Vank Cathedral is an Armenian Apostolic Church. The cathedral’s eye-catching interior decorations have turned it into a popular attraction in Isfahan.
There is a story behind the construction of Vank Cathedral. Back in the early 16th century, tens of thousands of Armenians moved from the town Julfa in Nakhchivan to Isfahan during the Ottoman-Safavid war. They settled in what is now called the New Julfa district of the city which became a sanctuary for Christians fleeing persecution. Today, the neighborhood hosts the largest population of Armenians in Iran. The Armenians began constructing the church in 1606 and completed it decades later in 1664. The building incorporates elements of both 17th-century Safavid and Islamic architecture.
Unlike its modest exterior which you might even find uninviting, the building’s interior is quite elaborate and elegant. The ornate ceiling and walls covered with gilded frescoes depict the most important episodes of the Jesus Christ’s life. There are also paintings depicting the Biblical story of creation and man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Blending the Islamic-Iranian art with the Christian art, the interior will undoubtedly win your attention.
You will also find the nearby museum quite informative. It showcases important documents about the history of the Armenian settlement in Isfahan. It is also home to a large number of Bible manuscripts, artifacts and photographs. Look out for the piece of human hair, measuring only about 0.004-inch in thickness, with the inscription of a short religious text in Armenian. The text is only is visible through a microscope.
Furthermore, the courtyard of Vank Cathedral features a two-story bell tower and a monument for the victims of the Armenian genocide during the Ottoman Empire.