The majority of Iranian population practice Shi'ism, which is one of the largest branches of Islam and the official religion of Iran. However, other religions such as Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity are also practiced in this country.
Most of the people who associate themselves with non-Islamic religious minorities are Christians and the history of Christianity in Iran dates back to early years of faith, pre-dating Islam. Therefore, the presence of Christians has always been continuous in Iran and at least 600 churches and more than 300,000 Christians exist in this country.
In this article, we are going to introduce you some of the most famous churches in Iran which are also among the touristic attraction of different cities.
Qare Church (Church of Saint Thaddeus)
Qare Church (The Monastery of Saint Thaddeus), which has been added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2008, is one of the oldest and probably the most famous church of Iran.
This beautiful church is the most remarkable Christian monuments of the country and is located in West Azarbaijan Province.
Each year, many Christians from neighboring countries visit this church during different seasons of the year. The architecture of this church has unique characteristics and due to the surrounding structures, it looks like a castle, too.
Armenians believe that this church is the world’s first church and many tourists visit this site annually for different ceremonies and religious celebrations.
Qare Church, also known as Black Church in West Azerbaijan Province. Photo by Irantour @Flickr
Vank church, also known as Holy Savior Cathedral, is among the most astonishing attractions of Isfahan. With amazing ceil paintings and its unique architecture, Vank cathedral has been ranked among the most important and most beautiful churches of Iran.
This cathedral was built during the Safavid era when thousands of Armenians inhabited in Jolfa district of Isfahan. The structure of the church’s dome is similar to domes of Iranian mosques of the Safavid era, but what makes it so special is its interior paintings and gildings. Visiting this cathedral is a must while you are in Isfahan.
Vank Cathedral, Isfahan
Saint Sarkis Cathedral
Located in the central part of Tehran, this cathedral is an Armenian Apostolic church which was completed in 1970. The exterior part of this cathedral has been made of white marble and the interior walls are covered with paintings with biblical themes.
It is considered to be the largest church of Tehran and there is an Armenian Genocide memorial in the courtyard of the building in the remembrance of the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians between 1914 to 1923.
Saint Sarkis Cathedral, Tehran. Photo: Tabnak.ir
Saint Mary Church
The largest church of Tabriz, also known as Holy Mother of God Church or Surp Mariam Asdvadzadzin Church, has been built more than 500 years ago and is considered to be the main center of religious practice among Armenians of this city.
The Italian explorer, Marco Polo, has mentioned this church in his travel chronicles around 1275 AD, as he was passing through Tabriz on his way to China. This church is among the most important touristic attraction of the city and each year, many religious ceremonies are held here.
St. Astvatsatsin Church in Tehran. One of Iran's Armenian Churches, 2015. Photo: Wikipedia
Saint Stepanos Monastery
Located about 15 kilometers northwest of Jolfa city in East Azerbaijan, this church dates back to the ninth century. After being damaged several times due to earthquake and wars, it was rebuilt during the Safavid era.
This church has been situated in a mountainous area in a green valley. A stone fence protects the monastery and the architecture and designs made on the stone has turned it to a unique monument popular among visitors.
Saint Stepanos Monastery in East Azarbaijan- Photo @Wikipedia
Saint Garapet Armenian Church
Situated in the southern part of Iran in Abadan city, this church was established in 1958 and since then has been receiving many foreign and domestic visits.
The interesting point about this church is the fact that it is adjacent to a famous mosque in this city called Imam Musa ibn Jafar and it beautifully represents the respect and the connection which exists between people from different religions.
During the 8-year of Iran-Iraq war, this mosque was turned to a center for training and preparing soldiers. Nowadays, not so many Christian people live in this city and therefore, fewer ceremonies are held in St. Garapet church.
Saint Garapet Armenian Church in Abadan. Photo @Wikipedia