Interior Dome and Arches of St. Pogos and Petros Church

Interior Dome and Arches of St. Pogos and Petros Church

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Interior Dome and Arches of St. Pogos and Petros Church - History

Tomarza is a small town in central Turkey with around 10,000 inhabitants. It is located about 42km to the southeast of Kayseri.

Tomarza may lie on the site of an old Byzantine settlement. The last Armenian king of Kars was given these lands in 1064 in exchange for ceding Kars to the Byzantine Empire. The first recorded mention of Tomarza is from 1206 as the place of origin of the scribe Gregory the Priest.

According to a local tradition, thirteen noble Cilician families founded Tomarza after the fall of the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia in 1375. Tomarza was divided into four quarters, each governed by a different family who were closely linked by intermarriage and who also possessed a share of the villages that surrounded the town. These four families acted together to run the town and its territory -this autonomy continued until the establishment of the 1908 Ottoman constitution.

About 4000 Armenians lived in Tomarza in 1915, and they comprised the vast majority of the town's population (there were only 25 Turkish families). In August 1915 the entire Armenian population was deported. Some Tomarza Armenians who survived the massacres and deportations returned to their native town in 1919 but they had all left again by the late 1920s. Part of the surviving community migrated to America and settled in Racine, Wisconsin, where some Armenians from Tomarza had established themselves in the years prior to the Genocide. Descendants of Tomarza Armenians still live in Racine.

The "Church of the Panaghia" at Tomarza

The most important monument in Tomarza used to be the ruins of an early Christian church. It is now entirely destroyed, but was still standing in 1909 when Gertrude Bell photographed it and described it as "extraordinarily interesting, showing strong Hellenistic influences, and altogether very enigmatic" [see note 1] . Prior to this, Hans Rott had visited Tomarza in June 1906 and later published a groundplan of this church. Rott's account was the first to use the appellation "Church of the Panaghia". The plan below is based on that of Rott's.

The church had a cross-shaped plan with a dome over its central axis and probably dated from the late 5th century or early 6th century [see note 2] . It was one of a group of domed churches in Byzantine Cappadocia that may have influenced the early development of domed church architecture in Armenia and Georgia.

The church was demolished in the early 1920s (in 1954 local inhabitants told Richard Krautheimer it had happened in about 1921), an act perhaps connected to the expulsion of Kayseri region's Greek population.

The Monastery of Surp Astvatsatsin

In the 19th century Tomarza was renowned locally for its Armenian monastery dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, (Surp Astvatsatsin). The monastery was an important pilgrimage centre and each August thousands of people would gather there for the Festival of the Assumption.

The earliest mention of the Surp Astvatsatsin Church of Tomarza is in a colophon of 1516. After that date the name of Surp Astvatsatsin appears frequently. In the 1570s and 1580s the monastery became a important centre of culture due to the efforts of Bishop Astuacatur of Taron. At that time the monastery served as the seat of a bishop whose jurisdiction extended over Tomarza and nearby villages.

From 1784 to 1915 priors headed the monastery, and at the end of the nineteenth century a boarding school was established within its premises. In June 1909 Gertrude Bell stayed a night at the monastery, in a "splendid great room with many windows facing Mt Argaeus".

The monastery was looted in 1915 and then abandoned. Although badly damaged, it was re-occupied by some Armenian monks in the years immediately after the First World War. H. E. King, writing in 1939 after a visit to Tomarza, said that the monks had been "ejected within the last decade" but mentioned nothing about the condition of the monastery's buildings.

Buildings within the Monastery Precincts

The oldest building in the complex was a small church built against the side of the adjoining hill. The sanctuary was dedicated to the Holy Mother of God and was called Surp Astvatsatsin. Gertrude Bell wrote that the church was 800 years old, but its dome on pendentives had been rebuilt at a later period. Inside the church were five old tombstones, the two earliest ones bore the dates 1607 and 1608. The interior walls of the church were decorated with blue tiles.

In 1822 a chapel dedicated to Surp Karapet (St. John the Precursor) was built to the immediate south of Surp Astvatsatsin. Because of its small size this chapel was referred to as a vestry, and was on a lower level by a few steps than Surp Astvatsatsin.

From 1849 to 1851 a new church was constructed a little to the south-east of Surp Astvatsatsin. It was called Surp Khatch (Holy Cross) and was a large cruciform structure with a dome supported on a drum resting on pendentives. The interior of the church was covered in figurative frescos. In front of the church was a two-story narthex with a bell-tower and a portico open to the west. According to an inscription, when the church was being constructed the entire monastery was also renewed.

Most of the monastery's ancillary functions were housed in a substantial two-story structure located to the west of the churches. This building contained a guesthouse with two halls, six rooms, and thirty-five cells for monks and pilgrims. The monastery also had a library, kitchen, pantry, refectory, and storerooms. The monastery possessed thirty pieces of arable land - over 1000 acres - in the vicinity of Tomarza, and had a garden, mills, barns, and stables. The entrance to the guesthouse complex was a structure on two stories that protruded out from the main façade. The precinct of Tomarza's "Merkez Camii" mosque has a gateway that is so similar that the same architect must have designed both (compare photographs 4 and 10).

In the grounds of the monastery Gertrude Bell noted many enormous old stone slabs with crosses on them, and some with Armenian inscriptions.

Very little now remains of the Surp Astvatsatsin monastery. Its ruins are located at the eastern edge of Tomarza. They consist of some foundations of the eastern end of the Surp Khatch church and some fragments of the Surp Karapet church. Photograph 11 was taken from a similar position as photograph 6.

Nothing at all is left of the monastery's ancillary buildings. On the road leading to the monastery is a house whose walls contain many fragments of Armenian gravestones.

1. Tomarza's "Church of the Panaghia" seen from the
southeast - photographed by Gertrude Bell in 1909

2. The south facade of the "Church of the Panaghia"
- photographed by Gertrude Bell in 1909

3. The monastery of Surp Astvatsatsin seen from the southwest - photographed by Gertrude Bell in 1909

4. The main entrance and guesthouse of the monastery

5. Inside the precincts of the monastery, showing the main church - photographed by Hans Rott in 1906

6. Pilgrims gathered inside the monastery precincts

7. The east ends of Surp Astvatsatsin and Surp Khatch

8. The interior of the Surp Astvatsatsin church

9. The narthex and belltower of Surp Astvatsatsin

10. The gateway to the Merkez Camii mosque

11. In 2006 this was all that remained of the monastery

12. Another view of the ruins of the monastery

13. Probably a fragment of the Surp Astvatsatsin church

The Church of Surp Poghos-Petros

The Saints Poghos-Petros (or Boghos-Bedros) church (church of Saints Paul and Peter) is first mentioned in 1570. In the early decades of the nineteenth century this church was a small and semi-dilapidated chapel. In 1837 the Armenians of Tomarza erected in its place a magnificent new church built of stone. It stood in a location where the four main quarters of Tomarza converged.

In the centre of Tomarza, in the district of Cumhuriyet mahallesi, is a large, derelict Armenian church. It is almost certainly the Poghos-Petros church. There remains a small doubt about this identification because some old descriptions of the Poghos-Petros church do not seem to correspond with this building [see note 3] .

The church was used as a municipal warehouse during the 1990s, and photographs from that period show the floor covered with equipment, oil drums, scrap metal, and assorted junk. The interior is now completely empty.

The church from the outside is a plain, rectangular structure, and is well built using large blocks of stone. Parts of the façade incorporate re-used Armenian gravestones.

The western end of the church is badly disfigured because of the total loss of its entrance narthex and the blocking of the exposed nave and side aisles using rubble masonry. A depiction of the destroyed narthex can be seen in photograph 19. The side walls of the destroyed narthex were as high as those of the church, but its roof was lower and appears to have been flat or almost flat. The method in which the central nave was joined to the narthex is puzzling: there is no trace of a roof-line placed against the transverse arch of the nave, and the available space would seem to be too small for a conventional roof anyway. It may have been that an unorthodox method was used - perhaps panes of glass filled the arch opening, or the adjoining part of the narthex roof had a glass covering in the form of a roof light.

The interior of the church takes the form of a basilica: it has a nave that is flanked by side aisles and ends in a semicircular apse with a half-dome vault. Four arches supported by a row of three cylindrical columns separate the nave from the side aisles. The ceiling of the nave is divided into four bays. The easternmost bay is a barrel vault, the bay immediately to the west of it has a groin vault, and the two remaining bays also have barrel vaults. The plan below is mostly based on the published plan by Güner Sağır.

The ceilings of the side aisles are also divided into four bays, each with a barrel vault. At the eastern end of the side aisles an arched opening leads into rectangular chambers that flank the apse. Although these chambers are now open to the aisles, a pre-1915 photograph [see photograph 22] shows them closed off, either with a wall or some sort of screen.

The apse has a raised chancel. The pre-1915 photograph shows that it once contained a high altar surmounted by an ornate altarpiece. Inside the apse are two small doorways that give access to narrow staircases. These staircases led up to rooms above the side chambers (the floors of these rooms have been removed and access is not possible). Each of the upper-floor rooms originally opened onto a small, pulpit-like balcony that looked out over the side aisles.

In the north and south walls is a row of four rectangular windows, now blocked up. They are positioned to be on the transverse axis of the internal bays. A second row of windows, this time circular, is positioned directly above the rectangular ones. They remain unblocked. The corner chambers were lit by a fifth rectangular window in the first row. There are no windows in the apse, but there are two circular clerestory windows above the vault of the apse. Similar circular windows light the north and south side aisles. At the top of the western end of the nave is a quatrefoil shaped window.

The church's interior is covered with flamboyant and theatrical frescos done in vivid colours. These frescos are almost exclusively architectural in nature, with many trompe l'oeil effects using neo-classical and baroque motifs. There is very little overt religious iconography depicted in the frescos and they appear to have had no figurative representations. This is in marked contrast to the interior of the Surp Khatch church in Tomarza's Surp Astvatsatsin monastery [see photograph 8] and most other Armenian Apostolic churches from this period.

The north and south walls are divided horizontally using a painted cornice from which hang purple drapery trimmed with yellow tassels. Above the cornice are rectangular panels. The columns have simple impost capitals with small volutes. Painted decoration has been applied to make them appear more elaborate: a band of acanthus leaves, then egg and dart mouldings, then a palmette frieze [see photograph 27] . Heavy scrollwork covers the undersides of the nave arches. At the apex of the barrel vaults of the nave and side aisles are roundels of acanthus leaves.

The groin-vaulted bay in the nave was probably meant to be a substitute for a dome. It is given emphasis by its more complicated roof and by having clerestory windows [see photograph 28] . The frescoes on the groin vault are particularly elaborate. There is a roundel of acanthus leaves at its apex, and in each segment of the vault are motifs set inside baroque-style circular frames. Those in the east and west frames are identical [photograph 29] . In the middle of the frame is a golden chalice. It contains a circular or spherical object on which is inscribed a cross. Rays of light shine out from the circle. The chalice is flanked by pairs of books whose covers are emblazoned with an embossed cross. These probably represent the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, or the first four books of the New Testament. The north and south frames also contain identical subjects [photograph 30] . An empty cross is depicted on the head of the cross are the Armenian letters HITY. This is the Armenian equivalent of INRI, the four initial letters of the Latin words "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum" (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). Leaning against the cross are various items mentioned in the Crucifixion narrative, including a pole with the sponge soaked in wine and water, a ladder, and a spear.

Little now remains of the frescos in the vault of the apse. The surviving fragments suggest they were architectural in nature: a trompe l'oeil representation of a coffered dome with cartouches inside each coffer. At the apex of the dome is a depiction of a flying dove behind which rays of light emanate [see photograph 32] . Around the edge of the apse vault is a painted inscription in Armenian [see photograph 31] . It translates as "This is the table of holiness and here is Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God".

The fresco scheme visible today was not the church's original scheme. An older layer of frescos under the current ones is visible in parts of the building. These older frescos are also architectural in nature, but they have a blander design and are done in less vivid colours.

1. For Gerturde Bell's photographs of the Church of the Panagia see, O_032.htm to O_066.htm.
2. For a detailed analysis of the Church of the Panagia based on Bell's photographs see Stephen Hill's The Early Christian Church at Tomarza.
3. In Armenian Architecture: A Documented Photo-Archival Collection on Microfiche the Poghos-Petros church is described thus: "inside the sanctuary four thick columns supported the arches that carried the vault. On the central arches were the profiles of the twelve apostles. In 1912 a dome and a bell tower were added to it". This description does not match the surviving church in Tomarza. A source is not given for the description, however it is probably Patmut'iwn Hay Kesarioy by Arshak Alpoyachian, Cairo, 1937, which is listed in the microfiche's bibliography for Kayseri region.

Gertrude Bell, Letter dated 18 June 1909,
Charles Hardy, In Search of our Roots, an Armenian Odyssey,
Steven Hill, The Early Christian Church at Tomarza - A Study Based on Photographs Taken in 1909 by Gertrude Bell, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 29, 1975, pages 151-164.
H. E. King, Through the Taurus Mountains and the Armenian Cilician Kingdom, Asiatic Review, 1937, volume XXXIII, page 797.
V. L. Parsegian (project director), Armenian Antiquities in the Tomarza Region in Armenian Architecture: A Documented Photo-Archival Collection on Microfiche, volume 5, microfiche 57.
Hans Rott, Kleinasiatische Denkmaler aus Pisidien, Pamphylien, Kappadokien, und Lykien, Leipzig, 1908, pages 179-187.
Güner Sağır, Kayseri'de Osmanli Döneminde İnşa Edilmiş Bir Grup Ermeni Kilisesi 1, Türk Arkeoloji ve Etnografya Dergisi, issue 4, Ankara, 2004, pages 61-63.

