Armenian Monastery Of Dzor Dzor In Iran: UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Dzor Dzor is a 10th century Armenian monastery located in Maku County, in West Azerbaijan Province of Iran, on Zangmar River, near the village of Baron.
The monastery had its heyday in the 14th century before being abandoned and destroyed in the early 17th century, when Shah Abbas I decided to displace the local Armenians during the rule of the Safavid Dynasty (1501-1736).
The Monastery of Dzor Dzor with its the Chapel of the Holy Mother of God (Surb Astvatsatsin Chapel) used to be a grand and significant monument. This holy chapel’s mesmerizing building was completed in the 10th century, and was widely influential during the 14th century as an educational and theological center, and became one of the important centers of Armenian calligraphy in Iran.
The monastery was built by the Archbishop Zechariah of the neighboring Armenian St. Thaddeus' Monastery. The building of this structure was supervised by the famous Armenian scholar and philosopher, Bishop Hovhannes Erznkatsi. The name of the “Dzor Dzor” is driven from the Hovhannes Erznkatsi’s name, also called “Zor Zoretsi”, as the Persian pronunciation of his name resembles “Zor Zor”.
In 1987-1988, the Ministry of Energy of Iran decided to build a Maku Dam for irrigation of the farmlands on the Zangmar River. As this action would have put the Monastery in danger, with the assistance of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts & Tourism Organization, the Ministry of Energy and with the consent of the Armenian Prelacy of Tabriz, the monastery was moved to a safer place.
Following the Armenian Apostolic Church’s tradition, the new location was first sanctified by the archbishops from the Armenian communities of Iran. Then the relocation was carried out stone by stone, using the maps of the original building.
The relocation took about 25 days, during which every stone of the church was enumerated and transferred to a location 600 meters away and 110 meters higher than its original location. Because some parts of the church were destroyed or buried under loads of soil used in the process of making the dam, new stones of the same type but with a different color were used for the reconstruction.
The Dzor Dzor Chapel was built with plenty of large polished stones in different sizes without using mortar. The interior of the church consists of four vaults and windows on each side and a drum dome. The destroyed dome of the old building was renovated and reconstructed. The inscription installed on the wall of the monastery points out the reasons for the church’s relocation, while it bears a testimony to the importance of preserving cultural and historical heritage of the country.
The Dzor Dzor Chapel is on the UNESCO's World Heritage List since July 06, 2008, alongside the St. Thaddeus and St. Stepanos monasteries in the category of "Armenian Churches of Iran".
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