a short span in 1706 [16].

A list of Armenian bishoprics and archbishoprics compiled around 1670 lists the Archbishopric of Yerzenga or the Archbishopric of the Saint Gregory the Illuminator Monastery as being under the jurisdiction of the Echmiadzin Catholicosate [17]. In the 1600s, the Catholicosate of Sis also appointed bishops who served in the Yerzenga Diocese [18].

In the 17th and 18th centuries, alongside other dioceses of Ottoman Armenia, the Yerzenga Diocese was gradually absorbed into the jurisdiction of the Constantinople Catholicosate. In one record from 1780, the “Erzingyan” Diocese is listed among 20 dioceses under its jurisdiction [19].

Throughout the 19th century, the borders of the Yerzenga Diocese were continually adjusted, in alignment with changes to the borders of Ottoman administrative divisions. Neighboring areas were alternately appended to and detached from the diocese. To wit, the Yerzenga Diocese absorbed, as sub-prelacies, in 1858 and for some time in 1870, the Papert Diocese (creating the Yerzenga-Papert Joint Diocese); in 1861 and again in 1880, the Terchan Diocese (creating the Yerzenga-Terchan Joint Diocese); and in 1863-1868, the Kghi Diocese (creating the Yerzenga-Kghi Joint Diocese) [20].

In the early 1880s, the Yerzenga Diocese, as an archbishopric, included the districts of Erzindjan, Rafahieh, and Ghouzichan of the Erzindjan Province [21].

In 1884, the Yerzenga Diocese absorbed, as a sub-prelacy, the monastic diocese of Gamakh (the historic province of Taranag, which included the districts of Gamakh and Ghourouchai). In 1906, this area was finally merged into the Yerzenga Diocese under the jurisdiction of a single prelate [22].

The Yerzenga Diocese was led by the following prelates, serving from the mid-19th century to 1915:

  1. Father Krikoris Alteadjian (served from 1870 to 1874 as Prelate of the Yerzenga-Papert Joint Diocese, and then from 1874 to 1877 as Prelate of the Yerzenga Diocese [23]).
  2. Father Hmayag Timaksian (ordained as an archbishop in the 1880s; served as prelate from 1878 to 1886).
  3. Father Partoghomeos Baghdjian (served from 1887 to 1889).
  4. Father Vartan Zakarian, as an interim prelate (served from 1890 to 1895).
  5. Father Housig Esmerian, as an interim prelate (served from 1895 to an unknown year) [24].
  6. Father Taniel Hagopian [25] (served from 1897 to 1904).
  7. Father Ardavazt Kalenderian (served from 1905 to 1906).
  8. Father Emmanuel Balian (served from 1906 to 1908).
  9. Senior Priest Father Yervant Perdahdjian (served from 1909 to 1914).
  10. Senior Priest Father Sahag Odabashian (appointed in 1914).

Among the prelates of Yerzenga, Hmayag Timaksian made the greatest impression on the history of the diocese. His contemporaries described him as a serious, capable, and conscientious clergyman. He also had a mastery of the Turkish language and knowledge of Ottoman laws, which allowed him to enjoy a good relationship with the local Ottoman authorities. This helped him solve many of the community’s problems [26]. It was reported that Timaksian even acted as an intermediary between the Turkish authorities and the local Kurdish chieftains, helping them resolve their differences [27].

Timaksian made Yerzenga’s churches and schools the objects of his special care and attention. He viewed them as the main vehicles for the enlightenment, edification, and for the local Armenian population. The community’s educational institutions were renovated during his tenure, and a boarding school was founded at the Abbot Saint Nerses Monastery. A new building was built to house the prelacy, and the city’s graveyard was renovated. With his encouragement, a group of youth founded the city’s first theater company [28].

In response to the unanimous desire of the people of Erzindjan, and with the blessing of the Patriarchate, Timaksian traveled to Etchmiadzin in 1880, where he was ordained as a bishop by Catholicos Kevork II on June 26 [29]. As a result, Erzindjan became the seat of a bishopric, and the stature and influence of its prelacy rose accordingly. It was highly desirable to have a prelate with the rank of bishop, as this rank was required for the right to ordain priests. As a result, during Timaksian’s term, clergymen who were ordained as priests no longer needed to make the long and costly journey to another one of the region’s bishoprics [30].

Timaksian’s term ended unexpectedly in 1886, as a result of a dispute between him and some other prominent Armenians from Erzindjan. “The people of Erzindjan still had a great need for him, but a few local Armenian notables, motivated by egotism and blinded by zeal, began creating difficulties for him. The Prelate, with his wise and circumspect temperament, was capable of stymieing these efforts in their infancy, but in order not to sacrifice his own credibility, he resigned voluntarily, and left Erzindjan covered in honor and glory,” attests one account [31].

