The Amiras dominated the Armenian Patriarchate and helped select the Patriarch. By 1700 the Patriarch had despotic powers over his flock, its schools, churches, and printing presses.
The announcement, ‘the Holy Father would like to see you’, struck terror into members of his flock.
On fast days – and no community fasted more rigorously than the Armenians – the Patriarch’s servants went through the streets, sniffing like dogs for the smell of meat.
The guilty were fined and sometimes imprisoned or sent to a lunatic asylum. During one service, ‘lunatics’ chained in a cellar below the church rattled their chains and uttered woeful cries to such effect that a wealthy Armenian offered to construct a hospital for them outside the city.
Whether the Amiras’ wealth would be translated into power in the city of Constantinople, as well as their community, was one question facing the capital at the beginning of the 19th c.
Taken from Mano Chil
Image: An Armenian Prince and His Wife (Duzoglou), by Louis Dupré.