Gyumri Travel Guide

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Old Gyumri

Old Gyumri

Vahe Manukian

Gyumri-Alexandrapol has been famous not only for its craftsmen, men of arts and cultural values but also for its churches.

I saw a town amateur of church
Dwellers about twenty thousand not so much,
They have no bread for feeding their kids
But they built seven temples, eyed the wits.

In his famous song "Eyed the Wits" bard Jivani characterized the love of the Gyumri people towards churches. People called Gyumri "The Town of Seven Churches". In fact, seven churches were built in Gyumri, among them four Armenian Apostolic churches, a Russian, a Greek and Catholic churches. The Catholic church was built in 1852. The construction works were led by clergyman Alexander Araratyan, whose gravestone is situated in the churchyard. All the ecclesiastical expenditure was covered by the catholic families living in the neighborhood.

The only Greek church (founded in 1850), called "Uroms" church, was built by means of the Bayandur villagers, the priest of which was Ter-Kostandin.

The Russian church with a curved cross, called "Plplan" was built on Teryan Street. Because of the emitting brightness of the dome the people called it "Plplan" church (meaning "Shining" in translation). There were no ecclesiastical ceremonies conducted in this church. When any high-rank officer died, the corpse was placed in the church for the entire night and buried in the near-by cemetery the next day.

The church of "Gyughatsots" (St. Grigor Enlighter) was built in 1862. This name was given to the church not because most visitors were poor peasants but because of the construction the peasants carried out with their expenditure and according to their own "taste", without maintaining the symmetries accepted in the Armenian architecture. Therefore, judging by the external view, people named it "Gyughatsots". There used to be an elementary school working within the church. Later on the church was turned into a corn store and given to a beer-producing factory. Almost all the other churches shared the same fate during the atheistic years of Soviet Armenia.

One of the four Apostolic churches in Gyumri is "Saint Nshan" or the "Sev Zham", built in 1870. The construction works were headed by the spiritual leader, clergyman Ananikyan. Sahganushian gymnasium operated within the church. During the years of Soviet Power the church was turned into an observatory, at the opening of which V. Hambardzumyan was present. There is an interesting incident connected with the observatory. The circular lightning caused significant damage to the astronomical equipment by penetrating into the church from the dome, and its cross would bend because of it. The observatory didn't reopen after its closing, while the cross erects later on and gets back its previous appearance. During the earthquake of 1988 Saint Nshan got damaged, but at present it is being reconstructed by the mayor's efforts.

It is said that an Armenian believer was once kicked out of the Greek Church, and by doing so the people of Gyumri became motivated to build the church "Amenaprkitch". The highest church among the ones built in the town is "Uroms". In 1854-1873 under the direction of Tadevos Andikyan "Saint Amenaprkitch" church was built in the centre of Gyumri, following the model of the Ani Temple. Because of its size the church casted a shadow on the Greek and Catholic churches, situated on the two sides. "Amenaprkitch" was consecrated in 1873.

The churches of Gyumri, "Saint Astvatsatsin" or "Saint Yotverk" was built in 17th century. At first the church was log. There was Arghutyan women's school built in front of the "Saint Astvatsatsin" Church, the sponsor of which was Ghayram Arghutyan, a well-known Armenian merchant from Tiflis. Ghazaros Aghayan taught in this school.

The name "Saint Yotverk" represents the message of the picture "Yotverk", kept in the church, which was made on the manuscript by Ghukas Avetaranich. This picture symbolizes the seven wounds of the Blessed Virgin. The seven words uttered by Crucified Christ "plunged" into Maria's heart.

The manuscript was brought to Aleksandropol by refugees. Then catholicos Nerses Ashtaraketsi takes the picture to Echmiadzin in order to save the people from drought. The picture rescues the people from the claws of drought. Nevertheless, the picture of Yotverk was returned to Gyumri and since then has been kept in "Saint Yotverk" church. Despite the fact that "Amenaprkitch" exceeds it in its size, "Saint Yotverk" became the church of the town due to its significance.

During the soviet times only Echmiadzin Temple and Saint Yotverk church functioned on the territory of Armenia.

When the other churches in the town were closed, one of the vestries of "Saint Yotverk" served for the Catholics, while the other - for Russian believers. That is how the main church of the town united all the believers.

Now, when the spiritual life awakens in Gyumri after 70 year-old sleep, the role and the significance of the church is extremely great in remaining steady in belief.

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