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New Julfa -The Armenian Quarter of Isfahan

New Julfa -The Armenian Quarter of Isfahan

New Julfa is an area between Julfa Square, Vank Church, and Julfa Hotel of Isfahan on the south of the Zayande rud River and is one of the most crowded and popular city districts and one of the top attractions of Isfahan that should be visited. New Julfa quarter is home to a big population of Iranian-Armenians.

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April 26, 2021

Human life is based on relations, companionship, and friendship that let people live together despite difference in lifestyle, religion, and race, and the New Julfa which is an Armenian quarter in the heart of the Islamic city of Isfahan is one of the places where you can witness this point. Established in the 17th century during the Safavid Dyansty, New Julfa is named after the city of Julfa (Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan) and is still one of the most important and oldest Armenian quarters in the world.

 

New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

In this post you will read about:

  1. The history of New Julfa
  2. The architecture of New Julfa
  3. The Vank Cathedral
  4. The Bedkhem Church
  5. The Saint Mary Church
  6. The Saint Sarkis Church
  7. Tips for visiting the New Julfa

History of New Julfa

400 years ago the Armenians who lived in Old Julfa of Nakhichevan which used to be a part of Iran, were forcibly moved to Isfahan (the new capital of Iran) by the order of Shah Abbas I, the fifth king of the Safavid Dynasty. They were moved from their houses for two reasons. First, the Armenians were mostly jewelry merchants and they could considerably raise the output of Isfahan’s economy and second, the king was about to start a good relationship with European countries and since they were mostly Christians, the Armenians could change the new capital of Iran to a multi-cultural and international city. After a long journey from the northwest of Iran to the center, more than 150,000 Armenians settled in Isfahan in 1605 and brought a new culture to central Iran. Little by little more Armenians moved to Isfahan and in 1606, and after building houses they constructed churches to make their new home an original Armenian quarter where the wealthy and noble families like the Apcar family, Sceriman family, Sarkies family, etc. could live. Shah Abbas supported them in building their new home on the south of the Zayanderud along the Marnan and Si-o Se Pol bridges where they could enjoy the view of the river and the pleasant weather. Soon, the New Julfa became one of the most important trade networks between many cities across the world like Manila, Amsterdam, Mexico City, London, etc. Today, New Julf is still one of the largest Armenian hubs in the world and one of the most important travel destinations in Isfahan which lets visitors get acquainted with the rich Armenian culture and their peaceful coexistence with the majority of Muslims in Isfahan.

 

New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

 

The Architecture of New Julfa

The design and architecture of the houses, schools, and churches in New Julfa show the combination of architectural styles in Old Julfa and central Iran. Since Old Julfa was located in a mountainous area, they had access to different types of stones and rocks for building their houses, while in Isfahan which is a desert and dry area they came up with a new style and combined their architecture with the available materials in Isfahan like brick and soil. They built fancy and atmospheric houses with private gardens and ditches branched off the Zayanderud River.

 

New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

 

The churches of New Julfa

The churches were the most important monuments that the Christian Armenians built in New Julfa. There are about 14 churches in New Julfa District. The construction of churches is in harmony with the historical mosques of Isfahan.

The Vank Cathedral

Also known as the Holy Savior Cathedral, the Vank Cathedral is the most famous and important church of the New Julfa. The construction of Vank Cathedral was started in 1606 and got completed after major changes in 1664. Just like the mosques in Isfahan, the church has a domed sanctuary. The murals and wall paintings of the Vank Cathedral including floral motifs in the style of Persian miniature, Christian murals about the life of Jesus, and paintings depicting Armenian martyrs getting tortured by the Ottomans, are so amazing that blow every visitors’ mind. This cathedral also includes a cemetery including the graves of both Orthodox and Protestant Christians like Sir George Malcolm, an English officer, Alexander Decove, a Russian banker, Andrew Jukes, an English surgeon, etc. The memorial monument of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey, the library containing 700 handwritten books and documents, and the museum which houses precious European paintings, Safavid costumes, and many valuable historical objects, are other parts of this great and significant cathedral.

 

Vank Cathedral - New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

Vank Cathedral - New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

 

The Bedkhem Church

Also known as the Holy Bethelem Church, this church was built in 1628 by the order of Kaja Petros Velijaneac, who was one of the wealthiest and most well-known merchants of New Julfa and got buried in this church. With its charming exterior, the eye-catching paintings inside the monument, and its two-layered dome which is the largest among the churches of New Julfa, this is known to be the most glorious church of Isfahan. In 2016, the Bedkhem Church was introduced as one of the most beautiful churches in the world.

 

Bedkhem Curch- New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

Bedkhem Curch- New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

The Saint Mary Church

After the Armenians arrived in Isfahan, they started to construct a small and simple church for their religious needs and named it Surp Hakop Church. As the population of the Armenians increased in New Julfa, this church became insufficient for this society, and Mr. Khaja Avedik, a wealthy merchant decided to expand the church and ornament it with chandeliers and valuable European paintings with his own funds, and then he changed its name to St. Mary Church. This church has a rectangular plan and many small domes that rest on columns. The walls are ornamented with paintings from Bible.

The Saint Sarkis Church

Saint Sarkis is another church in New Julfa of Isfahan which was built in 1659 by the Armenians. At first, this monument was named Saint Āmenāperkič church but then it was ruined and changed to Saint Sarkis. This monument is made of bricks and has two domes with windows with eight skylights and eye-catching paintings.

Cafés and restaurants

The New Julfa district of Isfahan is one of the best places for gastronomy lovers! There are many cafés and bakeries where you can sip on a well-brewed cup of coffee and taste some cakes and pastries. There are also many restaurants where you can have Iranian and Armenian tasty foods.

 

A restaurant in New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

A restaurant in New Julfa Armenian Quarter- Isfahan, Iran

 

Tips for visiting the New Julfa

  1. The only churches of New Julfa which are available for a public visit are the Vank Cathedral and the Bedkhem Church. It takes an hour to visit the Vank Cathedral and about 15 minutes to visit the Bedkhem Church.
  2. The churches are closed on Christian and national Iranian holidays, so check the Iranian calendar before planning your trip to Isfahan.
  3. After visiting the New Julfa and its churches, visit the Isfahan Music Museum which is located in the same district and is one of the best museums in Iran.
  4. Do not forget to drink a cup of aromatic coffee at the lovely and nostalgic cafés of New Julf.
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