Saint Stepanos Monastery
The Saint Stepanos Monastery, 15 km northwest of Jolfa city, East Azerbaijan Province, northwest of Iran, is an Armenian monastery, situated in a deep canyon along the Aras River on the Iranian side of the border between Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Iran. It was built in the 9th century and rebuilt in the Safavid era due to numerous earthquakes that had severely damaged the building.
The well-preserved St. Stepanos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the magnificent churches that was built between the 10th and 12th centuries. Founded by St. Bartholomew, the building was partly destroyed during the wars between the Seljuk and the Byzantine Empire in the 11th and 12th centuries. Since 1974 the monastery has undergone several restorations. The height of its cultural and intellectual influence was in the 14th and 15th centuries.
This remarkable structure is known for its beautiful exterior design. The carved stones on the outer walls are examples of fine art. The general structure mostly resembles Armenian and Georgian architecture and inside the building is covered with beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist. The cylindrical building with its cone-shaped dome is surrounded by a fortress with seven towers; it has a bell tower and a courtyard as well. The unique landscape surrounding the church has given it a great potential to attract a lot of visitors to the site.
It is said that the bones of Saint Stephen, Saint Matthew and Prophet Daniel, as well as the bones of one of the successors of the Apostles of Jesus are being kept in this church.
The main Armenian communities are in Isfahan, Tabriz and Tehran as well as a few scattered villages. The Iranian churches St. Stepanos, St. Thaddeus and Dzordzor (Zorzor) in East and West Azerbaijan are registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The UNESCO website described the monuments as “examples of outstanding universal value of Armenian architecture and decorative traditions as they bear testimony to very important interchanges with the other regional cultures, in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox and Persian.”
My wife and I spent two weeks in Iran on tour with Ahmad in May this year. We so enjoyed his knowledge and company and driving us around to suit our interests. We also went to places like Kerman, Yazd, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran. One...More
Thank you for the best trip of my life, Ahmad and Iran!! Iran was at once everything I had hoped and not at all what I expected. It is an exceptionally beautiful country with an equally warm and inviting population. The delicious food doesn't hurt...More
I visited Iran with a slovenian agency and Ahmad Janati was our tour guide. I would definitely recommend him, as he possesses a huge amount of knowledge in history, politics, culture,... His English is very good, which makes things a lot easier for you when...More
Kerman, Yazd, Shiraz, Isfahan, Kashan and Qom: for two weeks we were regaled with many insights into the fabulous centuries-old history of Iran. From the roots of the Zoroastrianism to the splendors of Persepolis, a journey through the country’s history is given more meaning when...More
At the beginning we were scared to have a guide driving the two of us for two weeks. What if we don't like each other? It turned out that Ahmad is an excellent guide not because he possesses a lot of knowledge about his country...More
Sadly Americans can no longer visit Iran but if we could we would return immediately and of course spend our trip with Ahmad. He has extensive and thorough understanding of both the history and modern circumstances of this fascinating country. Ahmad is passionate about his...More