It is important to note here that as a rule, the prelates of Erzindjan did not serve long terms. They would either commit transgressions, or would butt heads with local notables, who would force them to tender their resignations. When a new prelate was elevated to this position, it was even customary to warn him, tongue-in-cheek, to “keep in mind that we were the ones who tortured Gregory the Illuminator” [32].

Another prelate who left his mark on the history of Armenians in Erzindjan was Father Taniel Hagopian, who was described as “quite active, serious and stern, pensive, a good preacher, and a clergyman of unimpeachable virtue” [33]. One of this prelate’s initiatives was the temporary merger of the city’s parochial Armenians schools.

The short tenure of Father Emmanuel Balian, described as “an intrepid clergyman of revolutionary temperament,” was also memorable. During his term, in 1906, a pilgrimage was organized for Erzindjan Armenians to the Gregory the Illuminator Monastery. In terms of the number of participants, and the inclusion of pilgrims from the various villages of the district, this pilgrimage was the first of its kind, and was a memorable event in the life of the community. Among Father Emmanuel’s other notable initiatives was the construction of a public bathhouse for use by Erzindjan Armenians. Thanks to his efforts, plans to build a barracks for Ottoman troops in the middle of the Armenian neighborhood of the city, the church square, were canceled [34].

Father Emmanual Balian was succeeded by Father Yervant Perdahdjian, who was the last prelate officially vested with the office. He was described as a refined and educated clergyman. The people greatly enjoyed listening to his edifying sermons. At the same time, it is noted that given the state of affairs that he faced, he did not display the requisite energy and assiduity in matters that were of interest to the community, and was not remembered for any special achievements (after the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, a wide arena of action was open to him) [35].

Prior to the Armenian Genocide, Father Sahag Odabashian was appointed as prelate of the Yerzenga Diocese, but he was unable to assume office. On December 31, 1914 (or January 12, 1915 of the new calendar), he was killed on his journey from Sivas to Erzindjan, by a band of brigands formed on orders from the governor of Sivas Province, Mouammer [36].

From the days preceding Father Sahag’s murder until the deportation and massacre of the Armenian population of Erzindjan during the Armenian Genocide, the Yerzenga Prelacy was managed by Father Melkiset Hovivian, Prelate of the Kemakh Diocese. The prelate shared the fate of most of his flock, dying in 1915 [37].

Erzindjan’s Armenian Protestant (Evangelical) Community

The number of Protestant Armenians in Erzindjan, according to different sources, was 20 households (in the 1880s) [38], 40-45 households (in the 1910s, according to K. Surmenian) [39], approximately 150 individuals (according to the Ottoman authorities’ official figures) [40], or even as high as 500 individuals (in 1910, according to Ormanian) [41]. Almost all of them lived in the city of Erzindjan, and almost none were natives of the city. Instead, they had moved from other areas of Erzindjan Province, from Erzurum, and from neighboring areas of Sebastia (Sivas) and Kharpert provinces [42].

At first, the Protestants of Erzindjan convened in a private residence in the western section of the city, and later (in the 1900s), in a two-story house near the church square, which was described as “quite appropriate and tasteful” [43]. The upper floor of the building was used as a meeting hall, and below it was a boys’ elementary school. The meeting hall and school were supervised by a preacher-teacher invited from the outside, half of whose salary was paid by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and the other half by the local Protestant community [44].

On the eve of the Genocide, the local Protestant pastor was the Very Reverend Hagop Israelian, who was born in the village of Vezir Keoprou in the Amasia District of the Sebastia (Sivas) Province (he was killed during the Armenian Genocide) [45]. Among the other clergymen who served the Protestant community of Erzindjan were the reverends Haroutyun Yazedjian and H. K. Donatosian [46].

The Armenian Churches of the Yerzenga Diocese

The Armenian Churches of the City of Erzindjan

In the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century (before the Genocide), there were four functioning Armenian churches in the city of Erzindjan – the Saint Nshan, the Holy Trinity, the Saint Sarkis, and the Holy Savior, in addition to the small Holy Virgin Chapel [47]. The population of the city was split between these four parishes, and the neighborhoods of each parish were split between each church’s priests. The churches were maintained by the income generated from their properties and the gifts of the parishioners (donations, collections, momakin [fee for candles], yughakin [fee for holy oil], etc.).

Two of the city’s churches, the Holy Trinity and Saint Sarkis, as well as the Holy Virgin Chapel, were centrally located in the Armenian section of the city, right in the church square (kilise meydan). The third, Saint Nshan, was not too far from the square [48]. The building that housed the Yerzenga Prelacy was also nearby.