20th July 2007 - This webpage is first published
6th October 2007 - Groundplans of the Church of the Panagia and the Surp Poghos-Petros church are added, together with associated text additional sources added minor changes made to the text.
6th December 2007 - Photographs 2, 5, 19 added links to better-quality large photographs added for photographs 1, 8, 9, 22 minor changes made to the text.
12th December 2008 - Mentioned tradition of town's foundation and local autonomy continuing until 1908.

17. The disused Armenian church in Tomarza that has been identified as being that of Surp Poghos-Petros

18. The southwest corner of the church

19. An old drawing, from before 1915, showing what the destroyed narthex of the church had looked like

20. A blocked window in the south facade

21. The interior looking along the nave towards the apse

22. Inside the church - a photograph taken before 1915

23. Looking towards the southeast corner of the church

24. The northeast end of the north aisle

25. The south aisle, some columns and arches of the nave, and part of the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the nave

26. Frescos on the south wall of the church

27. One of the painted capitals

28. The groin-vaulted bay in the ceiling of the nave

29. Detail of a fresco on the groin vault

30. Detail of a fresco on the groin vault

31. Half dome of the apse and the painted inscription

32. Detail of the dove fresco at the top of the apse

Armenian Apostolic Churches in Isfahan, Iran+Photos

SHAFAQNA- Whereas throughout history, the peoples of the world have witnessed numerous ideological or ethnic wars History has recorded the peaceful life of the followers of monotheistic religions in Isfahan, Iran. The existence of different ethnicities and followers of monotheistic religions has formed part of the differences in the urban structure of this region, the traces of which have existed in the neighborhoods of Isfahan since before Islam. The Julfa neighborhood of Isfahan shows that the city has been the cradle of interfaith dialogue since ancient times, with Christians living in the southwest, Jews in the northeast, and Zoroastrians in the northwest, alongside Muslims.

According to statistics, one percent of the population of Isfahan is a religious minority, and statistics show that the Armenians of Isfahan have the largest population of religious minorities. Of the 24 churches, most of which were built in the first half of the seventeenth century, 13 belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church (Eastern Orthodox). Isfahan is perhaps the only city with a street with a Muslim mosque on one side and a Jewish synagogue on the other. Julfa neighborhood of Isfahan, which is located in the southern part of Zayandehrud river, is more than 400 years old and most of the inhabitants of this region are Christian Armenians.

Julfa Christians are made up of Protestants, Orthodox and Catholics. 13 Eastern Orthodox churches named Katherine, Vank, Mariam, Hakop, George, Gregor, Minas, Narcis, Nikugayoos, Sarkis, Bethlehem, Hovhannes and Stephanos have also been built in the Julfa neighborhood of Isfahan, each of which has an interesting history. Julfa churches are similar in design, structure and decorations and are a combination of Iranian and Armenian styles in terms of architecture.

The main plans and divisions of the church are based on the needs of the church’s religious rites and worships, which are inspired by stone churches in Armenia. On the other hand, the use of bricks in decorating the exterior facade and the shape of the domes completely shows the influence of Islamic art. Another common feature between Julfa churches and Safavid buildings is the use of pointed and shallow arches.

The lower part of the dome and the altar of the Church of St. Hovhannes Mgrditch are decorated with paintings with biblical themes, but the outer walls are simply covered with thatch.

The Church of St. Narcissus was built in 1666. The plan of the church is rectangular and is in east-west direction. The building has two domes, the western dome is arched and has no skylights, but the central dome is larger with eight skylights. The altar of the church with two rectangular chambers is located on both sides in the eastern part of the building.

The lower part of the dome and the altar of the Church of St. Hovhannes Mgrditch are decorated with paintings with biblical themes, but the outer walls are simply covered with thatch.

St. Nicholas Church is located in an east-west direction with a rectangular plan and its roof and dome rest on wide columns attached to the side walls. These columns divide the interior of the church into three interconnected sections. The main dome of the church is located at the top of the middle part with eight skylights. The campanile is also located in the western part and on the roof of the building. In the eastern part, the altar with two rectangular chambers is located on both sides.

The Church of St. Narcissus in the Kocher Quarter was built in 1666. The plan of the church is rectangular and is in east-west direction. The building has two domes, the western dome is arched and has no skylights, but the central dome is larger with eight skylights.

The sanctuary of the church with two rectangular chambers is located on both sides in the eastern part of the building.

The lower part of the dome and the altar of the church of St. Hovhannes Mgrditch are decorated with paintings with biblical themes, but the outer walls are simply covered with thatch.

The “Church of St. Nicholas” belongs to the Safavid period and is located in the city of Isfahan, Gharagel neighbourhood of New Julfa, Khajeh Abed alley and was built in 1630 AD.

The Gospel means good news, and is a description of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH). The four major Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, together form the new Bible.

The “St. Āmenāperkič (Vank) Church” was built entirely at the personal expense of a wealthy Armenian named Khajeh Avdik Stepanos, and the paintings on its walls were painted by some Armenian artists, including the caliphs “Hovhannes Merkoz”, “Priest Stepanos” and “Master Minas”.

The “St. Āmenāperkič (Vank) Church” was built entirely at the personal expense of a wealthy Armenian named Khajeh Avdik Stepanos, and the paintings on its walls were painted by some Armenian artists, including the caliphs “Hovhannes Merkoz”, “Priest Stepanos” and “Master Minas”.

“Surp Hakop Church”, also known as Saint Jacob Church, is the oldest church in Isfahan and was founded in 1607 AD. Hakop Church is located in the courtyard of St. Mary Church and on its northern side, and these two churches form a complex that was registered on March 8, 2002 with the number 7647 as one of the national monuments of Iran.

There are two drawing rooms on either side of the entrance to the St. Āmenāperkič (Vank) Church). At the top of the entrance, the belfry is built on three floors, on the second floor of which is a large clock weighing three hundred kilograms. On the four sides of the tower, four circular clock plates are installed, the diameter of each plate is 104 cm. The belfry and its clock were donated to the church by Mardiros Gorg Hordanian in 1931. On the right side of the entrance to the church, there is an inscription measuring 40*53 cm with marble.

Brick and clay were used in the construction of the “Church of the Holy Minas” and beautiful frames with a brick facade are visible on its outer walls. The interior walls are covered only with plaster and paintings can be seen in places such as the dome and the altar.

The Church of St. Narcissus in the Kocher Quarter was built in 1666. The plan of the church is rectangular and is in east-west direction. The building has two domes, the western dome is arched and has no skylights, but the central dome is larger with eight skylights. The sanctuary of the church with two rectangular chambers is located on both sides in the eastern part of the building.

Brick and clay were used in the construction of the “Church of the Saint Minas” and beautiful frames with a brick facade are visible on its outer walls. The interior walls are covered only with plaster. Paintings can be seen in places such as the dome and the altar.

The bell tower is located in the southwestern part of the building and on its roof and was built in 1889. The exterior walls of the church have a brick facade with beautiful frames and Iranian style windows have been used. Its southern entrances also have a stone frame with beautiful carvings in which the design of the cross is also used.

The Armenians living in Isfahan have named this church “Saint Amenapergich‎ (Vank) Church” meaning the Church of the Holy Savior. The church has a huge dome and high walls and arches.

The “Church of Saint Minas” was built in 1655-1659 AD by the Armenians who were brought to this neighborhood from the Shamsabad neighborhood (Isfahan) by the order of Shah Abbas II.

“Saint Amenapergich (Vank) Church” can be considered as one of the main and most important churches in Julfa, which is also known as the Armenian Cathedral of Isfahan.

The Church of St. Nicholas has a rectangular plan in the east-west direction and its roof and dome rest on wide columns attached to the side walls. These columns divide the interior of the church into three interconnected sections. The main dome of the church is located at the top of the middle part with eight skylights. The belfry is also located in the western part and on the roof of the building. In the eastern part, the altar with two rectangular chambers is located on both sides.

“Saint Hakop Church”, also known as St. Jacob Church, is the oldest church in Isfahan and was founded in 1607 AD. Hakop Church is located in the courtyard of the Church of the Saint Mary and on its northern side, and these two churches form a complex that was registered on March 8, 2002 with the number 7647 as one of the national monuments of Iran.

The Church of St. Narcissus in the Kocher Quarter was built in 1666. The plan of the church is rectangular and is in east-west direction. The building has two domes, the western dome is arched and has no skylights, but the central dome is larger and has eight skylights. The altar of the church with two rectangular chambers is located on both sides in the eastern part of the building.

The “Saint Amenapergich (Vank) Church” includes various sections such as printery, library, museum and office departments. This building is currently the residence of the Armenian Caliph of Iran and India.

Today, the name of “Saint Minas Church” with the number 9087 is on the list of national monuments of Iran.

In the St. Gregory Lusavorich Church, paintings used to cover the entire surface of the wall, but today they have disappeared and only parts of them remained.

The “St. Āmenāperkič (Vank) Church” was built entirely at the personal expense of a wealthy Armenian named Khajeh Avdik Stepanos, and the paintings on its walls were painted by some Armenian artists, including the caliphs “Hovhannes Merkoz”, “Priest Stepanos” and “Master Minas”.

The Church of St. Narcissus in the Kocher Quarter was built in 1666. The plan of the church is rectangular and is in east-west direction. The building has two domes, the western dome is arched and has no skylights, but the central dome is larger with eight skylights. The sanctuary of the church with two rectangular chambers is located on both sides in the eastern part of the building.

Today, the name “Saint Minas Church” with the number 9087 is on the list of national monuments of Iran.

The “Church of the Saint Minas” was built in 1655-1659 AD by the Armenians who were brought to this neighborhood from the Shamsabad neighborhood (Isfahan) by the order of Shah Abbas II.

The building of the Church of St. Georg is a rectangular plan in the east-west direction and has 3 small arched domes. The domes and the roof of the church are located on arches that rest on three pairs of wide columns attached to the inner walls.

“Surp Asdvadzadzin Church, or Saint Mary Church” was registered as one of the national monuments of Iran on March 8, 2002 with the registration number 7647.

Brick and clay are used in the construction of “Surp Asdvadzadzin Church, or Saint Mary Church” and beautiful frames with brick facades are visible on its outer walls. The interior walls are covered only with plaster and paintings can be seen in places such as the dome and the altar.

The “Surp Asdvadzadzin Church, or Saint Mary Church” was built during the Safavid period by a man named Avedik Babakian, who is one of the merchants of this period. Above the main entrance of the church there are two inscriptions in Armenian related to the year 1607 AD.

All three domes of St. George’s Church, the largest of which is the eastern dome, have skylights. At the end of the western part of the church and on its roof is the bell tower, which was built in 1920 AD.

The “Holy Bethlehem Church” was built by a man named Khaje Petros Valijanian, who was one of the famous merchants of the Safavid era, and now he and some of his family members are buried in the courtyard of this church.

The “Holy Bethlehem Church” was built by a man named Khaje Petros Valijanian, who was one of the famous merchants of the Safavid era, and now he and some of his family members are buried in the courtyard of this church.

The exterior walls of St. George’s Church are covered with thatch and the interior walls are plastered, and the interior walls are decorated with small ornaments in the form of geometric lines.

According to the inscriptions installed in front of the altar of “St. George’s Church”, it was built by the famous merchant of Julfa, Khajeh Nazar, in 1611 AD. Recognizing their religious beliefs, he ordered the demolition of the Holy Etchmiadzin Church and the transfer of its stones to Isfahan. But since this was not possible, only fifteen pieces of stone were brought from the altar and different parts of the church to the site of George Church. Because these stones are sacred to Armenians, the Church of St. George has since become a shrine for Armenians in Iran.

“Church of Sargis (Saint Sarkis Church)” belongs to the Safavid period and was built in 1659 AD. The name of the Saint Sarkis Church was originally St. Amenaprkich, but in 1850, when the church was destroyed, its equipment was transferred to Saint Sarkis Church and its name was changed.

The architecture of the Church of Bethlehem shows an astonishing combination of Catholic and Islamic architecture influenced by Armenian culture, with the church’s paintings, tiles and gilding each showing a corner of this beautiful combination.

The “Church of Saint Stepanos” belongs to the Safavid period and is located in Isfahan, New Julfa, Qarakel neighborhood, Khajeh Abed alley and was built in 1630 AD.

The original plan of the “Church of St. Mary” was in the shape of a cross, which due to the destruction of its southern arm in 1843, became rectangular in the east-west direction. Its three small arched domes and the roof rest on arches that laid on wide columns attached to the north and south walls.

The Church of St. Grigor Lusavorich is made of clay and brick in 1633. The church building is rectangular in shape and its interior walls are decorated with beautiful paintings.

The “Church of Saint Mary” was built during the Safavid period by a man named Avedik Babakian, who is one of the merchants of this period. Above the main entrance of the church there are two inscriptions in Armenian related to the year 1607 AD.

The interior of the Church of Saint Catharine consists of three interconnected parts, the eastern part of which is the sanctuary of the church. The belfry of the church is located on the west side of the building and above the main entrance. The materials used in the building are brick and clay. The interior walls of the building are covered with plaster and paintings with religious themes are drawn on the altar. On the west porch of the church still hangs the wood used instead of the bell.

Above the main entrance of the Church of Saint Mary there are also two Armenian inscriptions from 1607 AD.

The Church of the Saint Catherine is located in the Charsu neighborhood. This church was built by “Khajeh Yaghiazar Lazarian”, one of the merchants of Julfa, Isfahan, in 1623 AD for nuns.

The Church of St. Gregor Lusavorich, also known as St. Lusavorich, is a Safavid building.

In 1613, the “Church of St. Mary” was built, and now the “Church of Hakop” is located inside the Church of St. Mary.

The “Church of Holy Bethlehem” belongs to the Safavid period and is located in the city of Isfahan, Nazar Street, Jolfa Square. This monument was built in 1628 AD.

The rectangular plan of the “Church of the Saint Catherine” is located in the east-west direction and has a small arched dome and a larger dome with eight skylights. The domes and the roof of the building are placed with arches on wide columns connected to the inner walls of the building.

The Church of Sargis is built in the basilica style. Like other Safavid churches, this church has a dome with several small skylights and a small place of worship can be seen in the courtyard of the Church.

