TEHRAN (Tehran Times)—Over 3,000 Christian worshipers are on a pilgrimage to St. Thaddeus Monastery, which is located in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province.
The essential core of the pilgrimage, called Badarak, was held on Saturday, attended by guests from Iran, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Germany, Canada and a few other countries, IRNA reported.
The province’s cultural heritage department has endeavored to provide the necessary infrastructure, including camping sites, sanitary services, catering services, outdoor lighting, and setting up tents for ritual ceremonies and other services, said the Chief of the Department Jalil Jabbari.
Baptism of children and infants, along with performances of traditional songs and dances, are amongst highlights of the event.
The festivity is significant to Iranian-Armenians who come from the cities of Tabriz, Urmia, Tehran, Isfahan and Qazvin, to stage the reunion in groups and families. It also provides them an opportunity to take a vacation and visit distant relatives.
Attendees commemorate the martyrdom of St. Thaddeus, one of the twelve disciples killed while he was preaching the Gospel. Legend says a church dedicated to him was first built in 68 CE where Qareh Klise is standing.
Thaddeus was an apostle of Jesus and the ceremony is rooted in the last supper, on the night of Jesus’ arrest and execution by the Roman soldiers.
Also known as the Qareh Klise (“the Black Church”), the monastery is one of the oldest surviving Christian monuments in the country. It is situated in Chaldoran county some 12 miles from Maku, adjacent to the borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey.
The ancient Church displays elaborate bas-reliefs of flowers, animals, and human figures on its façade and exterior walls. It bears verses of Old and New Testament in Armenian calligraphy as well.
Together with St. Stepanos Monastery and the Chapel of Dzordzor, Qareh Klise was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008 under the name “Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran.” All three sites are located in West Azerbaijan and are of high significance from historical and cultural perspectives. They bear credible testimony to interchanges with the ancient regional societies in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox, and Persian.
UNESCO has stated that the churches bear examples of outstanding universal value of the Armenian architectural and decorative traditions.