Vank Cathedral is a cathedral located in the New Julfa district of Isfahan, Iran. It is commonly referred to as the Vank, which means “monastery” or “convent” in the Armenian language.
The cathedral was established in 1606, dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees that were resettled by Shah Abbas I during the Ottoman War of 1603-1618.
The varying fortunes and independence of this suburb across the Zayande River and its eclectic mix of European missionaries, mercenaries and travelers can be traced almost chronologically in the cathedral’s combination of building styles and contrasts in its external and internal architectural treatment.
The construction is believed to have begun in 1606 by the first arrivals and completed with major alterations to design between 1655 and 1664 under the supervision of Archbishop David. The cathedral consists of a domed sanctuary, much like an Iranian mosque, but with the significant addition of a semi-octagonal apse and raised chancel usually seen in western churches. The cathedral’s exteriors are in relatively modern brickwork and are exceptionally plain compared to its elaborately decorated interior.
The interior is covered with fine frescos and gilded carvings and includes a wainscot of rich tile work. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of the creation of the world and man’s expulsion from Eden. Pendentives throughout the church are painted with a distinctly Armenian motif of a cherub’s head surrounded by folded wings. The ceiling above the entrance is painted with delicate floral motifs in the style of Persian miniature. Two sections, or bands, of murals, run around the interior walls: the top section depicts events from the life of Jesus, while the bottom section depicts tortures inflicted upon Armenian martyrs by the Ottoman Empire.