The first Christians appeared in ancient Persia in the II century. Even before our era, Christians, mainly Armenians and Persians were neighbors. The history of ancient Persia and ancient Armenia has always been closely connected, and it is not surprising that after the adoption of Christianity in Armenia, Christian churches appeared in Persia. To date, several Christian churches and temples have been preserved in the territory of modern Iran, attracting a large number of Christians from neighboring Armenia and around the world.
The Monastery of St. Stepanos
In the Eastern Azerbaijan province there is a monastery of St. Stepanos of XI century, but according to legend the church was built by Saint Bartholomew in 62 year. The temple is considered a masterpiece of the architecture of both Armenian and north-western Iran.
The temple is located 15 km from the city of Julfa, near the banks of the Araks. Until recently, a narrow path led to the temple, now the road leads to the temple. The structure was seriously damaged during the Mongol invasion in 1330, but it was completely restored. The temple is decorated with frescoes unique for both Armenian and Iranian architecture. In the east side there is a structure with ramparts and towers.
The history of the temple is closely connected with the Safavid dynasty. In the 15th century, during the struggle between the Safavid dynasty and the Turks, and after the occupation of Western Armenia by the Turks, the local people were moved from the territory and the monastery was emptied. In the XVII century the Safavids regained power, and the monastery restored its former glory.
The monastery is not functioning, however, once a year, pilgrims come to the monastery from Armenia.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior or Vank is considered the largest of the existing Christian churches in Iran. The structure is rather noticeable from the outside, however, after crossing the doors of the temple, a luxurious structure opens. Vank Cathedral was built in 1664 in the Armenian district of Isfahan, which was later named New Julfa.
The interior of the cathedral in truly luxurious: the walls are decorated with gilded carvings, frescoes depicting the life of Jesus Christ. The cathedral has a large dome decorated with frames from the Old Testament beginning with the history of the creation of the world, Adam and expulsion from Eden. At the bottom, the dome is painted with frames from the Armenian genocide in 1915. Every year on April 23, the church holds a mass in memory of the victims killed by the hands of the Turks.
Famous Armenians are buried on the territory of the cathedral. There is also a tea house and a library with rare Armenian manuscripts and the Vank museum. The museum displays expositions about the history of the cathedral and New Julfa, national clothes of that era, documents, photographs, as well as a unique Bible weighting only 7 grams.
Surb Sargis Church
The main Armenian church on the territory of Iran is located in Tehran. The construction of the church was completed in 1970. The church was built on the funds of the Sarkisyan brothers who built it in memory of their parents.
After the completion of the construction, the Episcopal Department of the Armenian church was moved to the Surb Sargis church.
The outer walls of the church are made of white marble, it has two bell towers and a dome. The dome was built without supporting columns and after a while there was a danger that the ceiling would collapse. To support the dome, additional columns were built.
Church of Dzorzor
In Western Azerbaijan, there is another Armenian church Dzorzor. The church was built in the 7th century. After the construction, the church was repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes and reconstructed. The place of the church was changed in 1988, moving 600 meters higher, as the structure was located in the territory of the future dam.
The monastery of Saint Thaddeus
The monastery is considered to be the first Christian building on the territory of Iran. The monastery is located in the province of Western Azerbaijan, near the city of Maku. According to legend, the monastery was built on the site of the tomb of the apostle Thaddeus. In the XIV century the monastery was partially destroyed by an earthquake, it was rebuilt in the XIX century.
St. Nicholas Church
The St. Nicholas Church was built in 1905 for Russians who lived in Iran and worked on the construction of the Anzali-Tehran highway. At that time, the Russians went to the Armenian church for baptism and marriage. An Orthodox church was built for the settlement, a school was built after the construction of a church.
The church has the form of a cross with a blue dome and a semicircular altar. The doors adorn the columns and the roof. In the courtyard of the church, Russian figures are buried, as well as the engineer of the Anzali-Tehran road.
Today the church is turned into a museum and is open only when visitors gather.