- Press Release on the union of Coptic and British Orthodox Churches
- On the Trail of Seven Coptic Monks in Ireland
- With Lynch to Holy Etchmiadzin
- The Coptic Orthodox Church under Islam
- Journey Into Artsakh
- Biographies of former BOC members
- The British Orthodox Church – Mission & Ministry
- The Liturgy of St James – Abba Seraphim
- The Liturgy of St James – Fr John Ross
- The Fraction in The Coptic Orthodox Liturgy
- The Ministry of the Deacon in the Liturgy of Saint James
- The Divine Liturgy of Saint James
- That They May be One – 3:2 St. Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria
- That They May be One – 3:1 St. Timothy Aelurus of Alexandria
- That They May be One – 2. The Humanity of Christ
- That They May Be One – 1. Reflections on Christian Unity
- New Age or Old Faith
- One Lord, One Faith: Why Orthodox don’t practice Open Communion
- Pope Shenoudas El Kosheh Declaration
- Christian Spirituality in a Changing World
- The Saints – Pattern of Christian Virtue
- Reconstructing Celtic Spirituality: Searching for a Western Early Church
With Lynch to Holy Etchmiadzin
My first encounter with Armenian history came when I was seventeen. It was then that I first read Lynch’s modestly titled work, Armenia, Travels and Studies. In those days the London library service had an efficient and effective system of tracking down rare and scholarly tomes which would be despatched from the obscurity of some dusty repository to one’s own branch library. In two volumes, well illustrated with his own photographs H.F.B. Lynch (1862-1913) gives an account of his two journeys to Armenia in 1893 and 1898.
Although at heart a geographer, Lynch supported his own observations with thorough historical research and quotes a wide variety of ancient Armenian chroniclers as well as the observations of earlier travellers. His ascent of Mount Ararat is described in graphic detail whereas his interest in theological and liturgical matters is somewhat limited. Lynch’s visit to Etchmiadzin coincided with the enthronement of the celebrated Catholicos Mekertich (known as Khrimean Hayrik) but his pedestrian description of the incomparable liturgical ceremonies of the Armenian Church is disappointing. He nevertheless conceived a profound respect for the Catholicos and portrays him as a dynamic symbol of all that is good in the Armenian national spirit. I remember having a photograph made of Khrimean Hayrik from the one published in Lynch’s book, which I have always treasured.
The hundred years intervening between our two visits have seen massive changes in the fortunes of Armenia. In Lynch’s day Armenia was divided between the Russian and Ottoman Empires. Two years after Lynch’s death, the 1915 Armenian Genocide totally removed the historic Armenian presence from Eastern Anatolia, whilst the brief interlude of an independent Armenian republic (1918-1920) in that portion formally under the Russian Empire, was soon eclipsed by seventy years of Soviet oppression. Only in August 1991 the creation of a small, but independent, Armenian republic fulfilled a long-cherished dream following centuries of foreign domination.
Like Lynch, I set off on my journey from Istanbul, following the route along the south of the Black Sea, but Lynch travelled by horse whereas I flew with Armenian Airlines. His first illustration of the entrance to the Black Sea from the Bosphorus was very much the same view as I had from several thousand feet above the ground; but the changes in landscape were more sudden as we left the well-wooded coastal belt and crossed the Pontic Alps into the high tableland of Anatolia with its mountainous peaks. Shortly before crossing the Turkish border the snow-capped peak of Great Ararat (17,000 feet) loomed over a wide plain with greenery and trees suddenly relieving the ochre and russet landscape across which we had flown.
