The most memorable church in Julfa, the Yank (in Armenian, the general word monastery Church is also referred to as the Cathedral of All Saviors. It is the most important architectural and artistic treasure of the Armenian Christians in Esfahan. The construction of the cathedral began during the reign of Shah Abbas II. However, only several years after its completion, it was rebuilt, and this time the process lasted for nine years.
The Armenian community provided the building expenses, while the interior paintings were accomplished with the financial assistance of Khajeh Avadich Stepanusian. All of the paintings are the work of Armenian craftsmen, who learnt their craft in Europe and were obviously influenced by Dutch and Italian masters. The dados of the church's inner walls are covered with rich ceramics dating from 1710-1716. Inside and outside the church, there are also many inscriptions that invite the readers to pray for the constructor of the church and his descendants. The portal inscription is in Armenian and contains the name of Shah Abbas II and the dates of 1104 and 1113 of the Armenian calendar (1692 and 1701 A.D.) as the dates of the commencement and completion of the church.
The freestanding square belfry is located in front of the entrance to the building. There is also a graveyard occupying a part of the church's courtyard. Among the most important persons buried here are Archbishop Khachatur Gesaratsi, the founder of the first Iranian printing-house, and Archbishop David, the founder of the present structure of the Yank Church. There are also the graves of Sir George Malcolm, an English colonel, Alexander Decover, Russian consul and director of the Imperial Russian Bank in Iran, and Andrew Jukes, English doctor and a representative of the East Indian Company in 1804. The grounds surrounding the Yank Church also comprise a museum, a library, and an administrative section.
The two-story building of the museum houses antiquities, relating mainly to the history and religion of the Armenians in Julfa. The museum's collection contains more than 700 richly illuminated manuscripts, among them ancient Gospels (the earliest dating from the 9th century) and Korans, as well as the first book that was printed in Iran. Other objects include wooden crosses, tabernacles, monstrances and other sacred receptacles, and paintings bought in Europe by Armenian merchants. Just behind the entrance to the hall, the visitor can read under a microscope a passage from the Proverbs that is written on a hair. To the right of the entrance is an interesting collection of royal orders issued by the Safavid kings.
Ladies will perhaps enjoy seeing the costumes of Safavid times, as well as samples of leatherwork, embroideries, and tapestries. Here are also exhibited a printing press dated 1841 (the third oldest in Iran) and several religious books that are among the first to be printed in Julfa. In the left wing of the hall is exhibited the world's smallest book - The Lord's Prayer - printed on 14 pages in Germany and weighing 0.7 g, as well as the 15th-century Monolagium weighing about 16.5 kg. The paintings include Greek, Indian, Italian, Flemish, Russian, and Armenian art, ranging from the 16th to the 20th century. Among them is Rembrandt's sketch of Abraham. To the left from the entrance is an imposing stand dedicated to the Armenian genocide of 1915.
The museum's second floor is especially notable for the remains of the demolished Aineh-Khaneh Palace (p63). Here are also preserved documents dealing with the Armenian participation in the Constitutional Revolution in the early 20th century as well as the personal belongings of their leader, Yeprem Khan. Some Persian tile work, engraved stones, coins and moneyboxes, and Egyptian linen used in the coffin of a mummy complete the exhibition.
The museum's library contains some 700 manuscripts and 1,000 books in Armenian. The library also holds a copy of the first book printed by Armenians in Esfahan and a copy of the history of Julfa written in 1881 by Harutun Daruhanian.
The entrance to the area is marked by a high clock tower that Was donated to the church in 1930.
The courtyard of the complex has four sculptures. Two of them, located in front of the museum, portray Mesrop Mashtots, the inventor of the Armenian script, and Khachatur Gesaratsi. Two others, located in front of the library, depict the famous Armenian 4
poets, Barur Sevak and Hovannes Shiraz. In 1975, a memorial was installed in the Courtyard of the church to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Annenian genocide of 1915.
Apart from the paintings which are imitations of Italian styles, the architecture and all the decorations are totally Iranian.
The courtyard contains a large freestanding belfry towering over the graves of both Orthodox and Protestant Christians. A tile work plaque inscribed in Armenian can be seen by the entrance to the cathedral; graves are also placed along the exterior wall before the entrance, with inscriptions in Armenian. In one corner of the courtyard is a raised area with a memorial to the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey. Across the courtyard and facing the cathedral is a building housing a library and museum; outside of this building are several carved stones showing scenes from the Bible.
The library contains over 700 handwritten books and many invaluable and unique resources for research in Armenian and medieval European languages and arts. The museum displays numerous artifacts from the history of the cathedral and the Armenian community in Isfahan, including:
• The 1606 edict of Shah Abbas I establishing New Julfa
• Several edicts by Abbas I and his successors condemning and prohibiting
• Interference with, or persecution of, Armenians and their property and affairs in New Julfa
• A historic printing press and the first book printed in Iran
• Vestments, monstrances, chalices, and other sacramental artifacts Active Image
• Safavid costumes, tapestries, European paintings brought back by Armenian merchants, embroidery, and other treasures from the community's trading heritage
• Ethnological displays portraying aspects of Armenian culture and religion
• An extensive display of photographs, maps, and Turkish documents (with translation) related to the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey.
The cathedral has greatly influenced the architecture and decorative treatment of many subsequent and smaller Orthodox churches in the entire Persian-Mesopotamian region.