“When will we have our Holy Church in Paris?” wrote a correspondent of the Armenian newspaper in Constantinople “Manzou-Meiosis Effniar” in 1902. This question would receive an answer shortly.
Alexander Mantachiants, a wealthy Armenian oil entrepreneur from Baku, learned that the small Armenian community in Paris didn’t have its own church.
Finding this unacceptable and touched by the request of the priest in Paris, Mantachiants together with singer Armenag Shah-Mouradian, musicologist Komitas, and poet Siamanto couldn’t remain deaf to the call. Mantachiants vowed to fund the establishment of an Armenian Apostolic Church in Paris.
Mantachiants acquired a property near the Champs Elysees for an astronomical price of 450,000 French francs. He also hired architects to design the church: a young French architect Albert Désiré Guilbert was selected for the order. The first stone of the church was laid on October 5, 1902, and the church was completed in 1904.
In total, the construction works of the church cost 1,540,000 French francs. The 25-meters long and 13-meters wide pediment of the church was symbolically engraved with the letter “է” (“to be”, a reference to God), the holy seventh letter of the Armenian alphabet. The church would be named after Saint John the Baptist.
Today, the church is the centerpiece of the Armenian community in Paris, which is, in fact, one of the largest Armenian communities in the world.