As we began the descent to Yerevan I realised that the Cathedral and churches of Etchmiadzin were clearly visible from the air set amidst what appeared very much like a sprawling shantytown. It was only later that I realised that many of the older Armenian houses are in fact solidly constructed of stone (as are the party-walls in each building) but that the widespread use of metal sheeting or corrugated iron for roofing gives a much less substantial impression from the air. Zvartnots airport is some six miles to the west of Yerevan, with Etchmiadzin to its west, so I bypassed the capital on arrival. When Lynch visited in 1893 the population of Yerevan was 15,000, comprising Tartars and Armenians in equal numbers and some 300 Russians. Today it has a population of 1.3 million with Armenians clearly the majority. In 1893 Yerevan was “a town embowered in foliage”, whereas today the old city is just a small suburb of this sprawling town with its concrete tower-blocks and ubiquitous radio masts and aerials. However, when you stand on the hill overlooking the city, where the Genocide memorial to the 1.5 million Armenians who perished in 1915 has been erected, trees and green patches still relieve the tedium of urban development. The great plain of Ararat, which Lynch found “level and devoid of objects, like the bosom of a sea” is still dominated by the grandeur of Mount Ararat and its adjacent mountains, though often shrouded in mist or heat haze.
Holy Etchmiadzin is built on the site of the ancient royal city of Vagharshapat, of which now only the ecclesiastical monuments remain. A century ago there was nothing but the great monastic compound enclosed within “a lofty mud wall with round towers at intervals” approached from a village clustered along a “long and dusty street”. Today it is Armenia’s fourth largest city with a population of 64,400. Stone houses are plentiful, the roads are wide and tree-lined and the main approach to the Cathedral, now on the east side (but in Lynch’s day on the south), is pleasant.
The Great Court
The Cathedral stands in the centre of what Lynch described as a “pilgrim’s court … like that of a college at Cambridge adjoining the great gate which is in the south wall”. The monastic compound is clearly reduced and less clearly defined now, but the well cared-for and shady gardens surrounding the Cathedral on all sides create a harmonious setting for its central feature. Strangely reminiscent of an English cathedral close, the numerous pipes and faucets ensure a plentiful supply of water to maintain the lush vegetation. I was told that in the early years of Soviet domination the grounds were reduced to a bog-like swamp and the air of neglect was triumphant, but today all is ordered and cherished.
An unexpected feature of the Cathedral is its carillon, installed after Lynch’s day. Originally set to play the “Etchmiadzin Hymn” it now plays some other unidentified, but charming tune, at 8.00 a.m., 8.30 a.m., 8.45 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. Morning (8.30 a.m.) and evening prayer (6.00 p.m.) both start with the striking of the carillon, which sounds more sonorous from inside the Cathedral, but the timing of the 8.45 a.m. bells – in the middle of the office – is somewhat intrusive. Sadly, the general peace and tranquillity which characterises the Great Court for most of the day is rudely shattered between 9.00 p.m. until midnight each evening by loud pop music blasting out from a neighbouring café.
Lynch found the buildings round the quadrangle (of which he includes one picture) were “low … rudely built, with a continuous wooden veranda” which largely comprised the monastic cells. On the north east side, then already condemned, a “fine row of stone buildings is in course of construction” and these, bearing the date 1893-95, are now probably the oldest block around the “great court”. Outwardly these comprise what appears as a handsome terrace of some nine individual dwellings, each opening onto the court with a solid carved front door and two ground floor windows and a further three large carved windows on the first floor. At the back, half of the elevation is recessed to provide a spacious covered balcony. Both the front and rear elevations are surmounted by an elaborately carved entablature supported by pairs of corbels and comprising a vaguely classical pattern of architrave, frieze and cornice, all decorated with acanthus-like leaves in some nineteenth century Armenian vernacular. At the rear the roof ends in a sculptured tympanum. All windows boast an elaborately carved surround, those on the first floor having fluted pilasters and carved keystones.