The priests who served in the churches of the city, as well as those serving in the villages, received no salary. Their income consisted only of the fees and gifts they received for performing rites (house blessings, weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.). The clergymen of the city, in particular, were known as having been “chosen for a calling,” especially as many of those who were ordained as priests were former teachers, and were cultured and educated men (e.g. Father Vahan Surmenian, Father Krikor Mamigonian, Father Mesrob Torosian, and others) [49].

The Saint Nshan Church

The Saint Nshan was the main cathedral of the city of Erzindjan, and the seat of the Yerzenga Diocese. According to legend, it was named Saint Nshan (Holy Symbol) after a cross brought from Rome in the fourth century (“The Cross of Drtad”). It was the oldest and largest of the churches in the city. Due to the regular earthquakes that struck the area, the church, build of stone and mortar, was rebuilt and renovated repeatedly throughout the years. The building that stood on the eve of the Genocide was built in 1834 [50].

Right behind the entrance, in the narthex, across from each other, were two wooden booths, one for the bell-ringer, and the other for the candle seller. Above these was the upper gallery, reserved for women attending services. The chancel was separated into three different sections, for priests, for acolytes (tbirs), and for the choir, respectively. The priests’ section included a four-cornered cathedra, with a high peak, covered with a baldachin, reserved for the prelate. At the cathedra’s feet was the tomb of Hovhannes Blouz, the famous 13th century Armenian scribe and linguist, and a native of Yerzenga. His tombstone bore the following inscription:

Ays e daban hanksdian
Hovhannes Blouz Dzordzorian,

Er vartabed Djardasan.

[Here is the resting place
Of Hovhannes Blouz Dzordzorian,

A priest of eloquent tongue.]

The chancel featured three altars. Behind the large high altar hung an oil painting of the Madonna and infant Christ. The side altars were adorned with icons of Saint Gregory the Illuminator and Saint Garabed, respectively. The altars also featured candelabra, silver and gold crosses, and holy books.

The church’s beautiful, golden chalice was kept at the high altar. Each altar had its own curtain, made of silk or cloth, and embroidered with liturgical motifs. Above the high altar was the belfry, and behind the altar table was the pipe organ, which accompanied the chorus on special occasions.

Relics, painted in oil, hung from the walls, illuminated by the light filtering in through the large windows, as well as a large number of flickering torches and lanterns.

On the left side of the church was the sacristy, where church vestments and utensils were kept. This room also accommodated, in a nook in the wall, a stone or porphyry baptismal font.

The front courtyard of the church included a lovely garden, with a pool at its center. The entire compound was separated from the rest of the neighborhood by walls. A section of the garden was used as a graveyard. The clergymen who served in the Saint Nshan Church, as well as some of the church’s prominent parishioners, were buried there.

The parochial school attached to the Saint Nshan Church was the Yeznigian School.

On the eve of the Armenian Genocide, the church was served by Senior Priest Father Vartan Zakarian and Father Vahan Hovhannesian [51]. Among the other clerics who served the church was Father Krikor Mamigonian [52].

The Holy Trinity Church

The Holy Trinity Church was located in the southern section of Erzindjan’s “church square.” It was described as “bright” and “magnificent,” and was surrounded by earthen walls. It was built in 1836 [53]. Inside the walls, in addition to the church, were the parochial Armenian Central School and a gymnasium, as well as a garden, a pool, a large park, and a graveyard that had been turned into an orchard.

Like the Saint Nshan Church, the Holy Trinity Church had a narthex, an upper gallery reserved for women, a spacious nave, two choirs, a prelate’s cathedra, a raised chancel, and three altars.

The roof rested on high and round pillars adorned with large and small, long and circular arches. On the four corners of the central arches were carved figures of the four evangelists. The church was decorated with icons, and illumination was provided by large lanterns. The parish of the Holy Trinity Church was the largest in the city, with about 600 households (by 1913, the total number number of households in Yerzenga was 2,021). Consequently, it was also the wealthiest of the city’s churches, both in terms of the property it owned and the value of the treasures it housed.

On the eve of the Genocide, the church was served by Senior Priest Father Yeghishe Aramian, Father Vahan Sirmenian, and Father Ghevont Jamgochian [54].

The Saint Sarkis Church

The Saint Sarkis Church was located in the northern section of Erzindjan’s church square. It was built in 1839 [55], and it was not a large structure. It had a narrow and confined courtyard, with a few trees and a small pond. The church was immediately adjacent to the building that housed the parochial Aramian School.

