The Armenian Quarter, one of the four quarters of Jerusalem Old City, is the oldest living Armenian Diaspora community. Its history dates back to the 4th century AD.
One of the four quarters of Jerusalem Old City, the Armenian Quarter, can surely be regarded as the most enthralling and enigmatic one.
Being the first country to adopt Christianity as the official religion, the Armenian nation has played a vital role in the Holy Land since those early times.
Don’t miss the chance to wander through the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem Old City, as it is regarded as the most peaceful and calm quarter of the city.
Are you ready to explore the Armenian Quarter together and find some interesting facts? Let’s go!
What Should We Know About the Armenian Quarter?
The presence of the Armenians in Jerusalem goes back to over 1,500 years. Actually, the most unique thing about the Armenian Quarter is that Armenians are the only nation to have a quarter in Jerusalem Old city.
In fact, the other three quarters are the representatives of the following faiths:
Located in the southwestern corner of Jerusalem Old City, it comprises approximately one-sixth of the territory of the city.
Being the smallest quarter out of four, it is also the most serene and relaxing one. The reason for this is that its population has diminished considerably. In the mid-20th century, because of socio-economic and political instability Armenians began to emigrate from Jerusalem Old city.
However, still over 600-800 Armenians are inhabited in the Armenian Quarter. As it is estimated, over 2.000 Armenians live in Jerusalem and in other parts of Israel. By the way, the Armenian population in Jerusalem reached to its peak in 1948, when it was numbered to about 16,000.
The thing is that after the Armenian Genocide committed by Turkey during World War I, many survivors received shelter in the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem.
Besides of being an important religious center, the Armenian Quarter also offers a wide range of historical landmarks and ancient churches that are well worth visiting. So, let’s find out some of the most noteworthy places that the Armenian Quarter can offer.
The Armenian Quarter: A City Within the City
Before going deep into this topic, here is a tip for your convenient journey to the Armenian Quarter. We highly recommend you to visit the place in the midafternoon. The compound of the quarter can be closed for most of the day.
Things to See in the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem #1: St. James Cathedral
One of the oldest holy sites of Jerusalem Old City is St. James Church that dates back to the 12th century, that was the period of the Crusades. This largest Armenian church of Jerusalem Old City is named after St. James who was the brother of Jesus and the first bishop of Jerusalem.
It is also considered to be his burial place. Impressive processions of the church, the domed ceiling illuminated by silver and gold lamps, the shrine and heavy leather doors will definitely give you an incredible experience.
The complex also has a beautiful courtyard where you can admire to the well-known Armenian ceramics. Also, here is an important note for those who are planning to visit the church. At the entrance of the compound, you can find a long list of rules that also includes the point of modest clothing.
By the way, the compound also includes a library, a museum, elementary and high schools, a printing press and some residential apartments.
Things to See in the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem #2: The Armenian Patriarch Residency
The fortress-like Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the official seat of the Armenian patriarch. This is the place where the Armenian refugees arrived after the Genocide against Armenians.
The compound of the Patriarchate composes of a printing press, a clinic, Sts. Tarkmanchatz School, the Edward and Helen Mardigian Museum of Armenian Art and Culture and the Calouste Gulbenkian Library.
Things to See in the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem #3: The Cradle of Armenian Tile-Making
What are Armenians especially famous for in Jerusalem? The answer is surly their most beautiful tile and ceramics.
The tile-making process in Jerusalem goes back to the 19th century. Without any doubt the Armenian Quarter is the source of the Armenian-style ceramics, which are so demanded worldwide that are usually mass produced.
Interestingly, Armenian ceramics decorate all the street signs of the neighborhood. But this is not the only way to admire their beauty. Walk around the quarter and you will find some souvenir shops. And if you buy them from the Armenian Quarter, you can be sure that you get the real thing and not just a cheap fake thing.
Thus, you can take this unique Armenian art form home with you. Furthermore, there are some workshops and studios where you can even watch the artists at work, creating their masterpieces.
Interesting Facts about the History of the Armenian Quarter
- It is believed that the Armenian Quarter had its beginning in the fourth century A.D, when a large number of monks and pilgrims settled in Jerusalem Old City in order to be near Christian holy places.
- The first written records about the Armenian Quarter date back to the fifth century A.D. when it was constantly mentioned to be of existence. Thus, it is one of the most ancient living Diaspora community.
- In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, during the reign of the Ottoman Turks, the Armenian Quarter started to create its current status and sizes. Here Armenians made some remarkable contributions to the history and development of Jerusalem.
- They established several important educational and cultural centers in the city: the first printing press, the first photographic workshop, a seminary, the first coeducational school for boys and girls under the name of Holy Translators’ School.
- Unlike other Quarters of Jerusalem Old City, the Armenian Quarter is quite well maintained and preserved. Also, it’s not as much crowded as the other ones.
- Founded in the 12th century, Church of the Holy Archangels is the place where funeral services, weddings, and baptisms are carried out.
What is the Political Status of the Armenian Quarter?
Besides the decline of the population in Armenian Quarter, it also has one major challenge to solve that is about their citizenship status. The problem is that Armenians are considered to be Jordanian citizens. And because they fall under the same category as Palestinians, they face the same restrictions as them.
To illustrate, let’s say that they have some difficulties and endless hassles in obtaining travel and marriage documents. Also, economic environment makes housing quite expensive and the majority of Armenians, given their incomes, are simply not able to afford to preserve their residence in the Armenian quarter.
It is believed that the most appropriate political consensus for the Armenians will be the following solution; the Old City should be neither Israeli nor Palestinian but just an international area that will be ruled by representatives of the three faiths. Furthermore, it should be defended by some international bodies.
What are the Views Concerning This Situation?
Nevertheless, the people of the Armenian Quarter mostly consider themselves to be the part of the Christian Quarter.
But what views do other representatives of the Old City have on this topic? First and foremost, Palestinians have declared many times that the Armenian Quarter is a part of Palestine and they are not ready to give it to Israel. Palestinian leaders have announced that the Armenian quarter belongs to them and that they won’t betray their Armenian brothers.
However, Israel sustains that that all of Jerusalem territory, including the Old City is its capital. Anyway, the Jewish quarter has some large appétit for Armenian homes. The result is that Jews now own 71 of homes out of 581 Armenian real estates.
As to the Christian views, the leaders of the Christian churches (the Armenian, Latin and Greek Orthodox Patriarchs) regard the Armenian Quarter as an integral and inseparable part of the Christian Quarter as they are united by the same faith.
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