Kara Kilise – West Azerbaijan
Kara Kilise or the Monastery of Saint Thaddeus is an ancient Armenian monastery in the mountains of West Azerbaijan, Iran. The Kara Kilise is a small monastery but popular amongst Armenian-Iranians.
History of Kara Kilise West Azerbaijan
Saint Thaddeus, who is also known as Saint Jude, (not to be mixed with Judas Iscariot) proselytise Armenia and Persia to Christianity, according to the Armenian Apostolic Church. The same church believes that Saint Thaddeus was martyred in Armenia and he is well respected as an apostle of the Armenian Church. The Kara Kilise is believed that a church was built to honour him in the same location in the year 68 AD. However, the Kara Kilise was destroyed in 1319 by an earthquake and later on, renovated and reestablished. Hence, some parts of the altar date back to the 10th century.
In 1811, an Iranian Qajar prince assisted the renovations in the church, and a western style extension was attached to the church. This extension replicates the Etchmiadzin Cathedral design, which is the main church of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Turkish name, Kara Klise or Qara Klise (literally translated to Black church) is due to the black and white stones used to build the earliest parts of the church.
The Monastery of Saint Thaddeus was listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List back in 2008.
Who Was Saint Thaddeus?
Saint Thaddeus and Apostle Bartholomew journeyed all over Armenia in 45 AD to preach the word of Jesus according to Armenian Church. They successfully converted people to Christianity that formed several secret Christian communities.
Saint Thaddeus was able to convert King Abgar V of Edessa, after whose death, the Armenian kingdom split into two sections. His son Ananun took over ruling Edessa, and his nephew Sanatruk ruled Armenia. Around 66 AD, Ananun ordered to murder Saint Thaddeus in Edessa. Sandokht, the converted princess, was martyred along Thaddeus. Locals believe that Thaddeus grave is situated near the Qara Kelisa.
Events in Kara Kilise West Azerbaijan
Every year there is a pilgrimage ceremony in the St. Thaddeus Monastery during 14th to 16th July by the Armenian bishopric of Azerbaijan, Iran. The Kara Kilise ceremony is a blend of tradition and emotional ritual for Armenians to visit this tourist attraction by family and friends while enjoying the summer. During this festival, people gather together, and the food is prepared and served throughout the day and nights.
How to visit Kara Kilise?
To visit Kara Kilise, you have two options. One is through Tabriz which is around 270 kilometres away, and one has to pass cities of Marand, Qara Zia al-din, and Shut. From Shut to Kara Kilise is a 35-kilometre distance, and the church is located midway of Shut to Chaldoran. Most of this road is an international transit road with top quality.
The second road starts in Urmia which is around 275 kilometres away. To arrive at the Kara Kilise from Urmia, one has to pass cities of Salmas, Khoy, and Chaldoran. The road between Khoy and Chaldoran is 100 kilometres long and is a rather steep side road.
If you are planning to travel to Tabriz, you can check out a list of available treatments in below.