The church was famous the 24 relics of saints that it possessed; its kolosh Bible, illuminated and calligraphed; and its fragments of the “Drtad Flag.” Twice a year, on the Saturday before the Saint Sarkis Holiday and the first Wednesday of Lent, the kolosh Bible was removed from the vault and read. Devoted worshippers, especially pilgrims and the sick, hoped for miraculous cures from the Bible. Even Turkish women would make pilgrimages to bow before it.

The parish of the Saint Sarkis Church included about 450 Armenian households. Compared to Erzindjan’s other Armenian churches, Saint Sarkis was poor, and did not own much property. The church was funded mostly by the donations of its parishioners.

On the eve of the Armenian Genocide, the serving priests of the Saint Sarkis Church were Senior Priest Father Vartan Tateosian and Father Mesrob Torosian [56].

The Holy Savior Church

The Holy Savior Church was located at the tip of the old neighborhood of Erzindjan. The building was described as being of stone and mortar, solidly built, tidy and small, with a high dome and sturdy stone pillars, whose tops were adorned with carved capitals. The interior was similar to that of other churches in Erzindjan, but lacked a narthex and an upper gallery for women.

The doors opened right on the nave, with a beautiful and large upper floor reserved for women. Above the main door was the belfry, whose large and valuable bell, purchased from Russia in the 1880s, was donated to the church by the wealthy Hoghgroghian family.

A garden surrounded the church, and was surrounded by high walls in its turn. Abutting the southern wall was the old Armenian graveyard of the neighborhood.

The church had a wealth of property. Its parish included the 400 Armenian households living in the old neighborhood of the city. Even for Armenians who were not its parishioners, the Holy Savior was a pilgrimage site, which they visited on special occasions.

The parochial church attached to the church was the Naregian School.

On the eve of the Genocide, the serving priests of the church were Senior Priest Father Yezegiel Garabedian and Father Bimen Der-Vartanian (they also served the villages of Sourp Ohan, Gamarig, Komer, and Armenians living in Kurdish villages) [57].

The Holy Virgin Chapel

The Holy Virgin Chapel was located in the western section of the church square, at the corner of a sparsely inhabited and quiet street. The chapel had a large courtyard, and was surrounded by a fence.

The chapel had once been a church, but had fallen into ruins. After remaining abandoned for some time, in 1889 [58], a group of devout ladies organized a fundraising effort, which resulted in the construction of the chapel, adorned with beautiful, handcrafted embroideries and a modest set of church utensils.

This church-chapel lacked a parish and a serving priest. Every Saturday evening and Sunday morning, one of the city’s priests would hold a service there, and any funds collected during the service would be used to maintain the chapel.

The chapel had become a unique pilgrimage site for the women of Erzindjan. It was particularly crowded on holidays dedicated to the Holy Virgin [59].

Notebook of notated Armenian hymns (sharagans) from Yerzenga belonged to Hmayag Mamigonian. It is dated August 25, 1897, and the entries were made in Yerzenga/Erzindjan (Source: Mamigonian Collection, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, USA).

The Churches of Armenian-populated Villages in Erzindjan

Below, we present a list of the churches operating in Armenian-populated villages of Erzindjan on the eve of the Armenian Genocide. Data on the Armenian population of each village is provided according to the 1913 census conducted by the Yerzenga diocesan authorities in 1913, at the behest of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople [60]. The names of churches are provided according to the survey conducted with the Yerzenga Diocese in 1878 [61]; the list of Armenian churches and monasteries in 1912-1913 provided to the Ottoman Ministry of Justice and Religious Denominations by the Constantinople Armenian Patriarchate in 1923 [62]; and other sources. The dates of the construction of churches (or their renovations) were also obtained from the aforementioned report provided to the Ottoman Ministry of Justice and Religious Denominations [63]. The names of the priests serving the communities on the eve of the Genocide are provided according to Teotig’s [64].

According to these primary sources, on the eve of the Armenian Genocide, there were 25 functioning churches in the 31 Armenian-populated villages of the district. The villages that lacked a functioning church were Mertegli, Dzater, Komga, and Oureg, all with a small Armenian population. There were also no places of worship in the palanga farmsteads belonging to wealthy Armenians. Of the villages that had functioning churches, only 14 had dedicated priests serving them (Ptaridj, Meghoutsig, and Gulludje each had two priests). The other villages were served by visiting priests from the city of Ezincan or from neighboring communities [65].

Aghdjekend (present-day Altınbaşak)

5 [Armenian] households, 45 Armenians.

The village did not have a functioning Armenian church in the 1880s [66]. The Holy Virgin Church was built in later years.

Pzvan (present-day Yoğurtlu)

70 households, 430 Armenians.

The Saint Nshan Church [67] (built in 1837 and described as a beautiful structure built of stone and mortar [68]) and the Saint Kevork Church (in ruins). The village was served by Senior Priest Sebouh Pirchigian.

