people in Yerevan know that behind the building
of the Institutes of linguistics and economics
there is a hidden 13-th Century church.
White doves bask in the last autumn rays of sun
striking the cupola of the Katoghike Saint Astvatsatsin
(Holy Mary) Church. Their tender cooing mixes
with the candles burning in the churchyard imbuing
everything around with inner peace.
Few people in Yerevan know that the cozy St Katoghike
Church is hidden behind the building of the institutes
of linguistics and economics of the National Academy
of Sciences of Armenia located at the intersection
of Sayat-Nova and Abovyan streets.
"For many years the building of the Institute
of Linguistics has been hiding from people this
construction dated from the 13th Century and the
church cannot properly carry out its mission,"
says Avetis Danielyan, the priest at St. Katoghike.
"First of all the whole church must be reconstructed
here. The territory is so small that 72 people
can hardly find room in the church during masses
and church services."
Almost all the ancient churches functioning in
Yerevan were built after the violent earthquake
of 1679. Except St. Katoghike, which before faced
Abovyan street with its facade.
In 1930, according to a resolution of the Soviet
authorities, a number of churches were destroyed
in the center of Yerevan. Some, like St Katoghike,
"hid" in the yards of other constructions.
Archimandrite Father Arshak Khachatryan, head
of staff of the Holy See at St Echmiatsin, says:
"In 1936, when they started to destroy St.
Katoghike, it became clear that it had two components;
the yard constructed in the 18th Century and the
building built in 13th Century.
"The construction was saved from destruction
with the efforts of devoted architects. To solve
the problem and isolate the church, it was hidden
with another building and thus sentenced to imprisonment."
The St. Katoghike Church from inside.
It is inscribed on the northern wall of the church
that it was built in 1264 by someone from Ani
city. It is the oldest church in Yerevan. It was
reconstructed in 1693 on the foundation of the
13th Century St. Astvatsatsin Church destroyed
by the earthquake in 1679. In 1995 the church
was again sanctified and is now a functioning
Ter Avetis says every time he has planted trees
on the territory of the church he has found stones,
tooled on one side and broken on the other. Today,
cross stones and other fragments of the destroyed
church are brought even from the yards of neighboring
buildings and placed in the yard of St. Katoghike
Church under the sky.
"Why are tooled and hacked stones below
the ground? The Communists buried the entire historical
past. We can't see the foundation of the church.
We must dig at least four meters deep to reach
the bottom," says Ter Avetis.
Under the program of restoring its rights over
churches confiscated during Soviet times, the
Holy See applied to the Government on September
13 to take possession of the territory of St.
Katoghike Church and the neighboring institute,
which is located on land that once belonged to
the Apostolic Church.
On October 2, the Government adopted a draft
resolution on transferring "buildings and
constructions to the Apostolic Church of Armenia",
according to which the building of National Academy
of Sciences is to be handed over as a gift to
the Church for the purpose of constructing a residence
in Yerevan for the Catholicos.
According to the resolution, the institutes of
linguistics and economics will be moved to the
Institute of Literature on Grigor Lusavorich street.
Father Khachatryan says: "People talk about
constructing a residence for the Catholicos. But
if the building hiding St. Katoghike is going
to be taken away then a construction must certainly
be built behind the church.
"That will serve as a place where the Holy
Patriarch will have official receptions. Throughout
our history spiritual fathers have always had
residences in the capital in addition to their
stones and other fragments of the destroyed
church placed in the yard of St. Katoghike
are "heavy" reminders of the past.
The 120 staff of the institutes are unhappy,
however. Lavrenty Hovhannisyan, deputy director
of the Institute of Linguistics says: "Our
academy was founded in this building. In civilized
countries centers like this one are always preserved.
Our claim is not private. We can work where we
get a table, we simply want the building to serve
its purpose and be the center of Armenology."
The disputed building was built in 1938, serving
first as a school and later as a hospital during
World War Two. In 1943, the National Assembly
of Sciences of Armenia was founded here, whose
first presidents were Orbeli and Hambardzumyan.
All institutes of the academic system functioned
"Today the whole scientific staff was presented
with a fait accompli. It means nobody paid attention
to the scientific achievements. There are values
that should not be donated or touched," complains
scientific worker of the institute Gayane Mkhitaryan.
Last week, scientists from the institute conducted
a silent protest outside the building. On Monday,
October 27, they sought permission from Yerevan
municipality to organize a demonstration.
Josef Avetisyan, an Orientalist, says he would
like to see historical monuments reconstructed
"Scientists are worried about preservation
of the Armenology center but our culture and language
are inseparable aren't they? It's not fair to
think about Mesropian language and not to think
about Mesropian church. This language was spoken
for the first time in a church and it was the
Church that spread and preserved the culture,"
Ter Avetis is worried that sun rarely touches
St. Katoghike with its rays. The building shades
the church from the East and moisture corrodes
its stones. St. Katoghike suffocates.
Khachatryan in his turn believes the freed church
with its medieval architecture can become a symbol
connecting Yerevan's past to the life of the modern
"It is high time for St. Katoghike to be
appreciated as a construction of medieval Yerevan
and symbol of spiritual life in the conditions
of independent and national statehood," he