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The Armenian Quarter - Jerusalem
submitted by This Week In Palestine

Jaffa Gate is the most direct way to access the part of the city where most of the Armenian community resides and where their churches and institutions are located. The Armenians, who embraced Christianity as their national religion in 301, constitute the oldest Christian nation in the world. Not surprisingly, they established the first quarter in Jerusalem. The Armenian quarter encompasses about one-sixth of the area within Jerusalem’s walls and is essentially a city within a city. It is dominated by the 5th-century Saint James Cathedral and monastery, one of the finest and oldest churches in the world.

In the early Christian period, thousands of Armenian monks lived in some 70 monasteries all over Palestine. Armenians also constituted a significant number of the early pilgrims to the country. When Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem in 638, he granted the Armenian patriarch a separate covenant safeguarding Armenian property and allowing freedom of worship.

Through donations and property leases the Armenians maintained continuity in the city throughout the 1,400 years of Muslim rule. The community grew constantly, as those who faced prosecution in Armenia and elsewhere came to Jerusalem.

With their long tradition in Jerusalem in particular, it is not surprising that the Armenians have made many cultural contributions. The first printing press in Jerusalem was opened by Armenians in 1833. The first commercial photographic workshop in Jerusalem was started by an Armenian in 1855. Armenian ceramics were introduced to Palestine in 1919. Today in Jerusalem there are five large pottery studios.

This Week in Palestine
November 2008

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