Proceeding round the court in a clockwise direction one comes across another elegant but less elaborate stone block on the south-east side, probably built in the early years of this century. This was the Patriarchate’s printing house, but during the Soviet occupation it was a boundary across which church personnel did not cross. Running along the south side of the court is the modern Bishops’ Guest House (with comfortable en suite apartments and rooms) and a long two-storied block which contains a vaulted kitchen and refectory on the ground floor and the seminarians’ dormitory upstairs. Adjacent to these buildings, in the southwest corner, is the back of the former residence of the Catholicos, now a museum. Alone, in the centre of the west side of the court, stands a plain stone ceremonial arch which I was informed had been erected by St. Gregory’s patron and co-illuminator, King Trdat IV “the Great”, soon after his conversion in AD 301. Strangely Lynch makes no mention of a free-standing archway of such antiquity but “the great gate in the south wall”, which he calls the “Great Gate (of Ghazarapat)” on his plan is shown as being contiguous with the monastic walls. One is inclined to conjecture whether it was moved here at the time when the new Patriarchate was built in 1913 to provide an imposing entrance to the gardens fronting the church’s administrative headquarters and the residence of the Supreme Catholicos.
Running along the remaining length of the west side is a raised stone terrace, ending in an archway in the base of a clocktower surmounted by a columned cupola in the northwest corner. Most of the north side of the court is bounded by a high stone wall along which there is an impressive display of Armenian khatchkars dating from the ninth to the sixteenth century. These are large stone blocks intricately carved with crosses and interwoven spiral motifs, in many cases reminiscent of the designs found on mediæval Irish stone crosses. Two modern memorials are also notable, one column surmounted by an eagle’s head (rather like a stone totem pole) with a fountain running from the bowl of a large stone ladle fixed to its side. Carved by A. Israelian in 1982 as a memorial to Catholicos Khrimean Hayrik, the eagle “of Vaspurakan” recalls his origins from Van. The ladle is said to recall his comments about the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which he had attended as former Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. The great and small powers had assembled to partake of the “dish of liberty”. The Balkan nations had come with their metal spoons and eaten of the tasty herisa stew, but the Armenians had only paper petitions, and when they timidly placed their paper spoon into the herisa, the paper dissolved and the Armenians received nothing. The largest monument, carved in 1965 by R. Israelian as a memorial to the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, represents a number of khatchkars grouped together.
Before we complete our circuit we encounter the old seminary in the northeast corner. Built in 1909 this is a single-storied block with an Italianate two-storied porticoed entrance. It has now been superseded by the larger, recently renovated building outside the compound’s principal entrance on the east side.
Traditionally the Cathedral at Etchmiadzin was built between 301 and 303 by St. Gregory the Illuminator and King Trdat IV. It stands on the site of the spot identified in a vision of St. Gregory. Lynch eloquently describes this vision:
“During his vigil, while his mind was revolving the recent acts of Divine grace, a violent peal of thunder, followed by a terrible rumbling sound, had fallen upon his startled sense. The firmament opened as a tent opens, and from the heaven descended the form of a man, radiant with celestial light. The name of Gregory was pronounced; the saint looked upon the face of the man, and fell trembling to the ground. Enjoined to raise his eyes, he beheld the waters about the firmament cloven and parcelled apart like hills and valleys, extending beyond the range of sight. Streams of light poured down from on high upon the earth, and, with the light, innumerable cohorts of shining human figures with wings of living flame. At their head was One of terrible face whom all followed as the supreme ruler of the host; He bore in his hand a golden mallet, and, alighting on the ground in the centre of the city, struck with His mallet the crust of the broad earth. The report of the blow penetrated unto the abysses below the earth; far and near all inequalities of the surface were smoothed out, and the land became a uniform plain.”
Such was the origin of the name Etchmiadzin, which signifies “The Only-Begotten has descended”.
Lynch is really quite critical about the architecture of the Cathedral. “I cannot invite my reader to admire the architecture of this cathedral … the original form of the exterior is rather difficult to unravel owing to the excresences, of which I may safely say that none are improvements, that have been added at various times.” One might make similar comments about most English cathedrals though I suspect that his inability to date the various additions with the same precision as western architecture left him frustrated. According to Varazdat Haroutiunian Armenian architecture from the 4th-19th century comprised only four periods: Early Mediæval (4th-7th), Mediæval (10th-11th), Advanced Mediæval (12th-14th) and Late Mediæval (17th-19th) !