Ptaridj (present-day Bayırbağ)

68 households, 399 Armenians.

The Saint Sarkis Church. In 1880s, the village had no serving priest, and was instead served by the abbot of the Saint Nigoghayos Monastery [69]. In later years, the village’s serving priests were Father Sdepan Deyirmendjian and Father Madteos Atamian (who also served the villages of Shkhli and Gharakilise).

The floor plan of the Saint Kevork Monastery in the village of Ergan (present-day Oğulcuk). (A) The Saint Kevork Church, (B) The Holy Virgin Church, (C) Narthex, (D) Living quarters, (E) Unidentified structure, (F) Pavilion, and (G) Probably the Prelacy building.
(Source: Jean-Michel Thierry de Crussol,
Monuments arméniens de Haute-Arménie, CNRS Editions, Paris, 2005)

Ergan (present-day Oğulcuk)

105 households, 852 Armenians.

The Holy Virgin Church (built in 1858), described as a modern and spacious structure [70]. The serving priest was Father Arsen Arshagouni. The ruins of the Saint Kevork Monastery were located near this village.

1) The ruins of the Saint Krikor Monastery of Ergan (Source: Jean-Michel Thierry de Crussol, Monuments arméniens de Haute-Arménie, CNRS Editions, Paris, 2005).
2) The ruins of the Saint Sarkis Church in the village of Ptaridj (present-day Bayırbağ) (Source: Research on Armenian Architecture foundation - RAA, Yerevan, Photograph: Samvel Karapetyan).

Khntsoreg (present-day Pınarlıkaya)

40 households, 366 Armenians.

The Saint Kevork Church [71], served by Father Vahan Sahagian.

Dzatkegh (present-day Değirmenköy)

78 households, 628 Armenians.

The Holy Virgin Church (built in 1859), a “beautiful structure of stone and mortar” [72], served by Father Vramshabouh Norhadian.

The Holy Virgin Church of Dzatkegh (present-day Değirmenköy)
(Source: Research on Armenian Architecture foundation - RAA, Yerevan, Photograph: Samvel Karapetyan; Jean-Michel Thierry de Crussol,
Monuments arméniens de Haute-Arménie, CNRS Editions, Paris, 2005)

Garmri (present-day Yeşilçat)

47 households, 315 Armenians.

The Saint Kevork Church (built in 1861), described as newly built and small. In the 1880s, the community was served by Father Marouke [73], while on the eve of the Genocide, it was served by Father Oksendios Khachadourian.


39 households, 329 Armenians.

The Saint Tateos Church, served by Father Yezras Lousbaronian. The village was also home to two dilapidated, non-functioning churches, the Saint Garabed and Saint Hovhannes [74].

Gulluje (present-day Güllüce)

60 households, 755 Armenians.

The Saint Kevork Church (built in 1840), served by Father Anania Der-Kevorkian and Father Karnig Der-Yezegielian. There were also three additional churches in the village and its environs, all in ruins or a dilapidated state: the Holy Virgin, Saint Toros, and Saint Sdepanos [75].

Harabedi (present-day Üçkonak)

14 households, 130 Armenians.

The Saint Illuminator Church, which did not have a serving priest. The village was served by one of the priests from the city of Erzindjan. On the eve of the Genocide, this was Senior Priest Yeghishe Aramian, also the priest of the city’s Holy Trinity Church.

Horom Akrag (present-day Tepecik)

36 households, 200 Armenians.

The Saint Giragos Church [76] (built in 1829). The village did not have its own priest, and was served by Father Knel Der-Azarian, priest of Medz Akrag.

Gharatoush (present-day Karatuş)

41 households, 235 Armenians.

The Holy Virgin Church. The village was served by Father Hamazasb Hovhannesian, priest of Meghoutsig.

Gharadigin (present-day Karadeğin)

43 households, 350 Armenians.

The Holy Archangel Church (built in 1839). The village was served by the priest of Chiftlig Verin (Upper Chiftlig).

Gharakilise (present-day Altınbaşak)

45 households, 302 Armenians.

The Holy Virgin Church (called Saint Minas in the 1880s [77]). The village was served by Father Mateos Atamian, the priest of Ptaridj.

Mahmoudtsik (present-day Mahmutlu)

55 Armenians, 820 Armenians.

The Saint Sdepanos Church and the Holy Madonna Church (in ruins). The serving priest of the village was Father Melikseteg Avakian.

Pictures of the Yerznga Bible. This handwritten manuscript was penned and illustrated in 1269-1270 at the Avak Monastery near the city of Yerznga/Erzindjan. It is currently held at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and is cataloged as Manuscript Number 1925 (Source: Bezalel Narkiss (ed.), Armenian Art Treasures of Jerusalem, Massada Press, Jerusalem, 1979). 

