Iran: 21rst Century Perspective

Before leaving Iran, it is only fitting in a way that I/we step away from the beauty and progressive qualities on display in the country to reflect on the reality that "all is not gold" and turquoise. The Near East, not unlike all the other geographical regions of our world, has been cauldron of war, atrocity, greed and incompetence from time to time. Iran’s governors and citizens are not blind to this fact. To the bad gets mixed with the good. While some countries like the US tend to perceive the nation of Iran with suspicion of all its motives, it is important to know that many minority religions, even Christianity and Judaism, thrived in this Muslim land for centuries. A memorial to an Armenian catastrophe, known as the Ottoman massacre of 1915, has been established in Isfahan, where Orthodox Armenian Christians still number more than 10,000. The memorabilia of the catastrophic event is housed on the grounds of the famous Vank Cathedral in the new Jolfa Quarter of the city and are a somber tribute to an event that devastated a non-Muslim population in this region under Ottoman, not Persian rule.

New Julfa is still an Armenian-populated area with an Armenian school and sixteen churches, including Surp Amenaprgitch Vank, which is a Unesco World Heritage site, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful churches in Iran.

Courtyard of The Vank

The Holy Savior Cathedral (or Vank) is a marvel unto itself. The Orthodox Christian structure displays a striking blend of Armenian and Safavid architecture. Built in 1606 and expanded in 1655, the church accommodated the needs of Armenian refugees from the Ottoman lands. Adjacent vaults essentially draw from both the Christian and Islamic sensibilities. One literally drowns in scenes from the Bible and the other blasts ornate colors with Islamic patterns all the way to heaven.

A blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of the creation of the world and man's expulsion from the Garden of Eden. A cherub's head surrounded by folded wings is a distinctly Armenian motif . The ceiling above the entrance is painted with delicate floral motifs in the style of Persian miniature (an artistic technique that normally is applied to illustrate sacred texts like the Bible and Koran).