The Achabahian family, circa 1922.

Achabahian Collection - Antelias, Lebanon

Translator: Simon Beugekian, 18/01/21

Madteos Achabahian’s family hailed from Sis/Kozan. He was the brother of Giragos II (born in 1823), Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia.

The official permit issued by the Greek government to the Achabahian family, allowing them to travel from the island of Chios to Athens. The document is dated 4 November 1922. The permit was issued to Krikor Achabahian, who is listed as being 40 years old and from the region of Adana by birth (Sis was part of the province of Adana). The family traveled to Chios from Izmir, and as this permit indicates, later proceeded to Athens.

The permit includes the following names: Krikor Achabahian (40 years old), Madteos (90 years old), Varvar (65 years old), Shoushan (25 years old), Antsine (two years old), Hripsime (one year old), Zarouhi (35 years old), Krikor (five years old), Alice (three years old), Giragos (15 years old), Lousntak (17 years old), and Apraham (11 years old). Seated, left to right: Krikor Achabahian; Shoushan Achabahian (Krikor’s wife, nee Neredian); Hripsime and Antsine, their children, sitting on their laps; Madteos Achabahian (90 years old); Varvar Achabahian (Madteos’s wife, nee Apartian); and Zarouhi Achabahian. The two children standing in front of Varvar and Zarouhi are Krikor and Alice, two orphans who were adopted by the family. Standing, left to right: Apraham Geokdjian (another youth who was adopted by the Achabahian family), Giragos Achabahian, and Lousntak Achabahian.

A gilded box.
A silver and mother-of-pearl clasp/buckle for a cassock.
An ivory comb and its silk case, which belonged to Archbishop Nerses Varjabedian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. The comb is inscribed with the date 1861 and the initials N. and [?].
An ivory comb and its silk case, which belonged to Archbishop Nerses Varjabedian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. The comb is inscribed with the date 1861 and the initials N. and [?].
Catholicos Giragos II Achabahian’s pipe, made of ivory and amber, and its box.

The Achabahian name was well-known in Sis. In fact, between 1731 and 1866, nine members of this family consecutively served as catholicoses of the Holy See of Cilicia. The last among them was Giragos II, whose reign spanned from 1855 to 1866. Etymologically, the Achabahian surname contains the Armenians roots ach [the right hand of a saint, kept as a relic] and bah [guard], inferring that the family was tasked with the responsibility of guarding Krikor Lousavorich’s [Gregory the Illuminator] right hand.

On Giragos II’s initiative, three youths were sent from Sis to Constantinople to matriculate at the capital’s Shahnazarian School (in Hasköy). With this step, the Catholicos aimed to secure the highly educated individuals needed to spur progress in Sis. One of these three students was Madteos Achabahian, Giragos II’s brother. On this page, we present materials that were preserved by his branch of the family.

In the early 1920s, we find the Achabahians in Izmir/Smyrna. They probably left Cilicia when the French forces stationed there retreated and handed over the territory to the Kemalist Turkish government. At that time, Izmir was occupied by Greek forces. But soon, the city fell to the Turks, and its Greek and Armenian residents were forced to flee once again, this time to Greece.

A maniple used during services, embroidered with golden thread.
A pyx made of mother-of-pearl, and which belonged to Catholicos Yeprem Achabahian. His name is carved into the surface in Armenian letters.
Stamps and vestment accessories.

And so, in 1922, Madteos Achabahian and his family left for Greece. Copies of their travel documents indicate that 12 members of the family made this journey together, including Madteos Achabahian (already 90 years old); his 65-year-old wife, Varvar Achabahian (nee Apartian); one of their sons, Krikor Achabahian (40 years old); Krikor’s wife, Shoushan (nee Neredian); Lousntak Achabahian; and Giragos Achabahian.

At first, the family found refuge on the island of Chios. Later, they relocated to Athens. Wherever they went, they brought with them their own and the Catholicosate’s treasures – church edicts, cuffs and buckles, stamps, cassocks, metal coins, photographs, travel and property documents, a handwritten family memory book, etc.

After their arrival in Greece, the family dispersed across the world. One branch settled down in Armenia, another in France, and a third in South America.

The materials presented here were kept and preserved for many years by Armenouhi Baghdjian (nee Achabahian). She was born in Athens, but later emigrated to Argentina. On one of her regular visits to Athens, she became acquainted with the priest of the city’s St Garabed Armenian Church (Neos Kosmos-Fix neighborhood), Father Nareg Shahinian. The two made an agreement whereby Armenouhi would donate the collection to the Catholicosate of Cilicia, to be displayed in its museum (in Antilias, Lebanon). The donation was made in 2004. Father Nareg, accompanied by his wife Lucy Onnigian-Shahinian, met with Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, and officially gifted these valuable items to the Holy See.

The most important items in the collection are two handwritten notebooks. One of them is a work called The Genealogy of the Noble Achabahian Dynasty. It was written by Catholicos Arakel I in Sis, in 1865. The two manuscripts consist of 70 handwritten pages, written in Classical Armenian.

We thank Mike Chilingirian, Father Nareg Shahinian and Father Barouyr Shernezian for their assistance in the preparation of this page. We would also like to thank Tolga Cora, who provided the translations of the Ottoman documents.

Ottoman-Era Documents that Belonged to the Achabahian Family

A deed of property from the Ottoman Imperial Land Registry [sened-i hakani]. It is a testament for the bequest of property by Apraham to his sons. The bequest was to be made after Apraham’s death. Dated 1880-1881.
A certificate of the purchase of a property by Ohannes, son of Manuel Keshish, dated 1835. The property was located in Karınca (Karindja).
A tax registry certificate, dated 1887-1888 and 1888-1889. It belonged to Apraham agha, the son of Manuel.
A deed of property from the Ottoman Imperial Land Registry [sened-i hakani]. The location is listed as Sis, Bin Damı [?]. The document certifies that the ownership of the property was transferred to Manuel, in view of his brother’s death. The document is dated 1880-1881.
A deed of property from the Ottoman Imperial Land Registry [sened-i hakani]. The location of the property is listed as Sis, Kızıl yazı [?]. The document is dated 1887. It confirms that Kapriel’s sons had inherited the property he had left behind after his death in 1880-1881.
A deed of property from the Ottoman Imperial Land Registry [sened-i hakani]. The location is listed as Sis, Yarım oğlu [?]. The document confirms the ownership of the property. Half of it belonged to Levon and Santour, Manuel’s children; and the other half to Madteos, Manuel, and Ohannes.

Other Ottoman-era documents belonging to the Achabahian family (with no additional details provided)

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