Medz Akrag/Ekrek (present-day Dörtler)

83 households, 650 Armenians.

The Saint Kevork Church (built in 1829), served by Father Knel Der-Azarian.

Meghoutsig (present-day Yalınca)

304 households, 1,822 Armenians.

The Saint Nshan Church (built in 1845) and the Saint Kevork Church (in ruins). The village’s two serving priests were Father Hamazasb Hovhannesian (who also served the village of Gharatoush) and Father Tornig Gaboudigian.

Mtni/Mtenni (present-day Gümüştarla)

120 households, 1,316 Armenians.

The Saint Hagop Church, a beautiful, domed, modern structure (completely renovated in 1882) [78]. The village’s serving priest was Father Ghevont Der-Avedisian.

Mollakegh (present-day Mollaköy)

38 households, 280 Armenians.

The Yeghnaper Holy Virgin Church (built in 1859). The village was served by the priest of Medz Akrag.

Shkhli (present-day Uluköy)

23 households, 158 Armenians.

The Holy Cross Church (or Saint Haroutyun, according to another source [79]), which did not have its own serving priest. The village was served by the priest of Ptaridj, Father Mateos Atamian.

Srbihan/Sourp Ohan (present-day Kılıçkaya)

31 households, 140 Armenians.

The Saint Hovhannes Church [80] (or Saint Ohan, according to another source [81]). The village had no serving priest, and was served by one of the priests of the Holy Savior Church in the city of Erzindjan, Father Bimen Der-Vartanian.

Chiftlig Veri/Upper Chiftlig (present-day Hancıçiftliği)

57 households, 336 Armenians.

The Holy Virgin Church, served by Father Krikor Hampartsoumian (who also served the villages of Chiftlig Vari and Gharadigin).

1) The decree ordering reforms of parochial Armenian schools, Muhendisian Press, Constantinople, 1873.
2) The Vision of Daniel, Painter: Sarkis, 1362, Yerznga, Ms 4519 (Source: Armenian Miniatures from the Matenadaran Collection, Nairi Publishing House, Yerevan, 2009).

Chiftlig Vari/Lower Chiftlig (present-day Ganiefendiçiftliği)

27 households, 229 Armenians.

The Holy Virgin (Mother Madonna) Church. The church was served by the priest of Chiftlig Veri.

Dadjrag (present-day Türkmenoğlu)

33 households, 249 Armenians.

The Holy Virgin Church (built in 1819, described as a wooden, gloomy structure [82]). The serving priest was Father Yeghishe Zakarian.


14 households, 104 Armenians.

The Saint Hripsime Church. The village was served by Senior Priest Ghevont Der-Avedisia, the priest of Mtnni.

