TEHRAN –In conjunction with the opening of a joint exhibition of selected Iranian and Armenian stamps organized by the Artak Manukian Museum and the Iranian National Postal Service’s Public Relations office, the First Day ceremonies of a stamp dedicated to the Monastery of St. Thaddeus was held earlier this year.
Present at the event were Ara Shahverdian, Armenian Deputy of the Tehran and Northern Iranian-Armenian community to the Iranian Parliament (Majlis); Artashes Tumanian, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to Iran; Deputy Minister Sobhanifar; Ahmad Mohit Tabatabayi, chairman of the Iran’s National Committee of Museums (ICOM); and members of the Armenian Diocesan Assembly, Rafik Meliksetian, Ashot Sinan and Harmik Avetian.
In her opening remarks, Alice Shahmuradian, chairlady of the Museum’s Board of Directors, welcomed the guests and invited Sinan to read the message of the Primate of the Prelacy of Tehran, Archbishop Sepuh Sargsian. In his message, the Prelate congratulated event organizers and referred to them as the “apostles of peace, truth and love.” He added that this project time and again provides the opportunity to expand relations in cultural and other spheres between Iran and Armenia.
He commended the Iranian authorities for their respect toward Christianity and its churches in Iran. This is perhaps the most beautiful manifestation of respect for Christian monuments in Iran, Armenian monuments, in particular the Monasteries of St. Thaddeus and St. Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor located in the same province.
All three monuments have been under the care of the Organization of Cultural Heritage of the Iranian government and have undergone extensive conservation and renovation projects over the years. While the monuments of Armenian cultural heritage and civilization have been and continue to be systematically destroyed and desecrated, turned into mosques and other publicly used venues by Armenia’s three neighbors, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Iran is the only country that has paid special attention to their care and conservation.
Sobhanifar, chair of the Iran Post’s deputy minister and head of the public relations office, emphasized the importance of such joint projects between Iran and Armenia for the expansion of neighborly relations. He added that the First Day Ceremony of the stamp dedicated to the Monastery of St. Thaddeus can serve as a symbol and cultural ambassador between the two societies.
He also emphasized the deep roots of philately between Armenia and Iran and expressed his government’s readiness for further expansion of postal service between the two countries.
Ambassador Tumanian likewise expressed his gratitude for the realization of this project and ceremony. Tabatabayi touched upon the importance and presence of hundreds of Armenian Christian monuments in Iran.
The Monastery of St. Thaddeus (known by the locals as “Kara Kilise” or Black Church, because of the color of the oldest part of the structure) is an ancient Armenian monastery located in the mountainous area about 20 kilometers from the town of Chaldran in the west Azerbaijan province of Iran.
Built in 68 AD, it is believed to be the oldest Christian church building in the world. It’s erected on the tomb of St. Thaddeus, who along with St. Bartholomew, were two of the 12 apostles evangelized Armenia. They were martyred, giving the Armenian Church its apostolic identity and earning them the title, “First Enlighteners of Armenia.”
The monastery has played a major role throughout the tumultuous history of the Armenian people. It is the site of a pilgrimage held in July every year. The monastery was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List on July 7, 2008, along with two other Armenian monasteries in the same province—the Monastery of St. Stepanos and the Chapel of Dzordzor. In 2020, it was added by UNESCO to the list of its Intangible Cultural Heritage.