Kara Kelisa (Orumieh)
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Qara Kelisa (Armenian Church)
The Armenian Church and Monastery of St Thaddeus, known also as Kelisa-ye Tatavus by the name of St Tadi, and locally called Kara Kelisa (the Black Church) is situated in desolate, but nowadays easily accessible, country about 18 km south of Maku. According to Armenian legend, the Apostle Thaddeus (generally identified as St Jude) reached here about 66 AD and built the world's first church. Actually, little is known of Thaddeus, one of Christ's disciples to whom there are only passing references in the Bible. According to the same le, he and another disciple, Simon the Zealot, were later martyred and buried in the site of Iran's first church.
Among the Armenians he is revered as the apostle of the Christian church in Persia and one of its first martyrs.
The present cruciform building, said to be on the site of this early church, stands on a hill within fortified walls and consists of two distinct parts: adorned sanctuary end built largely of dark stone, probably dating from the tenth or eleventh century, and the main body of the church, built of light sandstone, under a second and larger tent dome whose twelve-sided drum is pierced by an equal number of windows According to an inscription dating 1329 this latter section was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1319; considerable additions were, however, made during the 19th century, possibly when there was an abortive move to transfer here from Echmiadzin in Russia the seat of Armenian Catholics.

The exterior walls are, like those of other early Armenian churches, decorated with bas-reliefs, the effigies of saints and a lively frieze of vine leaves and animals on the newer building being particularly striking. Ruined buildings within a walled compound adjoining the western fortified walls indicate that a considerable monastic settlement once existed there.
The church has one service a year, on the feast day of St Thaddeus (around 19 June), when Armenian pilgrims from allover Iran camp for three days to attend the ceremonies. At other times, this isolated church is rarely visited. Enter through a south gateway, the key for which is kept in the hamlet; ask for the Kelid-e Kelisa. The keys for the outer monastery buildings are not kept in the Kara Kelisa.
There are a few Urartian sites around Maku and to either side of the road to and from Orumieh to the south, but none of these can be easily reached from Maku. If you are interested, you could hire a taxi to the small Urartian citadel or Sangar about 10 km to the west of Maku, just to the north of road to Bazargan.




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