“Church of Saint Mary” was registered as one of the national monuments of Iran on March 8, 2002 with the registration number 7647.

The Church of Sargis is built in the basilica style. Like other Safavid churches, this church has a dome with several small skylights and a small place of worship can be seen in the courtyard of the Church.

The Church of St. Stepanos is located between Nazar Street and Khaghani Street in the Julfa neighborhood and dates back to 1614 AD.

The “Church of Holy Bethlehem” was registered in the list of national monuments of Iran on March 8, 2002.

The architecture of the Church of St. Stepanos is valuable and ancient in the basilica style, and its dome has eight skylights, with two small domes on either side. Materials such as clay and brick are the main materials of the building and cover the outer walls with plaster.

The architecture of the Church of St. Stepanos is valuable and ancient in the basilica style, and its dome has eight skylights, with two small domes on either side. Materials such as clay and brick are the main materials of the building and cover the outer walls with plaster.

The plan of the Church of St. Sargis is arranged in a columnar basilica in an east-west direction. The church has two domes, each with eight skylights. The smaller dome is located above the altar and the larger dome is located with arches on four pillars. The materials used in the building are clay and brick. The exterior walls are framed with brick facades and the interior walls are covered with plaster.

This news is originally published by ISNA Persian and translated by Shafaqna English

The Oldest Rock-hewn churches of Tigray

Tour name:The oldest Rock-hewn churches of Tigray
Duration: 7 days/ 6 nights
Tour code:AT023
mode of transportation: flight and drive

This program combines to visit the oldest rock-hewn churches of Tigray, which is divided into four different clusters: Teka Tesfa Cluster, Astibe Cluster, Gheralta Cluster and Tembien cluster. Some of the churches can be visited as a day trip from Mekelle.

Day 1: Arrive in Addis Ababa
Day 2: Fly to Mekelle
Day 3: Drive to Geraltha
Day 4: Daytrip to Abune Yemata Guh
Day 5: Drive to Wukro
Day 6: Drive to Mekelle
Day 7: Fly back to Addis Ababa

Day 1: Arrive in Addis Ababa

Arrive in Addis Ababa Bole international airport meet your guide at the airport then transfer to the hotel for check-in followed by city tour (optional based on your choice). Overnight hotel

Day 2: Fly to Mekelle

Morning flight to Mekelle the regional capital of Tigray National region then drive to Adigrat (125km) on the way you will visit the famous rock-hewn churches of Tigray. Wukero Cherkos, it lies about 56 km from Mekelle, it is one of the rock hewn churches of Tigray region. Medehane Alem Adi Kasho, it is the finest rock-hewn church in Teka Tesfa cluster by its size and complex architecture. The interior has a cathedral like atmosphere, and the magnificent roof is dense with patterned etchings. Petros and Paulos rock church and Mikel Melehayzenghi. It lies between Medehane Alem Adi Kasho and Petros and Paulos, it is very different from other rock-hewn churches of Tigray Mikel Melehayzenghi is entered via a low doorway, which gives way to a surprisingly large interior with a finely carved dome almost 3m in height. Overnight Lodge

Day 3: Drive to Geralhta

After having breakfast drive 70km to visit the Gheralta cluster of churches which includes Debre Mariam Korkor and Daniel korkor, it lies on a small plateau at altitude of 2480 m, you can reach by car on the foot of the mountain then hike to the church almost an hour and half the footpaths rises steeply through a natural rock passage. The interior is very atmospheric and large, almost 10m wide, 17 m deep and 6m high. Architectural features include 12 cruciform pillars with bracket capitals. If the day is Wednesday there is a colorful market in Hawzien. Overnight Lodge

Day 4: Day trip to Abune Yemata Guh

After having breakfast a short drive to Abune Yemata Guh Rock-hewn church, it is the most spectacularly situated rock-hewn church anywhere in Ethiopia. Hike up to the church takes an hour, climbing roughly the 500m in altitude. The last part of the ascent to the church involves clambering up a sheer cliff face using handgrips and footholds. The interior of the church reached via a small crack in the rock, is notable for its extensive and perfectly preserved wall and roof murals, thought to date from the 15th c. Overnight Lodge

Day 5: Drive to Wukro

After having breakfast a short drive to Wukro. On the way you will visit Dugum Selassie, it is located 17km from Hawzien on the main road to Wukero, it is a small rock-hewn church, unusual in that it is situated on the plain rather than high in the mountains. Dugum Selassie is curved into a granite outcrop within the compound of the built up church there is a bath of Holy Water and underground tomb, which reminiscent of King Kaleb&rsquos Tomb in Axum. Abune Abraham Debre Tsion is a monastic cliff church, curved into a rusty sandstone face high above the village of Dugum. The interior of the church is fairly large, and consists of four bays with decorated domed roofs, supported by pillars and walls covered in murals of various Old Testament figures. Continue to Abrha Astbeha, it is located 17km from Wukero and it is the finest rock-hewn church of Tigray. The interior is very large 16m wide, 13m deep and 6m high and cruciform in shape with a beautifully carved roof supported by 13 large pillars and several decorated arches. The walls are beautifully decorated with mural paintings and till well-preserved. Overnight hotel

Day 6: Drive to Mekelle

After having breakfast a short drive (43km) to visit one of the Atsbi cluster rock-hewn church of Mikael Imba, it is the most impressive exterior of any other rock-hewn churches in Tigray. Mikael Imba looks more like a transplant from Lalibela than it resembles any other Tigraian church, which was excavated around the 12th c. in the late afternoon drive to Mekelle. Overnight hotel

Day 7: Fly back to Addis Ababa

In the morning sightseeing in Mekelle Yohannes castle, Abrha castle and Hawelti then fly back to Addis Ababa. In the evening you will have a traditional farewell dinner in the traditional restaurant. Overnight hotel or Departure

Hidden Truths in Emmerich’s Prophecies

Read carefully what Bl. Anna-Katerina (this is the proper German form of her name) says and think about it.

She says in the part regarding the prayer requested by Our Lady, that the faithful should come to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and pray for the exorcism of the Church of Darkness. But the doors of the Church are closed. This means, that the Basilica will fall under the power of the false pope, and that his sect will exclude the true faithful from the Church.

And this is exactly what has happened and what is happening. The masses offered in that Basilica are offered for Bergoglio the anti-pope, not for Benedict the true pope. Priests and faithful like Don Minutella are “excommunicated” from the Church of Darkness for warning the faithful about it and its lies.

Notice too, that Our Lady through Bl. Emmerich asks the faithful to pray the Our Father. And precisely this spring, here at Rome, with the publication of a new Italian version of the Roman Missal, will Bergoglio demand that all start saying the false heretical version of the Our Father of his own creation.

Notice too, in her writings, that she say she came to the Basilica accompanied by Saint Francis of Assisi. This saint was seen in a vision on the night of July 16, 1208 by Pope Innocent III, saving the Church of Rome by holding up a corner of the Lateran Basilica on his shoulders, even while it was shaken by threats all around. Pope Innocent III was very devoted to St. Alexius of Rome, whose feast here in the city is on July 17. The Pope rebuilt the Basilica of St. Alexius on the Aventine and consecrated it on the very next day. So this vision of a poor man, on the vigil struck him to the core. The next day, Saint Francis paid him a visit and asked for the approval of his new community, the Friars Minor. The pope granted verbal approval immediately. The Saint’s Order has done more than many others greak works to defend the Church throughout the Centuries, with more Canonized saints than most others, excepting the Benedictines, perhaps.

So Bl. Emmerich is telling us something profound, namely, that the prayers requested are to save the Church of Rome from toppling to the ground. This is also seen in the prayers requested, because in the Rule of Saint Francis those who are not priests are to say 72 Our Fathers each day, in place of the 72 psalms which the priests say. This indicates that the faithful whom Bl. Emmerich sees come to the Basilica in vision, are laypeople not clergy. And this in turn indicates to us that the vision she had was of an apostasy of all the Clergy of Rome from the true Church.


St. Peter's is a church built in the Renaissance style located in the Vatican City west of the River Tiber and near the Janiculum Hill and Hadrian's Mausoleum. Its central dome dominates the skyline of Rome. The basilica is approached via St. Peter's Square, a forecourt in two sections, both surrounded by tall colonnades. The first space is oval and the second trapezoidal. The façade of the basilica, with a giant order of columns, stretches across the end of the square and is approached by steps on which stand two 5.55 metres (18.2 ft) statues of the 1st-century apostles to Rome, Saints Peter and Paul. [9] [10]

The basilica is cruciform in shape, with an elongated nave in the Latin cross form but the early designs were for a centrally planned structure and this is still in evidence in the architecture. The central space is dominated both externally and internally by one of the largest domes in the world. The entrance is through a narthex, or entrance hall, which stretches across the building. One of the decorated bronze doors leading from the narthex is the Holy Door, only opened during jubilees. [9]

The interior dimensions are vast when compared to other churches. [5] One author wrote: "Only gradually does it dawn upon us – as we watch people draw near to this or that monument, strangely they appear to shrink they are, of course, dwarfed by the scale of everything in the building. This in its turn overwhelms us." [11]

The nave which leads to the central dome is in three bays, with piers supporting a barrel vault, the highest of any church. The nave is framed by wide aisles which have a number of chapels off them. There are also chapels surrounding the dome. Moving around the basilica in a clockwise direction they are: The Baptistery, the Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin, the larger Choir Chapel, the altar of the Transfiguration, the Clementine Chapel with the altar of Saint Gregory, the Sacristy Entrance, the Altar of the Lie, the left transept with altars to the Crucifixion of Saint Peter, Saint Joseph and Saint Thomas, the altar of the Sacred Heart, the Chapel of the Madonna of Column, the altar of Saint Peter and the Paralytic, the apse with the Chair of Saint Peter, the altar of Saint Peter raising Tabitha, the altar of St. Petronilla, the altar of the Archangel Michael, the altar of the Navicella, the right transept with altars of Saint Erasmus, Saints Processo and Martiniano, and Saint Wenceslas, the altar of St. Jerome, the altar of Saint Basil, the Gregorian Chapel with the altar of the Madonna of Succour, the larger Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, the Chapel of Saint Sebastian and the Chapel of the Pietà. [9] The Monuments, in a clockwise direction, are to: Maria Clementina Sobieski, The Stuarts, Benedict XV, John XXIII, St. Pius X, Innocent VIII, Leo XI, Innocent XI, Pius VII, Pius VIII, Alexander VII, Alexander VIII, Paul III, Urban VIII, Clement X, Clement XIII, Benedict XIV, St Peter (Bronze Statue), Gregory XVI, Gregory XIV, Gregory XIII, Matilda of Canossa, Innocent XII, Pius XII, Pius XI, Christina of Sweden, Leo XII. At the heart of the basilica, beneath the high altar, is the Confessio or Chapel of the Confession, in reference to the confession of faith by St. Peter, which led to his martyrdom. Two curving marble staircases lead to this underground chapel at the level of the Constantinian church and immediately above the purported burial place of Saint Peter.

The entire interior of St. Peter's is lavishly decorated with marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture and gilding. The basilica contains a large number of tombs of popes and other notable people, many of which are considered outstanding artworks. There are also a number of sculptures in niches and chapels, including Michelangelo's Pietà. The central feature is a baldachin, or canopy over the Papal Altar, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The apse culminates in a sculptural ensemble, also by Bernini, and containing the symbolic Chair of Saint Peter.

One observer wrote: "St Peter's Basilica is the reason why Rome is still the centre of the civilized world. For religious, historical, and architectural reasons it by itself justifies a journey to Rome, and its interior offers a palimpsest of artistic styles at their best . " [12]

The American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson described St. Peter's as "an ornament of the earth . the sublime of the beautiful." [13]

St. Peter's Basilica is one of the papal basilicas (previously styled "patriarchal basilicas") [note 2] and one of the four Major Basilicas of Rome, the other Major Basilicas (all of which are also Papal Basilicas) being the Basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul outside the Walls. The rank of major basilica confers on St. Peter's Basilica precedence before all minor basilicas worldwide. However, unlike all the other Papal Major Basilicas, it is wholly within the territory, and thus the sovereign jurisdiction, of the Vatican City State, and not that of Italy. [14] This is in contrast to the other three Papal Major Basilicas, which are within Italian territory and not the territory of the Vatican City State. (Lateran Treaty of 1929, Article 15 (Ibidem)) However, the Holy See fully owns these three basilicas, and Italy is legally obligated to recognize its full ownership thereof (Lateran Treaty of 1929, Article 13 (Ibidem)) and to concede to all of them "the immunity granted by International Law to the headquarters of the diplomatic agents of foreign States" (Lateran Treaty of 1929, Article 15 (Ibidem)).