  • [1] T. Kh. Hagopian, S. D. Melik-Pashkhian, and H. Kh. Parseghian, Hayasdani yev Haragits Shrchanneri Deghanounneri Pararan [Dictionary of Places Names of Armenia and Surrounding Areas], Volume 2, D-G, Yerevan, 1988, page 236.
  • [2] The fifth-century Armenian scribe Akatankeghos attributes the following words, praising Anahid, to King Drtad III the Great: “Zmedzn Anahid, vorov gya yev zgentanoutyun gre yergirs hayots” [“The Great Anahid, thanks to whom the Land of Armenia lives and thrives”] (Akatankeghos, Hayots Badmoutyun [Armenian History], Section 68, Yerevan, 1983, pages 46-47.)
  • [3] K. Surmenian, Yerzenga [Erzindjan], Cairo, Sahag-Mesrob Press, 1947, page 16.
  • [4] Hayasdani yev Haragits Shrchanneri Deghanounneri Pararan, Volume 2, page 236.
  • [5] Akatankeghos, Section 786, pages 442-443. For detailed information on Nane, see S. Haroutyunian, Hin Hayots Havadaliknere, Grone, Bashdamounkn ou Titsarane [The Beliefs, Faith, Rituals, and Pantheon of Ancient Armenians], Yerevan, 2001, pages 45-46.
  • [6] Archbishop M. Ormanian, Azkabadoum [National History], Section 46, First Volume, Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, 2001, page 76.
  • [7] Ibid., Sections 86 and 155, First Volume, pages 130 and 245; Section 1239, Second Volume, pages 2098-2100; Hayasdani yev Haragits Shrchanneri Deghanounneri Pararan, Volume 2, page 449.
  • [8] B. Hagopian, Hayakidagan Ousoumnasiroutyunner [Topics inArmenian Studies], Yerevan, 2003, page 31.
  • [9] Movses Khorenatsi, Badmoutyun Hayots [History of Armenians], Yerevan, Armenia Press, 1997, pages 264-265; Ormanian, Azkabadoum, Section 206, First Volume, page 337.
  • [10] Surmenian, Yerznga, page 20.
  • [11] Krisdonya Hayasdan Hanrakidaran [Encyclopedia of Christian Armenia], Yerevan, 2002, pages 619-623.
  • [12] Ibid., pages 760-762.
  • [13] Ormanian, Azkabadoum, Section 1231, Volume B., page 2086.
  • [14] N. Vartanian, “Kevork Yerzngatsin yev “Ganonakirk Hayots” Joghovadzoun” [“Kevork of Yerzenga and the “Armenian Code of Law” Compendium”], PanperYerevani Hamalsarani. Hayakidoutyun [Newsletter of the Yerevan State University – Armenian Studies], Yerevan, 2015, N. 2, pages 50-60.
  • [15] Krisdonya Hayasdan Hanrakidaran, pages 132-133.
  • [16] Ormanian, Azkabadoum, Section 1875, Volume B., pages 3169-3171.
  • [17] Hagopian, Hayakidagan Ousoumnasiroutyunner, page 106.
  • [18] Ibid., pages 110-111.
  • [19] A. Alboyadjian, “Arachnortagan Vidjagner” [“Jurisdiction of Prelacies”], 1908 Entartsag Oratsouyts S. Prgchian Hivantanotsi Hayots [1908 Complete Calendar of the Holy Savior Armenian Hospital], Constantinople, 1908, pages 294-295.
  • [20] Ibid., pages 309-310.
  • [21] M. Ormanian, Hayots Yegeghetsin yev ir Badmoutyune, Vartabedoutyune, Varchoutyune, Paregarkoutyune, Araroghoutyune, Kraganoutyune, ou Nerga Gatsoutyune [The Armenian Church and its History, Priesthood, Administration, Reforms, Rituals, Literature, and Present State], Constantinople, 1911, page 261.
  • [22] Alboyadjian, Arachnortagan Vidjagner…, page 311.
  • [23] Ararad Religious-Moral, Literary-Historic, Rhetorical-Pedagogic, National and Official Monthly, Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, July 1895, page 265.
  • [24] Ararad Monthly, April 1895, page 140. In late 1895, one Father Kevork Yezegielian is mentioned as having been appointed interim prelate. We were unable to find additional information on him (“Hayasdanyats Yegeghetsin Dadjgasdanoum” [“The Armenian Church in the Ottoman Empire,” Ararad Monthly, February 1896, page 88.)
  • [25] Ordained a senior priest in 1902 (1902 Entartsag Oratsouyts S. Prgchian Hivantanotsi Hayots, Constantinople, 1908, page 328.)
  • [26] Surmenian, Yerznga, page 153.
  • [27] Ibid., page 154.
  • [28] Ibid., page 153.
  • [29] Ararad, 1880, Number G, page 321.
  • [30] Father Taniel Hagopian, “Temagan yev Grtagan Vidjag Yerzngayi” [“The State of the Diocese and of Education in Yerzenga”], Byzantium Armenian Daily, Constantinople, October 15/27, 1897, number 294, page 1. Although the Yerzenga Diocese had the status of an archbishopric, from the 1870s to 1915 Timaksian was the only prelate of the Armenian Church with the rank of bishop. Prelates of other dioceses were either priests or senior priests.
  • [31] Surmenian, Yerznga, pages 154-155.
  • [32] Ibid., page 157.
  • [33] Ibid., page 155.
  • [34] Ibid., page 156.
  • [35] Ibid., page 157.
