Iran’s QaraKelisa to host Christians for annual pilgrimage
Iran is planning to hold a ceremony in memory of Saint Thaddeus and his faithful followers in the country’s province of West Azarbaijan.
The 61st edition of the annual ceremony will be held from July 23rd to 25, hosting Armenians, Assyrians and Catholics from Iran and other countries who gather at Iran’s QaraKelisa as part of their pilgrimage on the Day of St. Thaddeus.
The ceremony is known as one of the largest religious ceremonies held by Armenians.
“Our Christian countrymen from across the country will take part in the ceremony,” said head of the provincial office of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) Jalil Jabbari.
Christians from Iran and other countries visit Iran’s QaraKelisa every year to honor the memory of Saint Thaddeus and his faithful followers.
Jabbari added that QaraKelisa will only host Christian visitors during the ceremony and non-Christian tourists will not be able to enter the church premises until the end of the event.
QaraKelisa, also known as the St. Thaddeus Church, is one of the oldest and most notable surviving Christian monuments of Iran, believed by the country’s Armenian Orthodox community to be the world’s first church.
The church is said to have been constructed in 68 CE by one of the apostles of Jesus, Saint Thaddeus, who traveled to Armenia, then part of the Persian Empire, to preach the teachings of Christ.
QaraKelisa, which literally means Black Church, has been registered as the ninth Iranian historical-cultural heritage site on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List.
An ancient chapel two kilometers northwest of the church is said to have been the place where the first Christian woman, Sandokh, was martyred. The chapel is believed to be as old as QaraKelisa.