The vast majority of the country’s people practices Shi’ism, one of the main sects of Islam and the state religion of Iran. Yet, this country also has followers of other faiths, including as Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Christians make up the majority of those who identify with non-Islamic religious minority, and they have a longer history in Iran than Muslims do.
There are at least 600 churches in Iran. Of them, 90 are recognized as national monuments, and three are additionally recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although we are unable to cover every church in Iran, we do welcome you to know the few popular ones.
1.Qare Church (Church of Saint Thaddeus)
One of the oldest and most well-known churches in Iran is Qare Church (The Monastery of Saint Thaddeus), which was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008. The most notable Christian structure in the nation is this stunning church, which is situated in West Azarbaijan Province. Many Christians from nearby nations visit this church on a yearly basis throughout various times of the year.
This church’s architecture is distinctive, and because of the nearby buildings, it also resembles a castle.
Many people visit this location every year for various festivities and religious festivals because Armenians think that this church is the first church in the history of the globe.
One of the most stunning and picturesque churches in Iran in the city of Isfahan is the Vank Church, also known as the Church of Saintly Sisters. One of the first facilities Shah Abbas of the Safavid built for the Armenians who relocated to the spotless city of New Julfa next to Isfahan was this cathedral. As was already noted, the people of the New Jolfa handed over numerous priceless and treasured talents, crafts, and trades to succeeding generations and nearby cities.
Every visitor’s attention is drawn to the mesmerizingly skillful paintings on the walls and ceilings of the structure as soon as they enter this Iranian church and go along the passage that leads to the altar.
Every piece of art and fresco offers a unique story from the life of Jesus Christ, Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and other biblical tales. Each and every one of these paintings with Italian influences is skillfully and meticulously rendered. Vank is worth including on your list of Iran tourist spots to visit just for this reason.
The church now contains a library and a museum where many historical and significant printed materials that belonged to the church are kept. Just over the entrance to this church is the great bell tower of the Vank church, which houses a stunning and priceless bell.
This Persian church’s main door is adorned with a stunning marble epigraphy that describes how Martiros Saryan, a well-known Armenian painter, gave the bell tower and the exquisite clock atop the clock tower of Vank as a gift. The bell tower was donated to Vank Cathedral as a gift and a tribute to Martiros Saryan, the founder of the Armenian National Contemporary School of Painting.
3.Saint Sarkis Cathedral
One of the most well-known churches in Iran is the Sarkis Church, also known as the Surp Sarkis mayr tachar in Armenian. This apostolic church is one of the most important and largest religious structures you can discover. It is also a reasonably modern and contemporary church. An Armenian donor in Tehran funded the construction of this chapel, which was dedicated to Saint Sargis the General. According to legends from Armenian folklore, Saint Sarkis was a valiant and honest warrior who always hastened to defend the weak and provided aid to those in need. He was a harsh punisher of evil and the wicked and a defender of the defenseless and innocent!
The fact that this church in Iran underwent renovations in 2000 is an intriguing aspect about the structure. The renovation of Sarkis Church was done to ensure that it would remain as stable as possible and stand tall and gloriously for many years to come. The Sarkis chapel is currently one of Tehran’s most visited sights. This is a significant claim, too! The Sarkis church is still one of the most beautiful churches in Iran despite Tehran’s many other attractions.
4.Saint Mary Church
One of the largest and oldest churches in Iran is the Holy Mother of God Church, located in Tabriz. It also goes by the name Surp Mariam Asdvadzin Church. Several religious festivities are conducted in the church each year, which is thought of as the major location of religious activity by Armenians in Tabriz. The church of Saint Mary was constructed in the 12th century. The oldest tombstone dates back to 1600, which is around when Saint Mary Church in Tabriz was built. On en route to China, the renowned Venetian traveler Marco Polo made reference to this chapel in his journey journal.
The Saint Mary Church in Tabriz adheres to Christian architectural principles. Its four substantial stone columns support the central dome. The year of the church’s founding is engraved onto a little marble inscription that is located above the main entrance.
Moreover, the church’s large bell is mounted atop eight stone columns. The walls of the church are adorned with exquisite images of the virgin Mary, Jesus, and his disciples. Just the remaining two paintings remain after dampness ruined two of the four center columns’ paintings. One of the churches in Iran that has artwork on canvas cloth hanging on its walls is this one. The paintings’ tiny technique dates around 1800 and is distinctly European in design.
5.Saint Stepanos Monastery
One of the most significant churches in Iran is the Monastery of Saint Stepanos, also known as Saint Stephanos (also known as Maghardavank). It is also the last of three Armenian monastic ensembles in Iran that are listed by UNESCO. Sacred Stephen, the first Christian martyr and patron saint of masons and bricklayers, was honored in the construction of this magnificent cathedral in Iran. In the early Christian church, he was an appointed deacon who had a special love and concern for the underprivileged. Stephen lived such a pious life, keeping so close to Jesus, that his martyrdom served as a natural and supernatural sign of his devotion to the Lord.
Saint Stephen was wrongly convicted of blasphemy and advocating against God when he was 28 years old, and he was then stoned to death. This church of Iran, like the Dzordzor and Saint Thaddeus churches, is situated amid the unspoiled countryside of Jolfa in west Azerbaijan. Many of the Armenians of the period, who were substantially more influential under the Safavid edra, used to settle in Jolfa.
In order to teach the residents about silk weaving, one of the Safavid monarchs (Shah Abbas) even created a location close to Isfahan, one of Iran’s top towns, for the people of Jolfa. He even went so far as to give the lovely village close to Isfahan the name Jolfa!
6.Saint Garapet Armenian Church
In the city of Abadan is the Saint Garapet church, one of the most popular churches in Iran. This 1958-founded church is well-known to both local and international tourists. The church’s circular columns and copper domes in conical shapes add to its majesty and the city of Abadan’s aesthetic appeal. This church of Iran features white walls as well as four doors made of brown wood with two relief crosses on each.
It also features two domes, one huge and one tiny. The great dome is located in the middle of the church, while the small dome is on the back. An epigraph that reads, “wherever we are… we will not forget you,” as well as a picture of an Armenian woman and her child that serves as a reminder of the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire during World War I, can be found next to the church’s southern gate.
A rectangular hall with chandeliers, columns, navy blue and crimson draperies, wooden benches, picture frames and wall carpets with Christian symbols can also be seen in the church. Exterior cross railings support the fourteen semicircular windows in the hall. The Etchmiadzin Cathedral of Armenia’s holy oil, a journal, and a candle-lit Meron cup are all located in the hallway. The round church altar is seven levels above the ground level and is supported by four columns.
Between the two altar columns is a sizable representation of Jesus Christ that is surrounded by two golden candlesticks. For the priest and the singing ensemble, there are two wooden doors on the altar. This church’s proximity to the well-known Imam Musa ibn Jafar mosque is its most intriguing feature. It admirably captures the kinship and respect that exist between followers of many faiths. This mosque was converted into a center for educating and preparing soldiers during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.
There aren’t many Christians in this city, hence St. Garapet church hosts fewer services.
Are there any churches in Iran?
There are at least 600 churches in Iran.
Are Christians allowed to worship in Iran?
According to the constitution, the only acknowledged religious minorities allowed to do worship and establish religious societies “within the bounds of the law” are Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews, barring converts from Islam.
Are there still Christians in Iran?
There are hundreds of thousands today; some estimate there may be over a million.
What is the biggest church in Iran?
The largest cathedral in Tehran, Saint Sarkis Cathedral, is 36.5 meters long and 17.8 meters wide.