Norashen Church In Tbilisi
Posted 04 March 2005 - 02:39 AM
A few months ago, hundred year old Georgian grave stones, carrying Georgian inscriptions, suddenly appeared in the courtyard of the Armenian Church Norashen. Rather, they were transported here. Our photographer and cameraman filmed these stones still wrapped in their iron wires, thrown randomly into the church’s courtyard. In the meantime these stones have been neatly lined up and safely installed along the church’s wall. The reasoning behind is crystal clear: these actions serve to “prove” that the church is in fact a Georgian orthodox one, as according to the words of the Georgian priest, Father Tariel, the Armenians would have never let the Georgians bury in their dead in front of their own church. At the same time as the Georgian stones were brought from an unknown cemetery to Tbilisi, the Armenian ones, located on the other side of the church were found vandalised – the Armenian inscriptions had been destroyed.
The Church Norashen is located in Tbilisi, on Leselidze Street, flanked on the left by a Greek church, now transformed into a Georgian orthodox one, on the right by the Georgian Church Sioni and a few more meters further down the synagogue the mosque. For centuries, the different confessions have lived side by side in peace and friendship.
Norashen was founded in 1467 and renovated in 1650 by Nazar. At this time, the great cupola was rebuilt by Master Petros. A series of renovations followed in 1795, 1808 and in 1875. The Lidatamashian and Vartanov families and Katarina Pridonian are buried next to the Church. In 1924-25, a committee consisting of Georgian officials suggests to completely destroy the church to allow for the construction of the “Armenian Bazaar” street (now Leselidze). The majority of the committee members approved this decision. However, on 2 July 1925, Severov put the issue on the agenda again and ferociously opposing the project, succeeded in stopping the destruction. Later yet, during the Soviet era, the church was transformed into an archive.
Eventually, in 1989, shortly before Georgia’s independence and under the influence of the ultra-nationalist Gamsakhurdia, the Georgians intensified and multiplied their actions aimed at appropriating the church in order to transform it into a Georgian orthodox one. They reached their climax in 1994, when the local Armenians started worrying after having been informed that all valuable books were being taken from the archive. All that was left were Marx’s and Lenin’s complete works, which led to believe that Norashen would have the same fate as Karmir Avetaran, which once used to be Tbilisi’s highest Armenian church (40m high) before being completely destroyed in an explosion in the fall of 1989.
On 25 January 1995, the Armenians living in the vicinity of Norashen noticed that apparent renovation works had started inside the church. An official protest, delivered on 2 February by the Armenian Ambassador in Georgia, H.E. Khatchatrian and the president of the Armenian Association of Charity and Culture, Mr. Muradian, to the Georgian priest in charge of the renovation works, Father Tariel, were countered with contempt. Three days later, Ter Yerishe, the Armenian priest, caught this same Tariel, axe in hand, at the renovation works - that is demolishing the High Altar. Ter Yerishe told him: “You, who are supposed to be serving the Lord, you destroy the Lord’s house. Take off your cross and your coat at least!” Father Tariel to answer: “I am a priest and I do what I have been told.” On 8 February, the Master Petros’ inscription on the wall, telling the reconstruction of the cupola in 1650, was wiped out. Other Armenian inscriptions, two khtatshkars and two magnificent frescoes of the Hovnatanyan School from the 19th century were also damaged and destroyed.
In days following these acts of vandalism, a group of Armenians in the company of a photographer were barred from entering the church, instead they were greeted with fascistic insults by the Georgians and priests. They were attacked and the photographer, who ducked to protect his camera, only managed to escape after the intervention of one the Armenian women in the group, who jumped at the priest pulling his beard and throwing him down.
On 15 February, the church was consecrated according to the Georgian orthodox rite.
One month later, the Archbishops Garegin and Grigoris came from Armenia to Tbilisi, where they met with Iliad II, the Georgian Patriarch and it was decided to stop all actions until the advent of better times. The church has been closed since.
Now, after the appearance of the fake Georgian graves, emotions are flying high again with consequences not to be foreseen. For Father Abgar, the Armenian priest in Tbilisi, there is no doubt that Norashen shall open its doors again as Armenian Apostolic Church and that the tombstones must be returned to their places of origin. Alas, the cases of vandalism and appropriation of Armenian cultural heritage, including Armenian cemeteries, have not ceased to increase over the past decades, Norashen being just one sad example among many others.
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Levon A. Isakhanyan
Posted 06 March 2005 - 09:34 PM
Friday, March 04, 2005
Armenian action in Tbilisi
Peaceful procession was held in Tbilisi in March 3, 2005 with the
participation of Georgian and Armenian Youth representatives.
The action was organized by Association of Armenians -`Nor Serund' and NCYOG
(National Council of Youth Organizations of Georgia).
The Union of Armenian Youth of Georgia and Armenian Cooperation Centre of
Georgia also took part in this action. The main cause of the action was the
raised excitement around the Armenian Church Norashen.
By this procession the youth showed its unity and the fact that there is no
problem between them, in spite of the existed moot point between Georgian
and Armenian churches. The participants of the action called the churches to
enter into negotiation for solving the existed problem. The procession was
held in the district of the old Tbilisi. The youth gathered at the Cathedral
Sioni, lit candles, then the procession moved towards the church Nor Ashen.
The procession ended in the Armenian church St.Gevorg, where the youth was
met by the representatives of Armenian Apostolic Eparchy in Georgia. Father
Abgar in his speech expressed his hope in quick solving of the problem, and
blessed the participants of the action.
Georgian mass media vividly covered this action.
Posted 22 December 2006 - 10:14 AM
I found this story concerning. I'm a Greek married to a Georgian, and I've been there three times now. I have a strong view about this. It's not something created by Georgians. They are friendly and fair. No, this is something spurred by the Georgian Orthodox Church leadership. I'm going to mention this to my priest, who happens to be in charge of the top Greek Orthodox Church in North America, which provides satellite and internet covered services to Orthodox Christians around the world. Father Stephanopolous, yes also the father of George, will likely speak with some important figures in our church to further research this topic. I hope we can find some solution if this is in fact true. These actions, if correctly reported here, are not something representative of Georgians or Georgia or Orthodox Christians, and something shoud be done. While I'm at it, check out my website:
It's a financial advisory site, providing daily pre-market insight into what is moving markets that particular day. I think you'll like it.
Posted 23 December 2006 - 12:25 PM
Posted 23 December 2006 - 11:59 PM
In fact, the destructive and unfriendly policy of the Eastern Orthodox churches and the persecutions against Armenians ceased somewhere in the late 20's of the last century. Throughout her history the Eastern Orthodox Church has proved to be one of the most dogmatic, reactionist and abusive religious institution.
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