Originally erected as a basilica-type structure (possibly of wood ?) it was remodelled around 483 during the reign of Prince Vahan Mamikonian and renovated extensively during the pontificates of the Catholicoi Komitas (615-628) and Nerses III (641-661). To the former is attributed the replacement of a wooden dome with one of stone, whilst the latter received for his labours the surname “the Builder”. The incorporation of an early Greek inscription and another slab depicting two figures in the north wall of the Cathedral are obviously of a later date and are not evidence of the antiquity of this portion of the structure. The earlier line of the roof is clearly visible below the later parapet on the north side. To gain some impression of the appearance of the church in the seventh century one needs to exclude all the later belfries and imagine the roof with more gables and a steeper pitch. The great dome is then much more striking in proportion to the rest of the building. Lynch complains bitterly of the Armenian obsession with their distinctive cupola-belfries: the Cathedral having acquired three smaller ones in the north, south and east (1627) and a larger one over the western portal (1658). The latter has delightful stone carvings of mythical beasts, angels and intertwined patterns which he dismisses as “the finicking architecture of the portal”.
One is, however, inclined to support Lynch in his strictures about the additions to the Cathedral’s east end which was remodelled in the latter half of the nineteenth century in order to house the Cathedral Treasury. Architecturally it is elegant, almost classical in style, but its suitability as an extension to this Cathedral is open to question.
Outside the west portal lie low rectangular incised slabs marking the tombs of a number of Catholicoi since the eighteenth century. Above the inscriptions are carved a clutter of pontifical regalia arranged in geometrical patterns: mitres against sunbursts, pastoral staves of both eastern and western design, the pallium, pectoral crosses and encolpia, handcrosses, open bibles and chalices with shining hosts. Here can be found the grave of Khrimean Hayrik; of Catholic Khoren, who was asphyxiated by the Communists in 1938; and a white marble slab in memory of the late Catholicos Vazgen, who skilfully steered the church through the period of post-war Soviet rule. Lynch noted a marble tomb to Sir John Macdonald, envoy from the British East India Company to the court of Persia, who was buried here in the 1820s.
This rather unlikely monument was removed more than twenty years ago to the neighbouring churchyard of St. Gaiane’s church, the nearest of the three historic shrines, which stand outside the monastic enclosure at Etchmiadzin. I tracked it down in the rather overgrown southwest corner of the churchyard, surrounded by enormous sunflowers, where it stands against the high wall looking rather like a small Regency sideboard.
I am told that the most ancient Armenian tradition was for bishops and Catholicoi to be buried in unmarked graves beneath the west entrance of cathedrals, as marks of their humility.
Inside the Cathedral
The interior vault of the entrance porch is embellished with carved and painted seraphim, each alternating with red and green wings and rather myopically staring down on all who come and go. Inside the Cathedral is surprisingly small and intimate. The central dome, like the rest of the upper walls, is painted with a richly decorated pattern, the work of the Hovnatanians, a dynasty of Armenian painters who worked throughout the eighteenth century. The geometric patterns, which are Persian in inspiration, and at first seem more reminiscent of a mosque than a church, were once rich reds and greens highlighted in bright gold, but are now blackened by centuries of pious candlesmoke and incense.
The Altar of Descent, which covers the spot designated by the Lord in St. Gregory’s vision, is now a free-standing, richly-veined white marble altar raised on two steps directly beneath the dome. A low marble reredos with a carved Armenian cross, surrounded by intricately entwined marble foliage, surmounts a retable of three steps. In the north and south apses, but facing eastwards, stand altars to Saints Barnabas and Thaddeus, the original evangelisers of Armenia, above which are large paintings depicting each saint.
The marble platform, upon which stands the apsidal sanctuary, is decorated with painted panels of the twelve apostles flanking the Theotokos and infant Saviour, and two deacons painted on the steps at each side. These colourful figures surmounted by bright floral patterns, stand on grassy mounds surrounded by a wide variety of flora and each has a panel depicting something resembling a lush poplar between them. The whole effect is delightfully bright and cheerful in spite of most of the figures clutching the barbaric implements with which they were martyred !