It is the most prominent building in the Vatican City. Its dome is a dominant feature of the skyline of Rome. Probably the largest church in Christendom, [note 1] it covers an area of 2.3 hectares (5.7 acres). One of the holiest sites of Christianity and Catholic Tradition, it is traditionally the burial site of its titular, St. Peter, who was the head of the twelve Apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, the first Bishop of Antioch and later the first Bishop of Rome, rendering him the first Pope. Although the New Testament does not mention St. Peter's martyrdom in Rome, tradition, based on the writings of the Fathers of the Church, [ clarification needed ] holds that his tomb is below the baldachin and the altar of the Basilica in the "Confession". For this reason, many Popes have, from the early years of the Church, been buried near Pope St. Peter in the necropolis beneath the Basilica. Construction of the current basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on 18 April 1506 and finished in 1615. At length, on 18 November 1626 Pope Urban VIII solemnly dedicated the Basilica. [5]

St. Peter's Basilica is neither the Pope's official seat nor first in rank among the Major Basilicas of Rome. This honour is held by the Pope's cathedral, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran which is the mother church of all churches in communion with the Catholic Church. However, St. Peter's is certainly the Pope's principal church in terms of use because most Papal liturgies and ceremonies take place there due to its size, proximity to the Papal residence, and location within the Vatican City proper. The "Chair of Saint Peter", or cathedra, an ancient chair sometimes presumed to have been used by St. Peter himself, but which was a gift from Charles the Bald and used by many popes, symbolizes the continuing line of apostolic succession from St. Peter to the reigning Pope. It occupies an elevated position in the apse of the Basilica, supported symbolically by the Doctors of the Church and enlightened symbolically by the Holy Spirit. [15]

As one of the constituent structures of the historically and architecturally significant Vatican City, St. Peter's Basilica was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 under criteria (i), (ii), (iv), and (vi). [16] With an exterior area of 21,095 square metres (227,060 sq ft), [17] an interior area of 15,160 square metres (163,200 sq ft), [18] [19] St. Peter's Basilica is the largest Christian church building in the world by the two latter metrics and the second largest by the first as of 2016 [update] . The top of its dome, at 448.1 feet (136.6 m), also places it as the second tallest building in Rome as of 2016 [update] . [20] The dome's soaring height placed it among the tallest buildings of the Old World, and it continues to hold the title of tallest dome in the world. Though the largest dome in the world by diameter at the time of its completion, it no longer holds this distinction. [21]

Saint Peter's burial site Edit

After the crucifixion of Jesus, it is recorded in the Biblical book of the Acts of the Apostles that one of his twelve disciples, Simon known as Saint Peter, a fisherman from Galilee, took a leadership position among Jesus' followers and was of great importance in the founding of the Christian Church. The name Peter is "Petrus" in Latin and "Petros" in Greek, deriving from "petra" which means "stone" or "rock" in Greek, and is the literal translation of the Aramaic "Kepa", the name given to Simon by Jesus. (John 1:42, and see Matthew 16:18)

Catholic tradition holds that Peter, after a ministry of thirty-four years, travelled to Rome and met his martyrdom there along with Paul on 13 October 64 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. His execution was one of the many martyrdoms of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome. According to Jerome, Peter was crucified head downwards, by his own request because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. [22] The crucifixion took place near an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the Circus of Nero. [23] The obelisk now stands in St. Peter's Square and is revered as a "witness" to Peter's death. It is one of several ancient Obelisks of Rome. [24]

According to tradition, Peter's remains were buried just outside the Circus, on the Mons Vaticanus across the Via Cornelia from the Circus, less than 150 metres (490 ft) from his place of death. The Via Cornelia was a road which ran east-to-west along the north wall of the Circus on land now covered by the southern portions of the Basilica and St. Peter's Square. A shrine was built on this site some years later. Almost three hundred years later, Old St. Peter's Basilica was constructed over this site. [23]

The area now covered by the Vatican City had been a cemetery for some years before the Circus of Nero was built. It was a burial ground for the numerous executions in the Circus and contained many Christian burials because for many years after the burial of Saint Peter many Christians chose to be buried near Peter.

In 1939, in the reign of Pope Pius XII, 10 years of archaeological research began under the crypt of the basilica in an area inaccessible since the 9th century. The excavations revealed the remains of shrines of different periods at different levels, from Clement VIII (1594) to Callixtus II (1123) and Gregory I (590–604), built over an aedicula containing fragments of bones that were folded in a tissue with gold decorations, tinted with the precious murex purple. Although it could not be determined with certainty that the bones were those of Peter, the rare vestments suggested a burial of great importance. On 23 December 1950, in his pre-Christmas radio broadcast to the world, Pope Pius XII announced the discovery of Saint Peter's tomb. [25]

Old St. Peter's Basilica Edit

Old St. Peter's Basilica was the 4th-century church begun by the Emperor Constantine the Great between 319 and 333 AD. [26] It was of typical basilical form, a wide nave and two aisles on each side and an apsidal end, with the addition of a transept or bema, giving the building the shape of a tau cross. It was over 103.6 metres (340 ft) long, and the entrance was preceded by a large colonnaded atrium. This church had been built over the small shrine believed to mark the burial place of St. Peter, though the tomb was "smashed" in 846 AD. [27] It contained a very large number of burials and memorials, including those of most of the popes from St. Peter to the 15th century. Like all of the earliest churches in Rome, both this church and its successor had the entrance to the east and the apse at the west end of the building. [28] Since the construction of the current basilica, the name Old St. Peter's Basilica has been used for its predecessor to distinguish the two buildings. [29]

Plan to rebuild Edit

By the end of the 15th century, having been neglected during the period of the Avignon Papacy, the old basilica had fallen into disrepair. It appears that the first pope to consider rebuilding or at least making radical changes was Pope Nicholas V (1447–55). He commissioned work on the old building from Leone Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellino and also had Rossellino design a plan for an entirely new basilica, or an extreme modification of the old. His reign was frustrated by political problems and when he died, little had been achieved. [23] He had, however, ordered the demolition of the Colosseum and by the time of his death, 2,522 cartloads of stone had been transported for use in the new building. [23] [note 3] The foundations were completed for a new transept and choir to form a domed Latin cross with the preserved nave and side aisles of the old basilica. Some walls for the choir had also been built. [31]

Pope Julius II planned far more for St Peter's than Nicholas V's program of repair or modification. Julius was at that time planning his own tomb, which was to be designed and adorned with sculpture by Michelangelo and placed within St Peter's. [note 4] In 1505 Julius made a decision to demolish the ancient basilica and replace it with a monumental structure to house his enormous tomb and "aggrandize himself in the popular imagination". [7] A competition was held, and a number of the designs have survived at the Uffizi Gallery. A succession of popes and architects followed in the next 120 years, their combined efforts resulting in the present building. The scheme begun by Julius II continued through the reigns of Leo X (1513–1521), Hadrian VI (1522–1523). Clement VII (1523–1534), Paul III (1534–1549), Julius III (1550–1555), Marcellus II (1555), Paul IV (1555–1559), Pius IV (1559–1565), Pius V (saint) (1565–1572), Gregory XIII (1572–1585), Sixtus V (1585–1590), Urban VII (1590), Gregory XIV (1590–1591), Innocent IX (1591), Clement VIII (1592–1605), Leo XI (1605), Paul V (1605–1621), Gregory XV (1621–1623), Urban VIII (1623–1644) and Innocent X (1644–1655).

Financing with indulgences Edit

One method employed to finance the building of St. Peter's Basilica was the granting of indulgences in return for contributions. A major promoter of this method of fund-raising was Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, who had to clear debts owed to the Roman Curia by contributing to the rebuilding program. To facilitate this, he appointed the German Dominican preacher Johann Tetzel, whose salesmanship provoked a scandal. [32]

A German Augustinian priest, Martin Luther, wrote to Archbishop Albrecht arguing against this "selling of indulgences". He also included his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences", which came to be known as The 95 Theses. [33] This became a factor in starting the Reformation, the birth of Protestantism.

Successive plans Edit

Pope Julius' scheme for the grandest building in Christendom [7] was the subject of a competition for which a number of entries remain intact in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. It was the design of Donato Bramante that was selected, and for which the foundation stone was laid in 1506. This plan was in the form of an enormous Greek Cross with a dome inspired by that of the huge circular Roman temple, the Pantheon. [7] The main difference between Bramante's design and that of the Pantheon is that where the dome of the Pantheon is supported by a continuous wall, that of the new basilica was to be supported only on four large piers. This feature was maintained in the ultimate design. Bramante's dome was to be surmounted by a lantern with its own small dome but otherwise very similar in form to the Early Renaissance lantern of Florence Cathedral designed for Brunelleschi's dome by Michelozzo. [34]

Bramante had envisioned that the central dome would be surrounded by four lower domes at the diagonal axes. The equal chancel, nave and transept arms were each to be of two bays ending in an apse. At each corner of the building was to stand a tower, so that the overall plan was square, with the apses projecting at the cardinal points. Each apse had two large radial buttresses, which squared off its semi-circular shape. [35]

When Pope Julius died in 1513, Bramante was replaced with Giuliano da Sangallo and Fra Giocondo, who both died in 1515 (Bramante himself having died the previous year). Raphael was confirmed as the architect of St. Peter's on 1 August 1514. [36] The main change in his plan is the nave of five bays, with a row of complex apsidal chapels off the aisles on either side. Raphael's plan for the chancel and transepts made the squareness of the exterior walls more definite by reducing the size of the towers, and the semi-circular apses more clearly defined by encircling each with an ambulatory. [37]

In 1520 Raphael also died, aged 37, and his successor Baldassare Peruzzi maintained changes that Raphael had proposed to the internal arrangement of the three main apses, but otherwise reverted to the Greek Cross plan and other features of Bramante. [38] This plan did not go ahead because of various difficulties of both Church and state. In 1527 Rome was sacked and plundered by Emperor Charles V. Peruzzi died in 1536 without his plan being realized. [7]

At this point Antonio da Sangallo the Younger submitted a plan which combines features of Peruzzi, Raphael and Bramante in its design and extends the building into a short nave with a wide façade and portico of dynamic projection. His proposal for the dome was much more elaborate of both structure and decoration than that of Bramante and included ribs on the exterior. Like Bramante, Sangallo proposed that the dome be surmounted by a lantern which he redesigned to a larger and much more elaborate form. [39] Sangallo's main practical contribution was to strengthen Bramante's piers which had begun to crack. [23]

On 1 January 1547 in the reign of Pope Paul III, Michelangelo, then in his seventies, succeeded Sangallo the Younger as "Capomaestro", the superintendent of the building program at St Peter's. [40] He is to be regarded as the principal designer of a large part of the building as it stands today, and as bringing the construction to a point where it could be carried through. He did not take on the job with pleasure it was forced upon him by Pope Paul, frustrated at the death of his chosen candidate, Giulio Romano and the refusal of Jacopo Sansovino to leave Venice. Michelangelo wrote, "I undertake this only for the love of God and in honour of the Apostle." He insisted that he should be given a free hand to achieve the ultimate aim by whatever means he saw fit. [23]

Michelangelo's contribution Edit

Michelangelo took over a building site at which four piers, enormous beyond any constructed since ancient Roman times, were rising behind the remaining nave of the old basilica. He also inherited the numerous schemes designed and redesigned by some of the greatest architectural and engineering minds of the 16th century. There were certain common elements in these schemes. They all called for a dome to equal that engineered by Brunelleschi a century earlier and which has since dominated the skyline of Renaissance Florence, and they all called for a strongly symmetrical plan of either Greek Cross form, like the iconic St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, or of a Latin Cross with the transepts of identical form to the chancel, as at Florence Cathedral.

Even though the work had progressed only a little in 40 years, Michelangelo did not simply dismiss the ideas of the previous architects. He drew on them in developing a grand vision. Above all, Michelangelo recognized the essential quality of Bramante's original design. He reverted to the Greek Cross and, as Helen Gardner expresses it: "Without destroying the centralising features of Bramante's plan, Michelangelo, with a few strokes of the pen converted its snowflake complexity into massive, cohesive unity." [41]

As it stands today, St. Peter's has been extended with a nave by Carlo Maderno. It is the chancel end (the ecclesiastical "Eastern end") with its huge centrally placed dome that is the work of Michelangelo. Because of its location within the Vatican State and because the projection of the nave screens the dome from sight when the building is approached from the square in front of it, the work of Michelangelo is best appreciated from a distance. What becomes apparent is that the architect has greatly reduced the clearly defined geometric forms of Bramante's plan of a square with square projections, and also of Raphael's plan of a square with semi-circular projections. [42] Michelangelo has blurred the definition of the geometry by making the external masonry of massive proportions and filling in every corner with a small vestry or stairwell. The effect created is of a continuous wall surface that is folded or fractured at different angles, but lacks the right angles which usually define change of direction at the corners of a building. This exterior is surrounded by a giant order of Corinthian pilasters all set at slightly different angles to each other, in keeping with the ever-changing angles of the wall's surface. Above them, the huge cornice ripples in a continuous band, giving the appearance of keeping the whole building in a state of compression. [43]

Dome: successive and final designs Edit

The dome of St. Peter's rises to a total height of 136.57 metres (448.1 ft) from the floor of the basilica to the top of the external cross. It is the tallest dome in the world. [note 5] Its internal diameter is 41.47 metres (136.1 ft), slightly smaller than two of the three other huge domes that preceded it, those of the Pantheon of Ancient Rome, 43.3 metres (142 ft), and Florence Cathedral of the Early Renaissance, 44 metres (144 ft). It has a greater diameter by approximately 30 feet (9.1 m) than Constantinople's Hagia Sophia church, completed in 537. It was to the domes of the Pantheon and Florence duomo that the architects of St. Peter's looked for solutions as to how to go about building what was conceived, from the outset, as the greatest dome of Christendom.

Bramante and Sangallo, 1506 and 1513 Edit

The dome of the Pantheon stands on a circular wall with no entrances or windows except a single door. The whole building is as high as it is wide. Its dome is constructed in a single shell of concrete, made light by the inclusion of a large amount of the volcanic stones tuff and pumice. The inner surface of the dome is deeply coffered which has the effect of creating both vertical and horizontal ribs while lightening the overall load. At the summit is an ocular opening 8 metres (26 ft) across which provides light to the interior. [7]

Bramante's plan for the dome of St. Peter's (1506) follows that of the Pantheon very closely, and like that of the Pantheon, was designed to be constructed in Tufa Concrete for which he had rediscovered a formula. With the exception of the lantern that surmounts it, the profile is very similar, except that in this case, the supporting wall becomes a drum raised high above ground level on four massive piers. The solid wall, as used at the Pantheon, is lightened at St. Peter's by Bramante piercing it with windows and encircling it with a peristyle.

