ARTAZ–IRAN–Four thousand Armenia’s took the annual three-day pilgrimage to the monastery of Tadeh (St. Thaddeus) in the Artaz region of Iran to honor one of Jesus Christ’s twelve apostles.
Led by the vicar of the Adrbadakan Armenian Church Reverend Nshan Topuzian–the 49th pilgrimage to the monastery took place July 31-August 2. The spiritual leader of Orumiye Varak Topalian and Nerses Basilian of Tavriz also participated.
The daily masses were the focus of the pilgrimage. Other highlights include forty-one baptisms and the more than 1,000 pilgrims who took communion.
The Church of St. Thaddeus–known also as the Black Church (Ghara Kelisa)–is possibly Iran’s most interesting and notable Christian monument. One of the 12 disciples–Thaddeus (also Jude) was martyred while spreading the Gospel to this part of Iran in the 1st century. He is revered as an apostle of the Armenian Church.
The St. Thaddeus Monastery is perched on a mountain ridge beside a stream–sunken into the rock–thus giving it a natural fortified position. The monastery’s outline–placed on gently rolling hills–stands out sharply against the vastness of the horizon. It forms a harmonious–integral part with its surroundings–both in the material used to build it–as well as its form.
As legend has it–St. Thaddeus founded the monastery in 68 AD–on the site of a former pagan temple. Time after time it was destroyed by invasions and struck by earthquakes–the most devastating of which occurred in 1319. Nothing remains of the original church–which was extensively rebuilt and enlarged in the 13th century–but some parts around the altar may date from the 10th century. Most of the present structure dates from the 17th century and is of carved sandstone. The monastery–two churches–portico–and numerous rooms that are on this sacred site are strategically situated on a spot that yielded independence and relative security. A thick wall also encloses this complex that protected it from sieges by aggressive and violent neighbors.
St. Thaddeus Monastery only has one service a year that is held during the annual pilgrimage in July.