Among the churches built in the Jolfa District of Isfahan, the magnificent and architecturally significant “Vank” Cathedral is the most famous.
The construction of the cathedral, also known as Amna Perkich and All Savior’s Cathedral, began during the reign of Shah Abbas of the Safavid Dynasty in 1606 and was completed between 1655 and 1664.
The interior of the church is elaborately decorated with wall paintings, tile work and also tableaus depicting the life of Jesus Christ. Apart from the paintings which are imitations of Italian styles, the architecture and all the decorations are totally Iranian.
The cathedral also has a domed sanctuary much alike an Islamic mosque but with the significant addition of a semi-octagonal apse and raised chancel usually observed in western churches. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of the creation of Adam and Eve as well as their expulsion from Paradise.
The cathedral also houses a rather small but unique museum, a historic printing press, and a large library invaluable for research in Armenian and medieval European languages and arts.
The museum, adding to the significance of the site displays historical objects, manuscripts and documents related to Armenian history. The oldest book printed in Isfahan and some edicts of Iranian kings dating back to the time of Shah Abbas the First are among the exhibits.
The printing press was founded by Bishop Khachatoor in the 17th century and the first book printed here was The Psalms. This unique edition, the only one in the world, is preserved in Oxford, England.
An exemplary specimen of Armenian architectural achievement, the cathedral represents different stages of political, economic and social status of this minority community in Iran since the mid-seventeenth century.
The Vank Cathedral was one of the first churches to be established in Isfahan by Armenian immigrants settled by Shah Abbas I after the Ottoman War of 1603-05.