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Considered to be amongst the oldest churches in the world, the Qara Kelissa (Turkish for "The Black Church") is one of Iran's oldest and most notable surviving Christian monuments. It is of particular importance to the Armenian Orthodox Iranians.

Also known as St. Thaddeus Church, it is believed by some to have been first built in AD 66 by Saint Jude. Local Armenians believe that he and Simon were both buried here after being murdered along with 3500 people.

It is located in Iranian West Azarbaijan province, near the Chaldoran region in Maku. Due to its remote location, it is somewhat isolated and difficult to get to. Specific coordinates are: 395′32.0″N, 4432′39.7″E, with an elevation of 1861 meters.

One of the 12 disciples, St. Thaddaeus, also known as St. Jude, (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot), was martyred while spreading the Gospel. He is revered as an apostle of the Armenian Church. As legend has it, a church dedicated to him was first built on the present site in AD 68.

Not much appears to remain of the original church, which was extensively rebuilt in the 1329 after an earthquake destroyed the structure in 1319. Nevertheless, some of the parts surrounding the alter date from the 10th century.

Most of the present structure dates from the 17th century when Qajar prince Abbas Mirza also helped in renovations and repairs. The 17th century addtions are from carved sandstone. The earliest parts are of black and white stone.

The church is protected within a thick wall, which also forms the outer ramparts of some abandoned monastery buildings.

Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew
The Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew traveled through Armenia in AD 45 to preach the word of God. Many people were converted and numerous secret Christian communities were established there.

Around that time, Abgar died after ruling for 38 years and the Armenian kingdom was split into two parts. His son Ananun crowned himself in Edessa, while his nephew Sanatruk ruled in Armenia. About AD 66, Ananun gave the order to kill St. Thaddeus in Edessa. The king's daughter Sandokht, who had converted to Christianity, was martyred with Thaddeus. Her tomb is located near the Ghara Kelisa.

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Additional Photos by Maryam Torabi (tuberose2461) Silver Star Critiquer/Silver Note Writer [C: 21 W: 2 N: 48] (127)
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