Two enormous thrones for the Supreme Catholicos, one on the north side of the Altar of Descent, the other within the fenced-off “chancel”, are both architectural exhibits in themselves. The first, of elaborately carved wood in a sort of classical Jacobean style, has four elegant Corinthian columns supporting a monstrous canopy comprising a detailed model of the Cathedral complete with all four bell-towers ! It was sent to Catholicos Eliazar (1681-1691) by the Pope of Rome.
The second, dating from 1721, seems to comprise two quite distinct halves married together with qualified success. The lower half of wood richly inlaid with mother-of-pearl has four slender matching columns. The canopy, however, a rococo riot of gilt and blue, surmounted by a domed loge (mahfili), is quite Mogul in style. It is said to have been made in the city of Akn but one suspects that no one now remembers its true history.
Treasures of Etchmiadzin
After visiting the Cathedral, I was taken to its Treasury, which comprises the entire eastern end. Here the painted ceilings had kept their colour and served as an appropriate setting for case after case of richly jewelled reliquaries, sacred vessels in silver and gold, finely embroidered vestments, delicately painted manuscripts and magnificent tapestries. Never was the designation ‘Treasury’ more appropriately given. With predictable understatement Lynch observes, “The treasury and room of relics contain many interesting objects” although he does mention some of the more remarkable and comment on their exquisite workmanship. In 1982 an entire Treasury Museum, provided through the generosity of Alex and Marie Manoogian, was erected to the south of the new Residence of the Catholicos to display what couldn’t be shown in the original Treasury. The late Catholicos Vazgen was a noted connoisseur with impeccable taste and much of the collection brought together in Etchmiadzin today is the result of his untiring efforts.
I knew that one of the most sacred treasures of the Armenian Church is the Soorp Adj, a richly bejewelled reliquary containing the mummified right arm of St. Gregory the Illuminator. Unfortunately this is now only brought forth once every seventh year to stir the Holy Myron, so I was unable to venerate it, although Lynch saw it “preserved in a silver gilt case”. However, the Treasury contains a quantity of other right arms, including those of St. Thaddeus the Apostle and the Catholicos St. Hakob Mdzbna, all in richly worked arm-shaped reliquaries. Other relics which I found of particular interest were those containing a portion of Noah’s ark and the Holy Lance, with which the centurion Longinus pierced the Saviour’s side.
Lynch tells the story of St. Jacob of Nisibis who was seized with the desire to convince sceptics of the truth of the Biblical narrative of the Flood and to see for himself the beached Ark on the summit of Ararat. On several occasions the saint attempted the ascent of Mount Ararat but on each occasion fell asleep, exhausted by his efforts. When he awoke he found, much to his chagrin, that he had been miraculously returned to the point from which he had set out. Finally an angel appeared to him in a dream to warn him that the summit was unattainable to mortal men, but as a reward for his faith and pains, a fragment of the Ark was deposited on his chest. This was the portion now displayed in the centre of a jewelled cross set in a late seventeenth century reliquary.
For centuries a church, Araxilvank, and village marked the site of Noah’s altar with the neighbouring Monastery of St. Jacob of Nisibis perched precipitously above them on the edge of a natural terrace. Lynch quotes from Parrot, an early nineteenth century traveller, who established his headquarters in the charming but lonely cloister. In June 1840 a terrific earthquake swept away both village and monastery and all that is now visible is a dint in the mountain range.
The Holy Lance comprises a rectangular, rather blunt iron lance-end, resembling a bricklayer’s trowel. This too has a magnificent silver-gilt case with hinged doors, made in 1687. It had come from the Church at Geghard (the name Geghard means spear), some forty miles southeast of Yerevan. Unlike Lynch, I was able to visit the Church and Monastery with its magnificent rock-hewn churches and chapels. It was made doubly significant for me as I had not long before bought a CD recording of Armenian Church Music in which some of the most beautiful hymns were recorded in the rock tomb of Prince Papak Proshian, carved in the thirteenth century.