In the case of Florence Cathedral, the desired visual appearance of the pointed dome existed for many years before Brunelleschi made its construction feasible. [note 6] Its double-shell construction of bricks locked together in a herringbone pattern (re-introduced from Byzantine architecture), and the gentle upward slope of its eight stone ribs made it possible for the construction to take place without the massive wooden formwork necessary to construct hemispherical arches. While its appearance, with the exception of the details of the lantern, is entirely Gothic, its engineering was highly innovative, and the product of a mind that had studied the huge vaults and remaining dome of Ancient Rome. [34]

Sangallo's plan (1513), of which a large wooden model still exists, looks to both these predecessors. He realized the value of both the coffering at the Pantheon and the outer stone ribs at Florence Cathedral. He strengthened and extended the peristyle of Bramante into a series of arched and ordered openings around the base, with a second such arcade set back in a tier above the first. In his hands, the rather delicate form of the lantern, based closely on that in Florence, became a massive structure, surrounded by a projecting base, a peristyle and surmounted by a spire of conic form. [39] According to James Lees-Milne the design was "too eclectic, too pernickety and too tasteless to have been a success". [23]

Michelangelo and Giacomo della Porta, 1547 and 1585 Edit

Michelangelo redesigned the dome in 1547, taking into account all that had gone before. His dome, like that of Florence, is constructed of two shells of brick, the outer one having 16 stone ribs, twice the number at Florence but far fewer than in Sangallo's design. As with the designs of Bramante and Sangallo, the dome is raised from the piers on a drum. The encircling peristyle of Bramante and the arcade of Sangallo are reduced to 16 pairs of Corinthian columns, each of 15 metres (49 ft) high which stand proud of the building, connected by an arch. Visually they appear to buttress each of the ribs, but structurally they are probably quite redundant. The reason for this is that the dome is ovoid in shape, rising steeply as does the dome of Florence Cathedral, and therefore exerting less outward thrust than does a hemispherical dome, such as that of the Pantheon, which, although it is not buttressed, is countered by the downward thrust of heavy masonry which extends above the circling wall. [7] [23]

The ovoid profile of the dome has been the subject of much speculation and scholarship over the past century. Michelangelo died in 1564, leaving the drum of the dome complete, and Bramante's piers much bulkier than originally designed, each 18 metres (59 ft) across. Following his death, the work continued under his assistant Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola with Giorgio Vasari appointed by Pope Pius V as a watchdog to make sure that Michelangelo's plans were carried out exactly. Despite Vignola's knowledge of Michelangelo's intentions, little happened in this period. In 1585 the energetic Pope Sixtus appointed Giacomo della Porta who was to be assisted by Domenico Fontana. The five-year reign of Sixtus was to see the building advance at a great rate. [23]

Michelangelo left a few drawings, including an early drawing of the dome, and some details. There were also detailed engravings published in 1569 by Stefan du Pérac who claimed that they were the master's final solution. Michelangelo, like Sangallo before him, also left a large wooden model. Giacomo della Porta subsequently altered this model in several ways. The major change restored an earlier design, in which the outer dome appears to rise above, rather than rest directly on the base. [45] Most of the other changes were of a cosmetic nature, such as the adding of lion's masks over the swags on the drum in honour of Pope Sixtus and adding a circlet of finials around the spire at the top of the lantern, as proposed by Sangallo. [23]

A drawing by Michelangelo indicates that his early intentions were towards an ovoid dome, rather than a hemispherical one. [41] In an engraving in Galasso Alghisi' treatise (1563), the dome may be represented as ovoid, but the perspective is ambiguous. [46] Stefan du Pérac's engraving (1569) shows a hemispherical dome, but this was perhaps an inaccuracy of the engraver. The profile of the wooden model is more ovoid than that of the engravings, but less so than the finished product. It has been suggested that Michelangelo on his death bed reverted to the more pointed shape. However, Lees-Milne cites Giacomo della Porta as taking full responsibility for the change and as indicating to Pope Sixtus that Michelangelo was lacking in the scientific understanding of which he himself was capable. [23]

Helen Gardner suggests that Michelangelo made the change to the hemispherical dome of lower profile in order to establish a balance between the dynamic vertical elements of the encircling giant order of pilasters and a more static and reposeful dome. Gardner also comments, "The sculpturing of architecture [by Michelangelo] . here extends itself up from the ground through the attic stories and moves on into the drum and dome, the whole building being pulled together into a unity from base to summit." [41]

It is this sense of the building being sculptured, unified and "pulled together" by the encircling band of the deep cornice that led Eneide Mignacca to conclude that the ovoid profile, seen now in the end product, was an essential part of Michelangelo's first (and last) concept. The sculptor/architect has, figuratively speaking, taken all the previous designs in hand and compressed their contours as if the building were a lump of clay. The dome must appear to thrust upwards because of the apparent pressure created by flattening the building's angles and restraining its projections. [43] If this explanation is the correct one, then the profile of the dome is not merely a structural solution, as perceived by Giacomo della Porta it is part of the integrated design solution that is about visual tension and compression. In one sense, Michelangelo's dome may appear to look backward to the Gothic profile of Florence Cathedral and ignore the Classicism of the Renaissance, but on the other hand, perhaps more than any other building of the 16th century, it prefigures the architecture of the Baroque. [43]

Completion Edit

Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana brought the dome to completion in 1590, the last year of the reign of Sixtus V. His successor, Gregory XIV, saw Fontana complete the lantern and had an inscription to the honour of Sixtus V placed around its inner opening. The next pope, Clement VIII, had the cross raised into place, an event which took all day, and was accompanied by the ringing of the bells of all the city's churches. In the arms of the cross are set two lead caskets, one containing a fragment of the True Cross and a relic of St. Andrew and the other containing medallions of the Holy Lamb. [23]

In the mid-18th century, cracks appeared in the dome, so four iron chains were installed between the two shells to bind it, like the rings that keep a barrel from bursting. As many as ten chains have been installed at various times, the earliest possibly planned by Michelangelo himself as a precaution, as Brunelleschi did at Florence Cathedral.

Around the inside of the dome is written, in letters 1.4 metres (4.6 ft) high:

(". you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. . I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven . " Vulgate, Matthew 16:18–19.)

Beneath the lantern is the inscription:

(To the glory of St Peter Sixtus V, pope, in the year 1590, the fifth of his pontificate.)

Discovery of Michelangelo draft Edit

On 7 December 2007, a fragment of a red chalk drawing of a section of the dome of the basilica, almost certainly by the hand of Michelangelo, was discovered in the Vatican archives. [47] The drawing shows a small precisely drafted section of the plan of the entablature above two of the radial columns of the cupola drum. Michelangelo is known to have destroyed thousands of his drawings before his death. [48] The rare survival of this example is probably due to its fragmentary state and the fact that detailed mathematical calculations had been made over the top of the drawing. [47]

Changes of plan Edit

On 18 February 1606, under Pope Paul V, the dismantling of the remaining parts of the Constantinian basilica began. [23] The marble cross that had been set at the top of the pediment by Pope Sylvester and Constantine the Great was lowered to the ground. The timbers were salvaged for the roof of the Borghese Palace and two rare black marble columns, the largest of their kind, were carefully stored and later used in the narthex. The tombs of various popes were opened, treasures removed and plans made for re-interment in the new basilica. [23]

The Pope had appointed Carlo Maderno in 1602. He was a nephew of Domenico Fontana and had demonstrated himself as a dynamic architect. Maderno's idea was to ring Michelangelo's building with chapels, but the Pope was hesitant about deviating from the master's plan, even though he had been dead for forty years. The Fabbrica or building committee, a group drawn from various nationalities and generally despised by the Curia who viewed the basilica as belonging to Rome rather than Christendom, were in a quandary as to how the building should proceed. One of the matters that influenced their thinking was the Counter-Reformation which increasingly associated a Greek Cross plan with paganism and saw the Latin Cross as truly symbolic of Christianity. [23] The central plan also did not have a "dominant orientation toward the east." [49]

Another influence on the thinking of both the Fabbrica and the Curia was a certain guilt at the demolition of the ancient building. The ground on which it and its various associated chapels, vestries and sacristies had stood for so long was hallowed. The only solution was to build a nave that encompassed the whole space. In 1607 a committee of ten architects was called together, and a decision was made to extend Michelangelo's building into a nave. Maderno's plans for both the nave and the facade were accepted. The building began on 7 May 1607, and proceeded at a great rate, with an army of 700 labourers being employed. The following year, the façade was begun, in December 1614 the final touches were added to the stucco decoration of the vault and early in 1615 the partition wall between the two sections was pulled down. All the rubble was carted away, and the nave was ready for use by Palm Sunday. [50]

Maderno's facade Edit

The facade designed by Maderno, is 114.69 metres (376.3 ft) wide and 45.55 metres (149.4 ft) high and is built of travertine stone, with a giant order of Corinthian columns and a central pediment rising in front of a tall attic surmounted by thirteen statues: Christ flanked by eleven of the Apostles (except Saint Peter, whose statue is left of the stairs) and John the Baptist. [note 7] The inscription below the cornice on the 1 metre (3.3 ft) tall frieze reads:

(In honour of the Prince of Apostles, Paul V Borghese, a Roman, Supreme Pontiff, in the year 1612, the seventh of his pontificate)

(Paul V (Camillo Borghese), born in Rome but of a Sienese family, liked to emphasize his "Romanness.")

The facade is often cited as the least satisfactory part of the design of St. Peter's. The reasons for this, according to James Lees-Milne, are that it was not given enough consideration by the Pope and committee because of the desire to get the building completed quickly, coupled with the fact that Maderno was hesitant to deviate from the pattern set by Michelangelo at the other end of the building. Lees-Milne describes the problems of the façade as being too broad for its height, too cramped in its details and too heavy in the attic story. The breadth is caused by modifying the plan to have towers on either side. These towers were never executed above the line of the facade because it was discovered that the ground was not sufficiently stable to bear the weight. One effect of the facade and lengthened nave is to screen the view of the dome, so that the building, from the front, has no vertical feature, except from a distance. [23]

Narthex and portals Edit

Behind the façade of St. Peter's stretches a long portico or "narthex" such as was occasionally found in Italian churches. This is the part of Maderno's design with which he was most satisfied. Its long barrel vault is decorated with ornate stucco and gilt, and successfully illuminated by small windows between pendentives, while the ornate marble floor is beamed with light reflected in from the piazza. At each end of the narthex is a theatrical space framed by ionic columns and within each is set a statue, an equestrian statue of Charlemagne (18th century) by Cornacchini in the south end and The Vision of Constantine (1670) by Bernini in the north end.

Five portals, of which three are framed by huge salvaged antique columns, lead into the basilica. The central portal has a bronze door created by Antonio Averulino c. 1440 for the old basilica [51] and somewhat enlarged to fit the new space.

Maderno's nave Edit

To the single bay of Michelangelo's Greek Cross, Maderno added a further three bays. He made the dimensions slightly different from Michelangelo's bay, thus defining where the two architectural works meet. Maderno also tilted the axis of the nave slightly. This was not by accident, as suggested by his critics. An ancient Egyptian obelisk had been erected in the square outside, but had not been quite aligned with Michelangelo's building, so Maderno compensated, in order that it should, at least, align with the Basilica's façade. [23]

The nave has huge paired pilasters, in keeping with Michelangelo's work. The size of the interior is so "stupendously large" that it is hard to get a sense of scale within the building. [23] [note 8] The four cherubs who flutter against the first piers of the nave, carrying between them two holy water basins, appear of quite normal cherubic size, until approached. Then it becomes apparent that each one is over 2 metres high and that real children cannot reach the basins unless they scramble up the marble draperies. The aisles each have two smaller chapels and a larger rectangular chapel, the Chapel of the Sacrament and the Choir Chapel. These are lavishly decorated with marble, stucco, gilt, sculpture and mosaic. Remarkably, all of the large altarpieces, with the exception of the Holy Trinity by Pietro da Cortona in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, have been reproduced in mosaic. Two precious paintings from the old basilica, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of the Column are still being used as altarpieces.

Maderno's last work at St. Peter's was to design a crypt-like space or "Confessio" under the dome, where the cardinals and other privileged persons could descend in order to be nearer to the burial place of the apostle. Its marble steps are remnants of the old basilica and around its balustrade are 95 bronze lamps.

Influence on church architecture Edit

The design of St. Peter's Basilica, and in particular its dome, has greatly influenced church architecture in Western Christendom. Within Rome, the huge domed church of Sant'Andrea della Valle was designed by Giacomo della Porta before the completion of St Peter's Basilica, and subsequently worked on by Carlo Maderno. This was followed by the domes of San Carlo ai Catinari, Sant'Agnese in Agone, and many others. Christopher Wren's dome at St Paul's Cathedral (London, England), the domes of Karlskirche (Vienna, Austria), St. Nicholas Church (Prague, Czech Republic), and the Pantheon (Paris, France) all pay homage to St Peter's Basilica.

The 19th and early-20th-century architectural revivals brought about the building of a great number of churches that imitate elements of St Peter's to a greater or lesser degree, including St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago, St. Josaphat's Basilica in Milwaukee, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pittsburgh and Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal, which replicates many aspects of St Peter's on a smaller scale. Post-Modernism has seen free adaptations of St Peter's in the Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro.

Pope Urban VIII and Bernini Edit

As a young boy Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) visited St. Peter's with the painter Annibale Carracci and stated his wish to build "a mighty throne for the apostle". His wish came true. As a young man, in 1626, he received the patronage of Pope Urban VIII and worked on the embellishment of the Basilica for 50 years. Appointed as Maderno's successor in 1629, he was to become regarded as the greatest architect and sculptor of the Baroque period. Bernini's works at St. Peter's include the baldachin (baldaquin, from Italian: baldacchino), the Chapel of the Sacrament, the plan for the niches and loggias in the piers of the dome and the chair of St. Peter. [23] [41]

Baldacchino and niches Edit

Bernini's first work at St. Peter's was to design the baldacchino, a pavilion-like structure 28.74 metres (94.3 ft) tall and claimed to be the largest piece of bronze in the world, which stands beneath the dome and above the altar. Its design is based on the ciborium, of which there are many in the churches of Rome, serving to create a sort of holy space above and around the table on which the Sacrament is laid for the Eucharist and emphasizing the significance of this ritual. These ciboria are generally of white marble, with inlaid coloured stone. Bernini's concept was for something very different. He took his inspiration in part from the baldachin or canopy carried above the head of the pope in processions, and in part from eight ancient columns that had formed part of a screen in the old basilica. Their twisted barley-sugar shape had a special significance as they were modelled on those of the Temple of Jerusalem and donated by the Emperor Constantine. Based on these columns, Bernini created four huge columns of bronze, twisted and decorated with laurel leaves and bees, which were the emblem of Pope Urban.

