The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem also known as the Armenian Patriarchate of St. James (Armenian: Առաքելական Աթոռ Սրբոց Յակովբեանց Յերուսաղեմ literally "Apostolic See of St. James in Jerusalem") is located in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem remains under the authority of the Catholicos of Armenia and of all Armenians of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The Armenian Apostolic Church is officially recognised under Israel's confessional system, for the self-regulation of status issues, such as marriage and divorce.
The present Patriarch, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, was elected to the Throne of St. James in 1990 and is the 96th successive Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. He, along with a Synod of seven clergymen elected by the St. James Brotherhood, oversees the Patriarchate's operations.
As a result of the persecution of Armenians by Turkey during World War I, the Armenian population of Jerusalem reached 25,000 people. But political and economic instability in the region have decimated the number. In 2001, there were about 2,500 Armenians living in Jerusalem, most of them living in and around the Patriarchate at the St. James Monastery, which occupies most of the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. A few thousand live in Jaffa, Haifa and Nazareth, and a few hundred in the West Bank. There are about 8,000 Armenians living in Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan.
In 638, the Armenian Apostolic Church began appointing its own bishop in Jerusalem. The office has continued, with some interruptions, down to this day. The Bishops were later elevated in stature and became Patriarchs. The bishop at the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is given the title of Patriarch in deference to Jerusalem's holy status within Christianity; however, the Armenian Patriarch is under the ecclesiastic authority of the Catholicos of Armenia and of All Armenians.
After the end of the Crusader period, the Armenian Patriarchs sought to establish good relations with the Muslim rulers. The Armenian Patriarch Sarkis I (1281–1313) met the Mamleuke governor in Egypt and subsequently returned to his community in Jerusalem, hoping to usher in a period of peace for his people after the Crusades. In the 1340s the Armenians were permitted to build a wall around their quarter. The Mameluke government also engraved a protective declaration in Arabic on the western entrance to the quarter.
The Armenian quarter in this period kept creating "facts on the ground" by the constant small expansions and solidifications. In the 1380s Patriarch Krikor IV built a priests' dining room across from the St. James Cathedral. Around 1415 the olive grove near the Garden of Gethsemane was purchased. In 1439, Armenians were removed from the Golgotha chapel, but the Patriarch Mardiros I (1412–1450) purchased the “opposite area” and named it second Golgotha. This remains in the Patriarch's possession to this day.
At times, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem became politicized by struggles within the Armenian Church. The Armenian Patriarchate, due to its proximity to the Holy places and isolation from the main Armenian population, played an important role in the schism that began to affect the Armenian leaderships in Constantinople and Etchmiaddzin (seat of the Armenian church). Significantly Bishop Eghiazar assumed the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and in 1644 declared himself for a short period of time as "Catholicos" ("Leader") of all the Armenian church.
In the 17th century, the Armenians were allowed after much pleading to enlarge the St. James Monastery. At the same time the Armenian Patriarch Hovhannes VII purchased a large parcel of land south of the St. James Cathedral, called “Cham Tagh”. By 1752 the Patriarchate was busy renovating the entire quarter, and in 1828 further renovations took place after an earthquake. In 1850 the seminary complex at the south end of the St. James convent was completed.
In 1833, the Armenians established the city’s first printing press, and opened a theological seminary in 1843. In 1866, the Armenians had inaugurated the first photographic studio and their first newspaper in Jerusalem. In 1908, the Armenian community built two large buildings on the north-western side of the Old City, along Jaffa Street.
As the Armenian diaspora spread throughout Europe and America, wealthy Armenians donated generously for the prosperity and continuity of the Patriarchate. The oil magnate and philanthropist Calouste Gulbenkian came to endow the Gulbenkian Library in the Armenian quarter that was named in gratitude in his name, today holding one of the great collection of ancient Armenian manuscripts including endless copies of the various Firmens, Ottoman edicts that granted the quarter protection and rights under Muslim rule.
By the 1920s, most of the Armenian quarter had “European style gable roofs” as opposed to the domes preferred in the Muslim quarter. In 1922 Armenians made up 8% of Jerusalem’s Christians, bringing their total number to about 2,480 people. It is also noted that non-Armenians found comfort in the protection of the walled Armenian "compound". In the 1930s and 1940s, the Armenian quarter saw further renovations.
The end of World War II brought also the division of Palestine and the establishment of Israel in 1948. The numbers of Armenians residing in Jerusalem at the time in the Holy Land in 1948 totaled at 8,000 in all of Palestine/Israel at the time. A small number of Armenians in Haifa and Jaffa accepted Israeli citizenship, whereas the huge majority of Palestinian Armenians including the Armenian Patriarchate and its properties went under Jordanian rule.
The Armenian community was further reduced after the 1967 Six-Day War and many emigrated to Jordan and some to Europe and the United States leaving around 2,000-3,000 in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Patriarchate Complex
The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem is the home of the Brotherhood of the St. James, a monastic order of the Armenian Apostolic Church with about 60 members worldwide. Within the compound of the Patriarchate, also lie the private residences of 2,000-3,000 Armenian families.
This residential enclave was, at one time, the largest single compound that housed Armenian pilgrims, and represented the demographic and spiritual core of the newly established colony.
The compound of the Patriarchate, which enforces a strict curfew of 10 p.m. when the massive doors are closed and locked until the early morning, also houses the administrative offices and residences of the Patriarch and the clergy. It also comprises:
- The Cathedral of St. James
- The Church of the Archangels, the second major Armenian church in Jerusalem
- The Church of St. Toros, which is home to the precious illuminated Armenian manuscript collection, the second largest in the world (over 4,000).
Other branches of the Patriarchate located within the compound include:
- The "Theological Seminary" of the Patriarchate, a complex located a hundred yards from the entrance of the compound, a gift of the late Armenian-American philanthropists Alex and Marie Manoogian. Armenian youths from all over the world, including the United States and Armenia, come to study for the priesthood here, and after ordination, help infuse new blood into the ranks of Armenian clergy worldwide.
- The "Calouste Gulbenkian Library" of over 100,000 volumes, half in Armenian and the rest in English and half a dozen European languages
- The "Edward and Helen Mardigian Museum of Armenian Art and Culture" housing historical and religious artifacts including precious rugs, Armenian coins and scraps of evidence of the presence at the site of the Tenth Legion of Rome
- "St. Tarkmanchatz School", a leading co-educational private school and the only one that teaches Arabic, Armenian, English, French and Hebrew.
The Patriarchate also runs a printing press, the first to be established in Jerusalem, which has now become a modern, state-of-the-art facility capable of undertaking commercial color printing. This was the first facility within the Armenian compound to adopt the concept of computerization on a dedicated scale.
Medical services against a symbolic fee are provided at a clinic donated by the Jinishian Medical Fund. Free meals to the aged and invalid pensioners and indigent members of the community are also provided.
Jurisdiction outside the Patriarchate complex
The Patriarchate enjoys a semi-diplomatic status and is one of the three major guardians of the Christian Holy Places in the Holy Land (the other two are the Greek Orthodox and Latin Patriarchates). Among these sites under joint control of the Armenian Patriarchate and other churches are:
- The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City (Jerusalem)
- The Church of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives
- Tomb of Virgin Mary in the Valley of Gethsemane
- The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
- The Saint Elias Church in Haifa
- The Saint Nicholas Church in Jaffa
- The Saint Gregory Monastery in Ramleh
- The St. Thaddeus Armenian Church in Amman, Jordan
- Official site of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem
- Site of Armenians in the Holy Land
- Gandzasar Monastery, Nagorno Karabakh
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