Lynch attended vespers at the Cathedral but was quite unmoved by the glories of Armenian liturgy or sacred chants, “The strongly nasal chants hurt my unaccustomed ear, and I found it impossible to educate my sympathy into communion with this show”.
Residence of the Catholicos
Catholicos Khrimean Hayrik received Lynch on several occasions and he has left us a good description of the official residence at that time:
“There is no style or pomp about the pontifical dwelling; and it would bear the same relation to the Master’s Lodge at Trinity as a four-roomed cottage to a mansion. At the back is a little garden.”
Lynch’s first encounter with the Catholicos was in a formal audience before the enthronement ceremonies:
“We passed from this outer room into a chamber with a daïs at the further side; and presently the Katholikos entered and mounted the daïs, begging us be seated on two chairs which were placed on the floor below, but quite close to his own arm-chair.”
He later provides a contrasting account of a private meeting:
“I found him reclining on a wooden couch in a bare white-washed apartment; a single rug was suspended upon the wall beside the couch. Such is the bed and such the furniture natural to the object of all this pomp, which I do not doubt is profoundly distasteful to such a character. He took my hand in his, and we sat together for some time …”
I was delighted to discover, therefore, that the old Residence has not only survived but has been left very much as a shrine to Khrimean Hayrik. Standing to the east of the present Residence, its west front is sheltered by trees, although the enclosed garden has now been extended to form part of a larger, well maintained garden that stretches between both buildings. Wide eaves and an overhanging window rise above its walls of pink and grey stones, whilst a broad flight of stairs lead to the spacious quarters upstairs. The throne with its footstool is still on the dais, but the ornate and sumptuously painted floral ceiling of this Presence Chamber is not mentioned by Lynch. The Catholicos’ desk, covered in an oriental carpet and solid inkwells has the appearance of a desk left tidily at the end of one day and now awaiting the transaction of a new day’s business. Elsewhere tapestries and vestments of great beauty are displayed, but overall there is a pervasive feeling of lightness and simple dignity.
St. Gregory’s Prison
On one day I was taken to Khor Virap, the site of the fortress of Artaxata, where St. Gregory had been cast into a noisome oubliette and languished, truly forgotten, for thirteen years until King Trdat’s sister had a dream in which it was revealed that St. Gregory alone could cure the King’s lycanthropy. Poor Lynch had got within the shadow of its walls when he was rudely interrupted by the local commander of the Imperial Russian border police and forcibly conducted back to Yerevan, so he never saw this particular shrine. The monastery, within high walls, stands halfway up the side of a rocky protrusion from the flat plains surrounding. Immediately below its parapets one can trace the border with Turkey, whilst dominating the entire horizon are the mighty peaks of Ararat and its lesser mounts.
My descent into St. Gregory’s pit was by a heavy iron ladder descending vertically into a stone hole in the wall of the little chapel. At last, having passed through much solid stone and penetrating the domed roof of the prison, the ladder changed angle and came to an end near the middle of the room. A single electric light bulb, for which I was most grateful, reminded me that St. Gregory had not enjoyed even that luxury. As my eyes grew accustomed to the gloom I saw high above in the roof a small hole through which St. Gregory had received his sole sustenance: a single loaf soaked in water and dropped down by the charity of a pious woman each day for the whole of his incarceration. It was probably the part of my pilgrimage, which had the greatest impact on me
When I later enquired if his benefactress’ identity was ever known and whether she was reckoned among the saints of Armenia, I was told of a tradition which doesn’t appear in any of the books I had read. Years later St. Gregory is said to have revealed that it was not a woman but an angel of the Lord. The saint himself only discovered this because on one day each year no food came. When he enquired it was explained that on that single day in each year the particular angelic cohort in which his visitor was enrolled was required to be on duty before the Throne of God.