The baldacchino is surmounted not with an architectural pediment, like most baldacchini, but with curved Baroque brackets supporting a draped canopy, like the brocade canopies carried in processions above precious iconic images. In this case, the draped canopy is of bronze, and all the details, including the olive leaves, bees, and the portrait heads of Urban's niece in childbirth and her newborn son, are picked out in gold leaf. The baldacchino stands as a vast free-standing sculptural object, central to and framed by the largest space within the building. It is so large that the visual effect is to create a link between the enormous dome which appears to float above it, and the congregation at floor level of the basilica. It is penetrated visually from every direction, and is visually linked to the Cathedra Petri in the apse behind it and to the four piers containing large statues that are at each diagonal. [23] [41]

As part of the scheme for the central space of the church, Bernini had the huge piers, begun by Bramante and completed by Michelangelo, hollowed out into niches, and had staircases made inside them, leading to four balconies. There was much dismay from those who thought that the dome might fall, but it did not. On the balconies Bernini created showcases, framed by the eight ancient twisted columns, to display the four most precious relics of the basilica: the spear of Longinus, said to have pierced the side of Christ, the veil of Veronica, with the miraculous image of the face of Christ, a fragment of the True Cross discovered in Jerusalem by Constantine's mother, Helena, and a relic of Saint Andrew, the brother of Saint Peter. In each of the niches that surround the central space of the basilica was placed a huge statue of the saint associated with the relic above. Only Saint Longinus is the work of Bernini. [23] (See below)

Bernini's Towers Edit

Urban had long been a critic of Bernini's predecessor, Carlo Maderno. His disapproval of the architect's work stemmed largely from the Maderno's design for the longitudinal nave of St. Peters, which was widely condemned for obscuring Michelangelo's dome. When the Pope gave the commission to Bernini he therefore requested that a new design for the facade's bell towers to be submitted for consideration. Baldinucci describes Bernini's tower as consisting of "two orders of columns and pilasters, the first order being Corinthian" and "a third or attic story formed of pilasters and two columns on either side of the open archway in the center".

Urban desired the towers to be completed by a very specific date: 29 June 1641, the feast day dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul. To this end an order was issued which stated that "all work should take a second seat to that of the campanile." The south tower was completed on time even in spite of these issues, but records show that in the wake of the unveiling the Pope was not content with what he saw and he ordered the top level of Bernini's tower removed so that the structure could be made even grander. The tower continued to grow, and as the construction began to settle, the first cracks started to appear followed by Urban's infamous public admonishment of his architect.

In 1642 all work on both towers came to a halt. Bernini had to pay the cost for the demolition eventually the idea of completing the bell towers was abandoned.

Cathedra Petri and Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament Edit

Bernini then turned his attention to another precious relic, the so-called Cathedra Petri or "throne of St. Peter" a chair which was often claimed to have been used by the apostle, but appears to date from the 12th century. As the chair itself was fast deteriorating and was no longer serviceable, Pope Alexander VII determined to enshrine it in suitable splendor as the object upon which the line of successors to Peter was based. Bernini created a large bronze throne in which it was housed, raised high on four looping supports held effortlessly by massive bronze statues of four Doctors of the Church, Saints Ambrose and Augustine representing the Latin Church and Athanasius and John Chrysostom, the Greek Church. The four figures are dynamic with sweeping robes and expressions of adoration and ecstasy. Behind and above the cathedra, a blaze of light comes in through a window of yellow alabaster, illuminating, at its centre, the Dove of the Holy Spirit. The elderly painter, Andrea Sacchi, had urged Bernini to make the figures large, so that they would be seen well from the central portal of the nave. The chair was enshrined in its new home with great celebration of 16 January 1666. [23] [41]

Bernini's final work for St. Peter's, undertaken in 1676, was the decoration of the Chapel of the Sacrament. [52] To hold the sacramental Host, he designed a miniature version in gilt bronze of Bramante's Tempietto, the little chapel that marks the place of the death of St. Peter. On either side is an angel, one gazing in rapt adoration and the other looking towards the viewer in welcome. Bernini died in 1680 in his 82nd year. [23]

To the east of the basilica is the Piazza di San Pietro, (St. Peter's Square). The present arrangement, constructed between 1656 and 1667, is the Baroque inspiration of Bernini who inherited a location already occupied by an Egyptian obelisk which was centrally placed, (with some contrivance) to Maderno's facade. [note 9] The obelisk, known as "The Witness", at 25.31 metres (83.0 ft) and a total height, including base and the cross on top, of 40 metres (130 ft), is the second largest standing obelisk, and the only one to remain standing since its removal from Egypt and re-erection at the Circus of Nero in 37 AD, where it is thought to have stood witness to the crucifixion of Saint Peter. [53] Its removal to its present location by order of Pope Sixtus V and engineered by Domenico Fontana on 28 September 1586, was an operation fraught with difficulties and nearly ending in disaster when the ropes holding the obelisk began to smoke from the friction. Fortunately this problem was noticed by Benedetto Bresca, a sailor of Sanremo, and for his swift intervention, his town was granted the privilege of providing the palms that are used at the basilica each Palm Sunday. [23]

The other object in the old square with which Bernini had to contend was a large fountain designed by Maderno in 1613 and set to one side of the obelisk, making a line parallel with the facade. Bernini's plan uses this horizontal axis as a major feature of his unique, spatially dynamic and highly symbolic design. The most obvious solutions were either a rectangular piazza of vast proportions so that the obelisk stood centrally and the fountain (and a matching companion) could be included, or a trapezoid piazza which fanned out from the facade of the basilica like that in front of the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena. The problems of the square plan are that the necessary width to include the fountain would entail the demolition of numerous buildings, including some of the Vatican, and would minimize the effect of the facade. The trapezoid plan, on the other hand, would maximize the apparent width of the facade, which was already perceived as a fault of the design. [41]

Bernini's ingenious solution was to create a piazza in two sections. That part which is nearest the basilica is trapezoid, but rather than fanning out from the facade, it narrows. This gives the effect of countering the visual perspective. It means that from the second part of the piazza, the building looks nearer than it is, the breadth of the facade is minimized and its height appears greater in proportion to its width. The second section of the piazza is a huge elliptical circus which gently slopes downwards to the obelisk at its centre. The two distinct areas are framed by a colonnade formed by doubled pairs of columns supporting an entablature of the simple Tuscan Order.

The part of the colonnade that is around the ellipse does not entirely encircle it, but reaches out in two arcs, symbolic of the arms of "the Catholic Church reaching out to welcome its communicants". [41] The obelisk and Maderno's fountain mark the widest axis of the ellipse. Bernini balanced the scheme with another fountain in 1675. The approach to the square used to be through a jumble of old buildings, which added an element of surprise to the vista that opened up upon passing through the colonnade. Nowadays a long wide street, the Via della Conciliazione, built by Mussolini after the conclusion of the Lateran Treaties, leads from the River Tiber to the piazza and gives distant views of St. Peter's as the visitor approaches, with the basilica acting as a terminating vista. [23]

Bernini's transformation of the site is entirely Baroque in concept. Where Bramante and Michelangelo conceived a building that stood in "self-sufficient isolation", Bernini made the whole complex "expansively relate to its environment". [41] Banister Fletcher says "No other city has afforded such a wide-swept approach to its cathedral church, no other architect could have conceived a design of greater nobility . (it is) the greatest of all atriums before the greatest of all churches of Christendom." [7]

The top of the facade of St. Peter's Basilica has two clocks and several sculptures. The clocks were created to replace Bernini's bell towers which had to be torn down due to insufficient support. The left clock shows Rome time, the one of the right shows European mean time. The statues are Christ the Redeemer, St. John the Baptist and 11 Apostles. From the left: St. Thadeus, St. Matthew, St. Philip, St. Thomas, St. James the Greater, St. John the Baptist, The Redeemer, St. Andrew, St. John the Evangelist, St. James the Lesser, St. Bartholomew, St. Simeon, and St. Matthias. Above the Roman clock is the coat of arms for the city-state of Vatican City since 1931 held by two angels. [ citation needed ]

The Basilica has 6 bells, placed in the room under the Roman clock, only 3 of them are visible from ground level while the rest are hidden behind the bourdon. They range from the smallest which is 260 kg to the massive bourdon that approximately weighs 9 tonnes. From 1931, the bells are operated electrically, thus permitting even the largest bell to be tolled from a distance. The oldest bell Rota dates from 1288 and the bourdon called Campanone is rung at Christmas and Easter, on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, and every time the Pope imparts the "Urbi et Orbi" blessing to the city and to the world. Campanone also announces the election of a new pope.

Bell# Name Mass Casted
1 Campanella 260 kg 1825
2 Ave Maria 280 kg 1932
3 Predica 850 kg 1893
4 Rota 2 t 1288
5 Campanoncino (Mezzana, Benedittina) 4 t 1725
6 Campanone 9 t 1785

Tombs and relics Edit

There are over 100 tombs within St. Peter's Basilica (extant to various extents), many located beneath the Basilica. These include 91 popes, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, and the composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Exiled Catholic British royalty James Francis Edward Stuart and his two sons, Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati, are buried here, having been granted asylum by Pope Clement XI. Also buried here are Maria Clementina Sobieska, wife of James Francis Edward Stuart, Queen Christina of Sweden, who abdicated her throne in order to convert to Catholicism, and Countess Matilda of Tuscany, supporter of the Papacy during the Investiture Controversy. The most recent interment was Pope John Paul II, on 8 April 2005. Beneath, near the crypt, is the recently discovered vaulted 4th-century "Tomb of the Julii". (See below for some descriptions of tombs).

Artworks Edit

Towers and narthex Edit

  • In the towers to either side of the facade are two clocks. The clock on the left has been operated electrically since 1931. Its oldest bell dates from 1288.
  • One of the most important treasures of the basilica is a mosaic set above the central external door. Called the "Navicella", it is based on a design by Giotto (early 14th century) and represents a ship symbolizing the Christian Church. [9] The mosaic is mostly a 17th-century copy of Giotto's original.
  • At each end of the narthex is an equestrian figure, to the north Constantine the Great by Bernini (1670) and to the south Charlemagne by Cornacchini (18th century). [9]
  • Of the five portals from the narthex to the interior, three contain notable doors. The central portal has the Renaissance bronze door by Antonio Averulino (called Filarete) (1455), enlarged to fit the new space. The southern door, the Door of the Dead, was designed by 20th-century sculptor Giacomo Manzù and includes a portrait of Pope John XXIII kneeling before the crucified figure of Saint Peter.
  • The northernmost door is the "Holy Door" which, by tradition, is walled-up with bricks, and opened only for holy years such as the Jubilee year by the Pope. The present door is bronze and was designed by Vico Consorti in 1950 and cast in Florence by the Ferdinando Marinelli Artistic Foundry. Above it are inscriptions commemorating the opening of the door: PAVLVS V PONT MAX ANNO XIII and GREGORIVS XIII PONT MAX .

Recently installed commemorative plaques read above the door as follows:

Paul VI, Pontifex Maximus, opened and closed the holy door of this patriarchal Vatican basilica in the jubilee year of 1975.

John Paul II, Pontifex Maximus, opened and closed again the holy door closed and set apart by Pope Paul VI in 1976 in the jubilee year of human redemption 1983–1984.

John Paul II, Pontifex Maximus, again opened and closed the holy door in the year of the great jubilee, from the incarnation of the Lord 2000–2001.

Pope Francis opened and closed again the holy door, closed and set apart by Pope John Paul II in the year of the great jubilee 2000–2001, in the jubilee year of Mercy 2015–2016.

Older commemorative plaques are removed to make way for the new plaque when the holy door is opened and sealed.


Noravank was founded in 1105 by Bishop Hovhannes, a former abbot of Vahanavank near the present-day city of Kapan in Syunik. The monastic complex includes the church of S. Karapet, S. Grigor chapel with a vaulted hall, and the church of S. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God). Ruins of various civil buildings and khachkars are found both inside and outside of the compound walls. Noravank was the residence of the Orbelian princes. The architect Siranes and the miniature painter and sculptor Momik worked here in the latter part of the thirteenth and early fourteenth century.

The fortress walls surrounding the complex were built in the 17th–18th centuries.

Surb Astvatsatsin Church Edit

The grandest structure is Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), also called Burtelashen (Burtel's construction) in the honour of Prince Burtel Orbelian, its financier. It is situated to the south-east of the Surb Karapet church. Surb Astvatsatsin was completed in 1339, a masterpiece of the talented sculptor and miniaturist Momik, who designed it, and was also his last work. Near the church there is his tomb khachkar, small and modestly decorated, dated the same year. In recent times the fallen roof had been covered with a plain hipped roof. In 1997 the drum and its conical roof was rebuilt, with the form based on existing fragments. However, it has been criticized as being a "fantasy reconstruction". [1] The ground floor contained elaborate tombs of Burtel and his family. Narrow steps projecting from the west façade lead to the entrance into the church/oratory. There is fine relief sculpture over the entrance, depicting Christ flanked by Peter and Paul.

Burtelashen is a highly artistic monument reminiscent of the tower-like burial structures of the first years of Christianity in Armenia. It is a memorial church. Its ground floor, rectangular in plan, was a family burial vault the floor above, cross-shaped in plan, was a memorial temple crowned with a multi-columned rotunda.