  • [36] Teotig, Koghkota Hay Hokevoraganoutyan yev ir Hodin Aghedali 1915 Darin [The Calvary of Armenian Clergy and Its Flock's Catastrophic Year of 1915], New York, 1985, pages 178-179; Garabed Kapigian, Yeghernabadoum Pokoun Hayots yev Norin Medzi Mayrakaghakin Sepasdio, Boston, Hairenik Press, 1924, pages 45-48.
  • [37] Surmenian, Yerznga, page 158; Teotig, Koghkota…, page 187.
  • [38] Arevelyan Mamoul, June 1886, page 261.
  • [39] Surmenian, Yerznga, page 204.
  • [40] K. Karpat, Ottoman Population 1830-1914. Demographics and Social Characteristics, Wisconsin, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985, page 170.
  • [41] Ormanian, Hayots Yegeghetsin, page 261.
  • [42] Arevelyan Mamoul, June 1886, page 261.
  • [43] Kachperouni, “Deghegakragan Noter – Erzcingian” [“Geographic Notes – Erzindjan,”] Puragn National, Scientific, Literary, and Political Review, Constantinople, August 9, 1903, N. 32, page 629.
  • [44] Ibid.
  • [45] Teotig, Koghkota…, page 182.
  • [46] G. B. Adanalian, Houshartsan Hay Avedaranaganots yev Avedaranagan Yegeghetsvo (Knnagan Dzanotoutyunnerov) [Memorial for Armenian Evangelicals and the Armenian Evangelical Church (with Critical Notes)], Fresno, 1952, page 479.
  • [47] Surmenian, Yerznga, pages 118-124.
  • [48] Ibid., pages 125-126.
  • [49] Ibid., pages 158-160.
  • [50] A. Kh. Safrasdian, “Gonstantnoubolsi Hayots Badriarkarani…”, page 46. According to K. Surmenian, it was built in 1849 (Surmenian, Yerznga, page 119).
  • [51] Surmenian, Yerznga, pages 119-120; Arevelyan Mamoul, May 1886, page 230; Teotig, Koghkota…, pages 180-181.
  • [52] See Houshamadyan’s article on the Mamigonian family collection:
  • [53] Safrasdian, “Gonstantnoubolsi Hayots Badriarkarani…”, page 46.
  • [54] Surmenian, Yerznga, pages 120-121; Arevelyan Mamoul, May 1886, page 230; Teotig, Koghkota…, page 181.
  • [55] Safrasdian, “Gonstantnoubolsi Hayots Badriarkarani…”, page 46.
  • [56] Arevelyan Mamoul, May 1886, page 230; Surmenian, Yerznga, pages 121-122; Teotig, Koghkota…, page 181.
  • [57] Arevelyan Mamoul, May 1886, page 230; Surmenian, Yerznga, pages 122-123; Teotig, Koghkota…, pages 181-182.
  • [58] Safrasdian, “Gonstantnoubolsi Hayots Badriarkarani…”, page 46.
  • [59] Surmenian, Yerznga, page 123.
  • [60] Raymond H. Kévorkian, Paul B. Paboudjian, Les Arméniens dans l’Empire Ottoman à la Veille du Génocide [The Armenians in the Ottoman Empire on the Eve of the Genocide],ARHIS, Paris, 1992, pages 452-455.
  • [61] Charents Museum Archives, T. Azadian Fund, part 3, case 42.
  • [62] Safrasdian, “Gonstantnoubolsi Hayots Badriarkarani, pages 45-47.
  • [63] Ibid. (dates of construction are not available for all churches. In primary sources, many are simply listed as “ancient”).
  • [64] Teotig, Koghkota…, pages 182-185.
  • [65] Compare to figures from 1897, when only 10 Armenian-populated villages in Erzindjan had serving priests, and three had two serving priests (Father Taniel Hagopian, “Temagan yev Grtagan Vidjag Yerzngayi”, page 1).
  • [66] Arevelyan Mamoul, April 1891, page 157.
  • [67] Or the Holy Virgin, according to Charents Museum Archives, T. Azadian Fund, part 3, case 42, sheet 9.
  • [68] Arevelyan Mamoul, April 1891, page 156.
  • [69] Ibid., page 158.
  • [70] Arevelyan Mamoul, May 1891, page 208.
  • [71] Or Saint Minas, according to another source (T. Azadian Fund, part 3, case 42, sheet 7).
  • [72] Arevelyan Mamoul, 1891, May, page 209.
  • [73] Arevelyan Mamoul, 1890, March, page 136.
  • [74] K. M. Patalian, “Arevmdyan Hayasdani Badma-joghovrtakragan Ngarakire Medz Yegherni Nakhorein. Mas Yerrort. Erzurumi Nahanki Gedronagan yev Arevmdyan Kavarnere yev Erzurum (Garin) ou Yerznga Kaghaknere” [The Demographic and Historical Character of Historical Armenia on the Eve of the Armenian Genocide. Part Three: The Central and Western Districts of the Erzurum Province and the Cities of Erzurum (Garin) and Yerzenga], VEM All-Armenian Review, Year G (13), Number 4 (52), October-December 2015, page XXXIII.
  • [75] Ibid., page XXXII.
  • [76] Or Saint Sarkis, according to Charents Museum Archives, T. Azadian Fund, part 3, case 42, sheet 7.
  • [77] Arevelyan Mamoul, April 1891, page 157.
  • [78] Arevelyan Mamoul, March 1890, page 138.
  • [79] Charents Museum Archives, T. Azadian Fund, part 3, case 42, sheet 7.
  • [80] Ibid.
  • [81] 1904 Entartsag Oratsouyts S. Prgchian Hivantanotsi Hayots…, Constantinople, 1904, page 368.
  • [82] Arevelyan Mamoul, May 1891, page 207.