Armenia’s in Venice to Highlight Save Venice 2004

NEW YORK–Save Venice–a 35-year-old organization dedicated to supporting conservation projects in Venice–will present a five day celebration of the magnificent city’s history and treasures–August 29 through September 2–2004. The Gala week will feature an extraordinary Armenian dimension–in recognition of Laurel and Walter Karabian’s major participation.

"We are very grateful to the Karabians for introducing us to the rich legacy of the Armenia’s of Venice. Our membership is always eager to discover more about the diverse cultures that make this city so fascinating," expressed Randolph H. Guthrie–Chairman of Save Venice–Inc. "The presence of Armenia’s in Venice for nearly 1500 years can be seen in some of this exquisite city’s most interesting locations.

More than 1,000 years before the Abbot Mekhitar founded his monastery on the Island of San Lazzaro–Armenia’s were already leaving important footprints in Venice. Armenian contributions began in 551 AD when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian appointed his trusted aide Nerses the Armenian as Viceroy. Among Nerses’s great contributions was the foundation of the first church ever built on the site of St. Mark’s square. In Nerses’s footprint came the architect Sahag–who built the Church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta on the Island of Torcello–the oldest surviving building in the Venetian lagoon. This basilica was consecrated in 639 AD by Isaac–the Armenian Exarch of Ravenna.

From Armenia’s strategic position on the Silk Road–Armenian traders and translators frequently interacted with Venetians including the great explorer Marco Polo. The Armenia’s established their own quarters near San Marco–which soon included an Apostolic Church–Holy Cross of the Armenia’s–on a street appropriately named Calle degli Armeni.

The Mekhitarian Monastery on the Island of San Lazzaro is today the most prominent remnant from what was by the end of the 17th century a community of 10,000 Venetian-Armenia’s. From 1816 to 1818–Lord Byron studied at San Lazzaro–learning the Armenian language and assisting the monks with the publication of an English-Armenian dictionary. The great seascape painter Ivan Aivazovsky (Hovhannes Aivazian)–while visiting his brother Archbishop Gabriel Aivazovsky–immortalized the Island and the Venetian lagoon in numerous magnificent paintings. A number of Aivazovsky’s most famous paintings can be found in the monastery of San Lazzaro–along with the artifacts sent by Armenia’s from around the globe for safekeeping in this amazing repository of Armenian culture. The San Lazzaro Library–art collections and printing press are legendary in the Armenian Diaspora for what they have preserved and perpetuated.

The 2004 Save Venice Gala will include a luncheon in the gardens of the Mekhitarian Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni hosted by the Karabians–followed by a special tour of the island’s many treasures and a walking tour highlighted by the historical importance of Armenia’s in Venive. In addition–there will be a visit to the beautigul town of Udine with its frescoes by Tiepolo–followed by a luncheon at the charming Villa Gallici–visits to Venetian palaces–a private concert by the outstanding Venice Barouque Orchestra–a dinner at Palazzo Ducale–luncheon at the Hotel Cipriani and the final night’s festivities at the incomparable candlelit Palazzo Pisani Moretta.

Tickets cost $3,250–of which $1500 is tax deductible–and cover participation in all the activities of the five day Gala. Children under 17 can attend all events except the Gala for a $500 ticket–and young adults age 17 to 39–can purchase tickets for all events including that Gala for $1500 per person. Travel and hotel arrangemen’s are the guest’s own responsibility. To receive an invitation package–please send a request by email to Karen Marshall at newyork@savevenice.org. For more information regarding travel or group arrangemen’s–please call Garbis Titizian at Levon Travel (800) 445-3866.

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