Msho Sultan Surb Karapet

Surb Karapet Monastery of Mush (Armenian: Մշո Սուրբ Կարապետ վանք, Msho Surb Karapet vank, also known by other names) was an Armenian Apostolic monastery in the historic province of Taron, about 30 km (19 mi) northwest of Mush (Muş), in present-day eastern Turkey.

Surb Karapet translates to “Holy Precursor” and refers to John the Baptist, whose remains are believed to have been stored at the site by Gregory the Illuminator in the early fourth century. The monastery subsequently served as a stronghold of the Mamikonians—the princely house of Taron, who claimed to be the holy warriors of John the Baptist, their patron saint. It was expanded and renovated many times in later centuries. By the 20th century, it was a large fort-like enclosure with four chapels.

Historically, the monastery was the religious center of Taron and was a prominent pilgrimage site. It was considered the most important monastery in Turkish (Western) Armenia and the second most important of all Armenian monasteries after Etchmiadzin.

From the 12th century, the monastery was the seat of the diocese of Taron, which had an Armenian population of 90,000 in the early 20th century. It attracted pilgrims and hosted large celebrations on several occasions annually. The monastery was burned and robbed during the Armenian genocide of 1915 and later abandoned. Its stones have since been reappropriated by local Kurds for building purposes.

Cultural references

Numerous songs were dedicated to the monastery.

In the 1866 novel Salbi (Սալբի) Raffi mentions the monastery and describes its perceived almightiness.[89]

Hovhannes Tumanyan describes the monastery in the 1890 poem “The morning of Taron” (Տարոնի առավոտը) as “magnificently ornamented”.

In the 7,000-line-long poem “Ever-Tolling Bell Tower” («Անլռելի զանգակատուն») Paruyr Sevak mentions the monastery and its well-known bells. The poem, published in 1959, is dedicated to Komitas, who was among those intellectuals who were deported on April 24, 1915 during the genocide. It is recognized as “one of the most powerful literary responses to the Armenian Genocide.”

In the historical novel The Call of Plowmen («Ռանչպարների կանչը», published in 1979), Khachik Dashtents describes a winter scene at the monastery.

In October 2010, during the discussion of a bill in the Armenian Parliament that would formally recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Artsakh), opposition MP Raffi Hovannisian ended his speech saying “Let us be guided by Msho Sultan Surb Karapet”.

Hrayr Toukhanian

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