Churches

Armenian Church

The “Saint Mary” Armenian Church was rebuilt in 1803, after the great earthquake of 1802 which hit Iași.

A tombstone placed in the courtyard certifies the construction of the first Armenian Church in 1395, right before the first documented certification of Iași in 1408, but the exact dating is still unclear. It is said that Saint Sava church itself, situated nearby, would have been an Armenian temple since 1393, but it was taken by force by the leaders of the time, and the Armenians would have been given another building place, nearby.

The church is located in the center of Iași, in the former Armenian Quarter. In this area, until the 17th century, large communities of Armenians have settled after the occupation and destruction of Armenian cities by Tatars and Persians. The area around the current Costache Negri Street, formerly known as the “Old Bridge”, was animated in the past by Armenian and Greek tradesmen.

The first Armenian refugees arrived in Moldavia in 1064. Until the 19th century a second Armenian church existed in the same area, but was destroyed by a fire. During the seven centuries of existence, “Saint Mary” Church suffered numerous changes. Throughout the past centuries, the most important repairs were made in 1732, in 1803 (when it was rebuilt from the ground), in 1929-1933, and in 1946, after the Soviet bombings. The 1977 earthquake has deeply damaged this edifice, especially the two towers which risked collapsing. Thus, the church lost a series of the initial Armenian specific elements. The last important restoration works were made in 2005-2008 with funds from the Romanian Government and the church was sanctified again in 2008 by Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch of all Armenians.

The current church is made of stone and bricks, in the shape of a clover, with two towers. The inside is divided into an altar, nave, pronaos and two porches. On the west wall of the pronaos there is a balcony (steel-lattice mast) for the choir, leaning on eight cylindrical brick columns.

In the churchyard, there is a building in which the Armenian Athenaeum functioned (today the Parish House of the Armenian church), built in 1932, as well as 55 tombstones. Currently, in this church services are held only on the last Sunday of each month, by the vicar priest from Suceava, Torkom Mandalian.

The Armenian community in Romania numbered, in its glory times, a few hundred thousand members. Today, in all Romania, there aren’t more than 6000-8000 Armenian families and in Iași there are about 200 families, the majority being mixed ones.

Photo by culturainiasi.ro

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