Burtelashen is the dominant structure in Noravank. The original three-tier composition of the building is based on the increasing height of the tiers and the combination of the heavy bottom with the divided middle and the semi-open top. Accordingly, decoration is more modest at the bottom and richer at the top. Employed as decorative elements are columns, small arches, profiled braces forming crosses of various shapes, medallions, interlaced banding around windows and doors.

The western portal is decorated with special splendour. An important role in its decoration is played by the cantilevered stairs that lead to the upper level, with profiled butts to the steps. The doorways are framed with broad rectangular plaitbands, with ledges in the upper part, with columns, fillets and strips of various, mostly geometrical, fine and intricate patterns. Between the outer plathand and the arched framing of the openings there are representations of doves and sirens with women's crowned heads. Such reliefs were widely used in fourteenth-century Armenian art and in earlier times in architecture, miniatures and works of applied art, on various vessels and bowls. The entrance tympanums are decorated with bas-reliefs showing, on the lower tympanium, the Holy Virgin with the Child and Archangels Gabriel and Michael at her sides, and, on the upper tympanium, a half-length representation of Christ and figures of the Apostles Peter and Paul. As distinct from the reliefs of Noravank's vestry, these ones are carved on a plain surface, which gives them greater independence. The figures are distinguished by their plasticity of form, softness of modeling, and accentuation of certain details of clothing.

A group of the founders of Burtelashen is depicted on three columns of the western part of its rotunda. The picture consisted of relief figures of the Holy Virgin with the Child, sitting on a throne, and two standing men in rich attire, one of them holding a model of the temple.

Surb Karapet Church Edit

The second church is the Surb Karapet, a cross within square design with restored drum and dome built in 1216–1227, just north of the ruins of the original Surb Karapet, destroyed in an earthquake. The church was built by the decree of Prince Liparit Orbelian.

In 1340 an earthquake destroyed the dome of the church which in 1361 was reconstructed by the architect Siranes. In 1931 the dome was damaged during another earthquake. In 1949, the roof and the walls of the church were repaired. In 1998 the roof and drum was rebuilt with the aid of an Armenian-Canadian family.

Forming the western antechamber is an impressive gavit of 1261, decorated with splendid khachkars and with a series of inscribed gravestones in the floor. Note the famous carvings over the outside lintel. The church houses Prince Smbat Orbelian's mausoleum. The gavit was probably a four-pillar one. In 1321 the building, probably destroyed by an earthquake, was covered with a new roof in the shape of an enormous stone tent with horizontal divisions, imitating the wooden roof of the hazarashen—type peasant home. This made the structure quite different from other Armenian monuments of the same kind. The ceiling has four rows of brackets forming stalactite vaulting with a square lighting aperture at the top. A broad protruding girth over the half-columns, the deep niches with khachkars and the low tent-like ceiling almost devoid of decoration give the dimly lit interior a gloomy look.

The exterior decoration focus' mainly on the western facade where the entrance to the building is. Framed in two rows of trefoils and an inscription, the semi-circular tympanum of the door is filled with an ornament and with a representation of the Holy Virgin seated on a rug with the Child and flanked by two saints. The ornament also has large letters interlaced by shoots with leaves and flowers. The Holy Virgin is sitting in the Oriental way with Child. The pattern of the rug is visible with drooping tassels. In Syunik temples of the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries the cult of the Holy Virgin was widely spread. She was depicted in relief, and many churches were dedicated to her.

The pointed tympanum of the twin window over the door is decorated with a unique relief representation of the large-headed and bearded God the Father with large almond shaped eyes blessing the Crucifix with his right hand and holding in his left hand the head of John the Baptist, with a dove — the Holy Spirit — above it. In the right corner of the tympanum there is a seraph dove the space between it and the figure of the Father is filled with an inscription.

Surb Grigor Chapel Edit

The side chapel of Surb (Saint) Grigor was added by the architect Siranes to the northern wall of Surb Karapet church in 1275. The chapel contains more Orbelian family tombs, including a splendid carved lion/human tombstone dated 1300, covering the grave of Elikum son of Prince Tarsayich Orbelian. The modest structure has a rectangular plan, with a semi-circular altar and a vaulted ceiling on a wall arch. The entrance with an arched tympanum is decorated with columns, and the altar apse is flanked with khachkars and representations of doves in relief.

Khachkars Edit

The complex has several surviving khachkars. The most intricate of them all is a 1308 khachkar by Momik. Standing out against the carved background are a large cross over a shield-shaped rosette and salient eight-pointed stars vertically arranged on its sides. The top of the khachkar shows a Deesis scene framed in cinquefoil arches symbolizing a pergola as suggested by the background ornament of flowers, fruit and vine leaves.

Nature Edit

The area is a part of Gnisheek Prime Butterfly Area [2] and Noravank Important Bird Area. [3] A wide variety of animals and plants can be found here, such as the Bezoar Goat, Bearded Vulture, Alexanor butterfly, and others.

Brief Chronological History Edit

Before the 9th century - According to historian Stepanos Orbelian a church dedicated to St. Pokas stands on the monastery site.

800-900 - A church was built: sources call it St. Karapet's or Church of Svag Khoradzor. The name will later be transformed into Noravank (nor = new, vank = monastery), in 1221.

989 - Hovhannes the Scribe copies a Gospel for the priest Stepanos. It is so called Gospel of Etchmiadzin that contains some miniated pages of an earlier date which are some of the oldest and most famous examples of Armenian miniature art.

1105 - According to historian Stepanos Orbelian Bishop Hovhannes, abbot of the monastery of Vahanavank, moves to Noravank and helps to found the first nucleus of monks at the monastery. His brother, Prince Hamtum, then comes to the monastery and helps to develop it. The monastery is to become rich: it will own the two fortresses of Anapat and Hraseka, along with twelve farms.

1154 - Bishop Hovhannes dies and is buried in the monastery. According to the historian Stepanos Orbelian, this bishop had founded a church and connected buildings there is not trace of this complex left today.

1168 - Bishop Grigoris of Syunik dies and is buried in the monastery.

1170 - Bishop Stepanos, son of Bishop Grigoris, settles in Noravank, choosing it as the seat of the bishopric. Hs is to obtain the Valley of Agarak and fortress of Anapat as donation to the monastery from Mongol Sultan Yelkduz, along with exception from taxes on church property.

1201 - This date is found on a khachkar at the southern entrance of the Church of St. Karapet.

1216 - Bishop Stepanos dies and is buried in the monastery. Father Sargis, his successor, shares the monastery's property with Tatev.

1216-1221 - Prince Liparit Orbelian and Bishop Sargis build a church in the monastery: sources refer to it as the Church of St. Stepanos Noravank (the protomartyr).

1221 - Bishop Sargis, grandson of Archbishop Stepanos, builds the Church of St. Karapet as the burial chapel for the family. According to the historian Stepanos Orbelian, the church was built by the will of Liparit Orbelian, founder of the dynasty, and building work lasted seven years, ending in 1228. A khachkar in the west wall of the gavit is dedicated Nazar and Nazlu.

1222 - A memorial to Vasak, who died of a premature death, is inscribed on a khachkar on the south wall of the gavit.

1223 - A Church of St. Stepanos is consecrated and Prince Bupak donates the village of Aghberis to the monastery to commemorate the occasion.

1223-1261 - A gavit is built in the monastery.

13th century - Khatun, daughter of Khalkhashah, donates 300 pieces of silver and an orchard to the monastery.

1232 - A certain Gorg makes various donations to the monastery.

1240 - This date in on a khachkar inside the gavit.

1256 - A certain Shatluys donates an orchard to the monastery.

1260 - Bishop Ter-Stepan of Syunik dies and is buried in the monasteries gavit.

1261 - Prince Smbat Orbelian restores the monasteries gavit, perhaps with the aid of Bishop Sargis and architect Siranes. There are two inscriptions on the gavit walls bearing the dates 1232 and 1256: this indicates that there was previously another building on the site, and its stones were used for the gavit. In this same year, Prince Smbat donates various goods to the monastery for the salvation of the soul of his brother, Prince Burtel. Near the khachkar in the gavit there is another, erected in memory of Burtel, son of Elikum, grandson of Liparit. Another kachkar recalls Burtel, son of "prince of princes" Smbat.

1270-1290 - This is the date on a kachkar inside the refectory-hospice that has now partially collapsed.

1271 - A Noravank inscription mentions the name "hovatun" as being a building of unknown purpose.

Before 1273 - An inscription reveals that the "prince of princes" Smbat has donated lands and orchards to the monastery.

1273 - King Smbat dies: he was the elder brother of Prince Tarsaich and is buried in the monastery.

1273-1290 - Bishop Sargis builds a hospice close to the monastery and donates various goods to it: the proceeds are used to provide pilgrims with food and drink.

1275 - Prince Tarsaich builds a burial chapel for his brother Smbat and building, the work of architect Siranes, will subsequently house all family tombs.

1277 - A kachkar is erected on the tomb of Prince Mahevan, son of Senekerim, King of Syunik.

1285 - Kukor erects kachkar on the tombs of his brother Palka and his mother Aspi.

1287 - Stepanos Orbelian becomes metropolitan of Syunk. He is one of the most prestigious men of culture and politics in medieval Armenia. He is to leave numerous works of poetry and essays on history. He finally succeeds in uniting the monasteries of Tatev and Noravank.

2nd half of 13th century - A bridge is built to connect the monastery with the region.

1290 - An inscription mentioning the death of the "prince of princes" Tarsaich can be seen at the east entrance of the chapel.

1291 - Amira, grandson of Djurdj, buys an orchard for 4000 pieces of silver and donates it to the monastery.

1292 - The architect-scribe Momik transcribes a beautiful Gospel for the brothers Hovhannes and Tadeos Princess Mina Khatun, daughter of King Djala of the Aghuank and wife of Tarsaich, donates many goods to the monastery.

1298 - Ter Sargis, bishop of Syunik, dies and is buried in the monastery. Stepanos, bishop of Syunik and son of "prince of princes" Tarsaich, makes an important donation to the monastery. Princess Mina Khatun is buried in the monastery.

1299 - In the monastery of Noravank, metropolitan and historian Stepanos Orbelian finishes his great work entitled History of the Province of Syunik (Patmut'yun Nahangin Sisakan).

1300 - Prince Elikum Orbelian dies and is buried in the monastery, in the Chapel of St Grigor the tomb of the prince, son of Tarsaich, bears a human representation with a lion's tail and paws: these characteristics were attributed to him for his courage in war. Stepanos Orbelian finishes his poem "Lament on Behalf of the Cathedral" (" Voghb i dimats surb Katoghikeyin ").

1302 - The architect-scribe Momik writes and miniates a Gospel for Stepanos Orbelian.

1303 - Metropolitan Stepanos Orbelian dies and is buried in the monastery. Sandjar, son of Tankarghul, donates an orchard to the monastery on the birth of his son.

1303-1324 - The abbot of monastery is Hovhannes-Orbel, nephew of Prince Liparit. By his will, the architect Momik is to build the Church of St. Astvatsatsin at Areni. Also by his will, numerous codices are written in manuscript.

1304 - Momik erects a khachkar to the memory of metropolitan Stepanos Orbelian.

1305 - An inscription on his tomb mentions the death of Bishop Grigor of Syunik.

1307 - Momik and Poghos "vardapet" write and miniate a Gospel.

1308 - Tamta Khatun, mother of Prince Burtel, erects a beautiful kachkar made by the architect Momik.

1312 - Tamta Khatun, mother of Prince Burtel, is buried in the chapel of King Smbat. Grigor, nephew of Prince Dop, donates various orchards to the monastery.

1318 - Bughta, brother of Burtel, is buried in the chapel of King Smbat and a kachkar is erected in his memory.

1320-1322 - The priest Sargis, nephew of Archbishop Stepanos of Syunik, builds the church of Noravank.

1321 - St. Karapet's building is probably damaged by an earthquake.

1324 - Hovhannes-Orbel, metropolitan of Syunik, dies and is buried in the monastery.

1324-1331 - Stepanos Tarsaich Orbelian becomes abbot of the monastery. A student of chief vardapet Esayi Nshetsi of University of Gladzor, he is to build the Zorats church in the region of Yeghegis.

1331-1339 - Prince Burtel, as is mentioned in the inscription on the west entrance, builds the Church of St. Astvatsatsin, the so-called "Burtelashen", in the monastery.

1333 - The architect-sculpture-painter Momik dies and is buried in the monastery. The scribe Kiuron re-copies a manuscript by order of Grigoris.

1345 - Gontse, daughter of Paron Khosrovik, donates Khangah orchard to the monastery for salvation of the soul of Amad.

15th century - The architectural model of the two-story funerary chapel spreads throughout Syunik and all monasteries build chapel of the same type.

1476 - The scribe Poghos re-copies a Gospel.

1486 - Davit Darbin erects a kachkar in the monastery to the memory of Tukhik.

1569 - Bishop Eghishe erects a kachkar to the memory of his uncle Bishop Arakel.

1628 - Tuma Abegha writes Gospel in the monastery.

1600-1700 - Fortified walls, a hospice and various other buildings are constructed in the monastery.

1755 - A battle is fought between Hadji Pasha, who has taken over the monastery, and the armies of Isa Ashag.

1813 - The Persian King, Shah Fatail, hands the monastery to Petros Bek Orbelian and orders the proceeds from the village of Amaghu be given to the monastery for its running and maintenance.

1840 - An earthquake damages the monastery.

1948-1949 - The Committee for the Conservation of Monuments in Soviet Armenia begins restoration works on the monastery. A. Balasanyan draws up the projects.

1982-1983 - Renewed consolidation, restoration and excavation works at the monastery begin. [ need quotation to verify ]

1995 - Because of its over restoration, Noravank is denied entry to UNESCO's World Heritage List. [4]

1997 - The drum and conical dome of the Surb Astvatsatsin church is rebuilt. [5]

Infant Jesus of Prague Byzantine Catholic Church Boardman, OH

Originally dedicated to SS. Peter and Paul,·Infant Jesus of Prague Church began in 1907 when a group of Struthers, Ohio residents purchased property there for a future church at 111 Frank Street.· These Byzantine Catholics attended St. Mary Church and later, St. Nicholas Church in Youngstown until their own church finally was erected in 1917.· Father Anthony Mhley was the first itinerant pastor of this new church.· The first resident pastor was Father Peter Racz, and it was under his administration that a rectory was built.

