The Tragic History of Gethsemane Chapel in Yerevan

The Tragic History of Gethsemane Chapel

In 1929, one of the churches of Old Yerevan, Gethsemane Chapel, was dismantled. In its place would be built the Yerevan Opera Theater. In 2007, a khachkar (cross-stone) was installed in the building in memory of Gethsemane Chapel that had existed for several centuries.

It is thought that from at least the 3rd century, a pagan temple has been standing on the site of the chapel, as it has been with the Surb Poghos-Petros Church demolished in 1930. Now, the Moscow Cinema stands in the place of the Church of Surb Poghos-Petros.

It is known that in the 11th-12th centuries, a domed church similar to the nearby Church of Holy Mother of God stood on the site of Gethsemane Chapel. A devastating earthquake ruined Gethsemane Chapel along with other churches of Yerevan in 1679.

Several years later, a new chapel would be built on the foundation of the old temple. This new chapel was a single-nave arched church. Gardens were planted around the church which would survive up until the 1920s.

It is also known that the chapel has been completely renovated in the early 1900s. In particular, its roof has been covered with tinplate thanks to the donations from wealthy mayors of Yerevan Isahak and Hovhannes Melik-Aghamalians.

After the architectural project on Yerevan’s development by Alexander Tamanian was approved, it became clear that Gethsemane Chapel needed to be demolished.

Tamanian found that the monument shouldn’t be demolished, however. Aimed at preserving the chapel, he decided to have it measured and its stones enumerated. The chapel would then be dismantled, with its stones put away in a specially dedicated storage area.

However, due to lack of timely finances, as well as due to Tamanian losing his position of chief architect of the Opera Theatre because of political conspiracies in 1932, the restoration of the chapel was postponed.

Subsequently, the stones of the chapel were used in the construction of another building on Byron Street, putting the idea of Tamanian to a permanent halt.  

Ruben Shukhyan

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