The Armenian Apostolic Church of Tbilisi: A Lost Treasure

In the heart of Tbilisi, the once magnificent Armenian Apostolic Church stood as a symbol of the city’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage. Founded in 931, this centuries-old church was not only the largest of its kind but also the most prominent cultural-religious institution in the city.

The church’s interior boasted exquisite murals painted by the renowned artist Hovnatan Hovnatanyan in 1789. These intricate works of art adorned the walls, showcasing the exceptional craftsmanship of medieval Armenian architecture. The monastery complex, a true testament to the artistic and architectural prowess of the time, sadly met its end in the 20th century.

In 1938, under the oppressive rule of the Bolsheviks, Lavrenti Beria, then the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Georgian SSR, ordered the church’s destruction. This brutal act led to the loss of not only the church’s physical structure but also the countless valuable historical items contained within.

The devastation did not end there. The once hallowed grounds of the monastery’s courtyard, which served as the final resting place for prominent Armenian public, cultural, political, state, and military figures, were desecrated. Among the graves destroyed were those of Archbishop Gabriel Ayvazyan, brother of the famous painter Hovhannes Aivazovsky, and Loris-Melikov.

Despite the tragic events, the Armenian community in Tbilisi persevered in preserving their heritage. The remains of Gabriel Sundukyan, a distinguished Armenian playwright and native of Tbilisi, were relocated from the church’s courtyard to the Armenian Khojivank cemetery in the city, thanks to the efforts of the local Armenian population.

The site where the Armenian Apostolic Church of Tbilisi once stood now houses school No. 104. Though the church’s physical presence has been erased, its memory remains etched in the hearts and minds of those who continue to mourn its loss and celebrate the Armenian community’s resilience and unwavering spirit.

Vigen Avetisyan

Illustrations and the idea of posting: Anahit Hayrapetyan in a group Armenians And Armenia

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