In 1946, Father Emil J. Mihalik was appointed pastor.· During his administration the church was remodeled.· Father Mihalik was responsible for promoting the establishment of the Byzantine Catholic Central School, which would serve five parishes of the Youngstown area.· Father Mihalik also was instrumental in employing the talents of the Sister Servants of Mary to staff the school, which was built in 1954 on Youngstown-Poland Road.

Father George B. Petro was assigned to SS. Peter and Paul Church in 1958.·· Because many parishioners were moving to the suburbs, Father Petro recognized the necessity of moving the church to a more favorable location.· Under his guidance, a 115-acre site was purchased on South Avenue in Boardman, and a new church was built in 1970.· Along with a new physical church came a new parish name: Infant Jesus of Prague.

In 1982, a new 30-foot high dome was built above the original roof.· This dome was topped by a 20-foot high drum and “onion” dome.

In 1990, Monsignor Alexis Mihalik was appointed pastor.· Under his guidance, the interior of the church was remodeled to effect conformity with the liturgical prescriptions of the Byzantine Catholic Church.· Along with a chandelier and iconography adorning church walls, a one-tiered red oak icon screen was installed and a matching tetrapod was purchased, both of which were carved in Greece.

Former pastor Father Christopher R. Burke, with guidance from now-retired Monsignor Mihalik, oversaw restorative work to the church in 2010. In August 2011, a mosaic icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was transferred from the Byzantine Catholic Central School (which closed in 2009) in nearby Poland, Ohio to Infant Jesus of Prague Church. The mosaic was moved and restored by Eikona Studios of Cleveland, and funded by generous donations from parishioners and parish organizations.

Access [ edit | edit source ]

The basilica is open all day, every day:

The public areas of the monastery have separate access arrangements, and there is an admission charge. Unfortunately the opening is later:

8:30 to 18:00 (according to the basilica's website, June 2018).

Visitors in recent years have found the monastery's public entrance shut for lunch from 13:00 to 15:00, especially in August. This was apparently owing to difficulties over staffing (the monastery provides its own staff, and does not rely on the Vatican employees in the basilica).

The monastery gardens are sometimes visitable via a guided tour. See the abbey website (link below).

The number of visitors has certainly fallen substantially since the latter part of the 20th century. On the other hand, visitors tend to be genuine pilgrims rather than tourists and this is possibly the major basilica with the most prayerful atmosphere.

The only reasonable way to get here is via the Metro. The parallel bus service on the Via Ostiense is unreliable.

The basilica is part of the Seven Church Walk.

It is possible to combine a visit to the basilica with one to the Trappist abbey of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio alle Tre Fontane. The 761 bus terminates and waits for passengers at the Largo Beato Riccardi which is south of the main crossroads west of the station at San Paolo.

Vank Cathedral (Tbilisi)

The Armenian church of old Tbilisi, known as Vank Cathedral, is properly named Church of the Holy Mother of God of the Mens Monastery. It was also known as Arantsvank or Pasha vank - Cathedral of the Holy Fathers, and later - Astvatsatsin (Holy Virgin). This Armenian Cathedral was the largest religious building of the old Tbilisi.

Vank Cathedral, located on the surveyed well with all parties in the place of the old town in the area Tapitah (in Georgian version - Gareubani - "Skin and quarter"), a few meters from the right bank of the Kura River. Tapitah, in turn, is divided into several blocks, one of which was known as "Vank." In addition to palaces, mansions and gardens belonging to members of noble families in the region Tapitah are, also, crafts and trade stalls, a caravanserai and a few Armenian churches in particular - and Kamoyants Zrkinyants St. Gevorg. Sam Vanksky Cathedral located on Grand Street Vankskoy (later - Gareubanskaya now - Atoneli).

The cathedral was built of high quality bricks. The composition is unique to the construction of medieval Armenian architecture. According to the characteristics of the professor, corresponding member of NAS RA, MM Asratyan, the church was a domed basilica with three naves and three pairs of domes. All three ended in the nave on the east side semicircular adder equal size, not protruding from a rectangular loop exterior walls. Aisles, covered with vaults with separate gable roof, crossed in front of these adder transept, over which were built three of the dome. Three of the altar of the temple were decorated with beautiful frescoes and devoted, respectively: average - the Mother of God, North - Holy Apostles, South - St. Gregory the Illuminator. The decoration of the temple were used, besides the Armenian and Persian elements and decorative arts. Russian writer and traveler, Eugene Markov wrote that the main shrine of the Armenians - Vank Cathedral of Zion was much more original. He noted the tower, covered with beautiful blue tiles, entrances with arches, painted with colors and gilding, embedded in the exterior walls khachkars with sculpted images. "Inside the temple altars are in the line of the iconostasis. Rear seats for women separated peculiar wall, and choirs from the eyes of their closed part of the lattice. Generally in this area in all the surrounding streets are living almost exclusively Armenians. " And here is how the construction of this wonderful Professor L. Melikset-Beck, "three naves, and trehaltarny trehkupolny Vank cathedral-like three-nave chapel porch, and attached to the church of Blessed Virgin Sanahin Cathedral."

Documentary historical evidence of the date of the grounds and buildings of the original Vank church has survived. There are some quite contradictory and mutually exclusive versions. The earliest date of foundation is given by the Armenian priest Gyutom Aganyantsem. According to his information, the original church was built during the time of St. Gregory the Illuminator in the IV century, from her, he said, in a subsequent fragments of the church walls in the eastern facade of the temple. Date of foundation of the same cathedral Aganyantsem is based on the registry of the Armenian antiquities Tiflis. According to these data, the cathedral was built in 931, the spiritual brothers - Umekom, Sudzhapom, and Aryutsem Dzhalapom.

According to a member of the Congregation of Venice Mkhitarists M. Bzhishkyantsa, the original church was founded at the beginning of VII century and was called the Church Katoghike. It was destroyed during one of the Ottoman invasion in Tiflis.

In 1480 the cathedral was rebuilt, and it was done so thoroughly that later some researchers (eg, I. Ioseliani) was seen as the founding date of the year: "The building cost Tiflis mokalakov Avsarkisova, Bastamova, and Nazarbegova Okaev, as well as the Georgian tavada Solagova in 1480. "

There is a theory that the original church was founded much later - in the last quarter of the XVI century. In 1630 the church was renovated, "a kind of Pope Iosifovich Shergilyantsem." Moreover, states that while it increased in size three times. In 1715 the church underwent restoration again - this time at the initiative of George and Perigulyana Melkonov Bastamyana.

According to the epigraphic inscriptions on the south wall of the temple in 1720, during the reign of Vakhtang VI-th, on the foundation of the ancient church began construction of a new church. Construction took place during the reign of Catholicos of the Armenian Church Astvatsatur I-th (1715-1725 gg.): "Thanks to our Lord Jesus in the kingdom of the king of Georgia Vakhtang and his son Bagrat hristomoguchego and patriarchy srbazana Astvatsatur, when leadership is astapatskogo vardapet Petros built the Church of the Holy Name Illuminator ours, their means of pious Khwaja Guluntsa Giorgi, in memory of him and his parents and wife and sons all bogokrepshih. Now, reading this, ask the Lord for pardon. " Of the other relating to the temple of epigraphy, we note the inscription on the restoration of one of the domes in the 1199 Armenian chronology (1750), as well as the rebuilding of the temple complex, done during the reign of King Irakli II-nd in 1237 (1788) . In 1800 the cathedral, according to J. Ioseliani, has been updated "great zeal mokalaka Tiflis, archpriest Ter-Kazar Lazarova."

In the XIX century cathedral Vanksky subjected not only to many changes, but also supplemented with additional facilities: a museum, and the gates of the residence, which bears the inscription on the wall survived to the present day bell tower: "At the end of the verbal instructions of the spiritual father of my narodolyubivogo Nerses Catholicos of All Armenians, has ended residence in Tiflis, the 1861st I, Sarkis, humble Bishop Hassan Dzhalalyants, and I pray I remember a day when words run out, and it will reign. "

In 1882 the project was considered complete destruction of the temple and build in its place an entirely new church. However, March 4, 1884 a commission composed Chithyana O., A. Mantashev Tsovyanova I., A. Shamharyantsa, G. and A. Sundukyan Sundukyantsa decided that the restoration of the cathedral, which was completed in 1901. Novopomazanie church leader made the archbishop of the diocese Gevorg Surenyants.

In the case of Vank cathedral, it actually is not about one church, but about the whole religious complex. In the cathedral complex, besides the church, were also the residence of the abbot, accommodation (according to 1816 there were 23), Ter-Gukasova sarcophagus, three-tiered bell tower, a chapel, church gate and fence circumferential wall. Close to the conciliar complex adjoined a large Armenian cemetery, known since the Middle Ages. Wank for a long time served as the cathedral of the Armenian archbishops Georgia-Imereti Diocese of the Armenian Church.

French traveler Jean Chardin XVII century wrote: "Pasha Wank - that is," Pasha convent. " In this monastery inhabited by the Armenian Bishop of Tiflis. Church of the so-called because, according to the Armenians, built some pasha who had fled from Turkey and in this city has accepted Christianity. " The legend, of course, beautiful and entertaining. However, given the fact that the Armenians - citizens of the Ottoman Empire - the same happened, bore the title "pashas," we believe that Chardin was wrong, and the temple, of course, was founded by the Armenians - may come from Western Armenia.

It is known that Vanksky Cathedral has been studied and the German naturalist and explorer Johann Gyuldenshtedtom, who copied and translated into German some of the available epigraphic inscriptions here.

A member of the Congregation of Venice Mkhitarists Bzhishkyants M., who was in Tbilisi 20 years of the XIX-th century, wrote about Vankskogo Cathedral: "The hotel is located in the quarter Tapitah and is the residence of the Archbishop. It has three terraced altar, and five domes, decorated inside with frescoes different. " Mentioned Vankskom Cathedral in his memoirs, and the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II-nd.

In the fence Vank Cathedral - famous at the time of Vank ayate - was buried the ashes of many of Armenian social, political and religious leaders and philanthropists, including the second person in the nomenclature hierarchy of the Russian Empire, the author of the first Russian constitution, Count Mikhail Loris-Melikov (d. in 1888), the leaders of the diocese - Archbishop Gabriel Aivazian (1880), Esai Astvatsaturyana and Karekin Satunyana (1910), Bishop Khoren Stepanyan (1890), as well as the heroes of the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. Generals Arzasa (Arshak) Ter-Gukasova (1881), Ivan Lazarev (1879) and Bebutov Shelkovnikova (1878), Chief Editor of "Ardzagank" Abgar Ioannisian (1904), Chief Editor of "Megu Hayastani" Simonyants Petros (1891), urban Goals - Poghos Izmailyantsa (1895) and Alexander Matinyan (1909), State Councilor Davit Gorganyantsa (1900), playwright Gabriel Sundukyan (1912, his remains were reburied in the Pantheon of Armenian Culture in Tbilisi), patron Hovsep Efendiev (1862) and many others. Here in the churchyard were family tomb (mausoleum) and a chapel erected over the grave of a famous industrialist and philanthropist of Armenian Mantashev Alexander (1911, remains were reburied in the churchyard in St. Echmiadznetsots).

In 1815 in one of the smaller rooms of the temple Catholicos Nerses Ashtaraketsi opened the first elementary school for 20 students. In 1822 in the cemetery in Vank Tapitahe the construction of the seminary, which was completed in 1825. In the yard of the Seminary was founded by Armenian printing house, where in 1858 a book was published "Wounds of Armenia" Khachatur Abovyan - the first book in ashkharabar. In 1893 at the initiative of Mikhail Tamamsheva and the means of patron Avetis Ghukasian in the wall of the cathedral began construction of the complex religious and historical (Gukasyanovskogo) museum, which was inaugurated on the feast day Vardanants February 21, 1902 Catholicos of All Armenians Mkrtich Hrimyanom. During the genocide Wank ayat was a place where there is usually going to Armenian refugees from the Ottoman Empire - people looking for each other and their families.

After the Sovietization of Georgia church for some time been in a derelict state. In 1938 the city authorities to address the religious complex of Vank, among other places of worship of the old Tbilisi, was simply wiped out. And the first from the local Armenian population of deceit and threats to collect signatures in support of this decision. This is how it was written in the Georgian Soviet press, "Representation of the Board granted the application of Tiflis Tiflis workers Armenians, who were asked to destroy the building Vank church. Land will be allotted for the construction of the Armenian complete high school. " So, in place of the temple was built and still valid school number 104, in 1939 destroyed the building Gukasyanovskogo museum. At the same time, the Communists razed to the ground and the famous Vankskoe church cemetery. Silent graves were opened, and ruthlessly destroyed. Many valuable things the deceased joined the foundations of local museums. That's what the witnesses told later:

"Loris-Melikov was lying in a coffin as a living, but after a few seconds after the coffin lid was removed, the dust turned black and disintegrated. At the same time, apparently, the children carried off to play with the dress uniform epaulettes, and the bishop's cross from the neighboring grave. However, since the cross was decorated with gold and precious stones, followed quickly came . Where are the epaulettes of his uniform, Loris-Melikov, nobody knows. Dust was later reburied in the courtyard of St. Gevorg church today - the main Armenian Church Tbilisi. " We add that in addition to the dust of the Count Loris-Melikov, in the courtyard of the Church of St. Gevorg able to rebury the remains of the generals Ter-Gukasova, Lazarev and Shelkovnikova.

Today there is no old Vank. All that remains of the church complex Vankskogo today - is the spire of the bell tower survived miraculously, but part of the building's residence, which is now an ordinary apartment building.

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