The Armenians of Jerusalem in the modern period

The rise and decline of a community

Authored by: Bedross Der Matossian

Routledge Handbook on Jerusalem

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  October  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138936935
eBook ISBN: 9781315676517
Adobe ISBN:


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The Armenian presence in Palestine dates back to the fourth century ce, when Armenian pilgrims began arriving in Jerusalem after the uncovering of the holy places of Christianity, ascribed to Saint Helena, mother of the newly converted Emperor Constantine I. This led to the proliferation of monasteries in the Holy Land, many of which were Armenian (Hintlian 1976: 6–17). As of the seventh century, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church (also known as the Armenian Gregorian Church) had its own bishop in Jerusalem. The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem in its present form came into being in the first decade of the fourteenth century, when the Brotherhood of Sts. James, an Armenian monastic order, was established in the Holy City proclaiming its head Bishop Sargis as Patriarch. Eventually, the Jerusalem Patriarchate exercised its authority over Armenians in Palestine, southern Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Egypt, though by British Mandate times its jurisdiction was limited to Palestine and Transjordan. The Armenian Church preoccupies an important position with its joint guardianship – shared with the far larger and more powerful Greek Orthodox and Latin (Roman Catholic) churches – of Christianity’s holiest sites of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Church of the Nativity, among others. This status was confirmed by the Ottomans in arrangements that have remained largely unaltered since the seventeenth century (see Tsourous, Chapter 32, this volume). During the Ottoman period, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem had to cede his administrative autonomy to the newer Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, established in the fifteenth century and recognized by the Ottoman state as the center of the Armenian Gregorian Church throughout the empire. However, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem emerged as an autonomous entity.

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