After his release from prison and his conversion of King Trdat and the court, Armenia’s pagan temples were systematically destroyed. One of these was the Temple of Apollo at Garni, a fortress overlooking a steep precipice to the east of Yerevan. Next to its ruins a church was erected. In course of time the church was thrown down by an earthquake and the Soviets, discovering that the temple’s stones had been left where they had been thrown almost 1700 years before, reconstructed a perfect pagan temple. I was not entirely sure that St. Gregory would have approved of my visiting the one pagan monument which survived his efforts.
Armenia’s Monastic Life
I joined the clergy at Etchmiadzin for several of their meals in the refectory. Priests and deacons all sat together on benches at a long table while jolly ladies, smartly attired in full caterer’s togs, stood at the servery and dolled out first and second helpings whilst engaging in good-natured banter. Yoghurt and oatmeal soup, goat’s cheese, green peppers and crisp bread were typical of the simple but delicious food. In Lynch’s day the refectory had a place set for the Catholicos, though I rather suspect that His Holiness now eats in his own residence.
I spoke with Archbishop Nerses, the Chancellor, about the renewal of monastic life in the Armenian Church. I had visited the sites of several ancient monasteries but they had always been served by married priests. A number of monastic clergy were part of the regular Cathedral staff but the monastery at Etchmiadzin was clearly not functioning as such today. I spoke of the monastic revival in the Coptic Church and wondered if there were signs of something similar beginning in Armenia. He explained that the Soviet era had meant the total destruction of the monastic life in the Armenian Church and quite frankly admitted having lost the continuity it was now very difficult to restore an authentic tradition. The newly independent Armenian Republic had many problems to face in its transition from Communism to Democracy, not least in changing attitudes in society.
He regretted that many ordinands, however committed to the service of the church, now expected the material comforts the new society was gradually making available, such as motor cars, good housing, foreign travel and that these expectations did not engender monastic vocations. He thought that only when the first fruits of the prosperous life had been savoured and found still to leave the soul unsatisfied, would the ascetic life begin to beckon and the monasteries would be renewed.
I left Holy Etchmiadzin deeply impressed by the ability of the Armenian Church and people to survive whatever history has thrown at them. For an Armenian state to have come into being again after so many centuries was nothing short of miraculous. In 2001 Armenia is planning to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of its conversion to Christianity and there was no doubt that the Church had been the cement which has held the people together. It now faces a new challenge and needs to ensure that this newly established nation does not proceed on its journey with the church as a mere travelling companion. It needs men of profound spiritual authority and uncompromising integrity, bold witnesses to the truth like the great Khrimean Hayrik, and such men in the past have been formed in the cloister rather than the courts of princes. The renewal of the monastic life may still be the key to the renewal of the nation.
Having Lynch as my travelling companion had been helpful in giving me something by which to measure and compare what I encountered myself. He was a typical traveller of Britain’s imperial era, but he had been so struck by the history and character of this ancient nation that he had written about ‘Armenia’ when it will still divided and subsumed into other states. I was told that in Turkey, Lynch’s volumes are forbidden books, but its frequent reprinting has been because of the demands for it in the Armenian diaspora. Perhaps the strength of Armenia Travels & Studies lies in the fact that it is not just a nostalgic travel guide but has something of the prophetic about it. It is clearly time for a new Lynch.
The Glastonbury Bulletin, No. 99 (December 1998)
 H.F.B. Lynch, Armenia, Travels and Studies, (1901), in two volumes. Reprinted by the Khayat Book & Publishing Company S.A.L., (P.O. Box 11-1103, Beirut, Lebanon) 1965, 1967 & 1990.
 See the article on Armenian Architecture in the Foreword to the lavishly illustrated Treasures of Etchmiadzin (1984)
 I was told that these represented St. Gregory and Trdat III but Lynch quotes scholars who identified these as St. Paul and Thekla.
 The Music of Armenia, Volume I: Sacred Choral Music, Celestial Harmonies: 1995.