We like to think that the world is a great place to live. That over the last thousand years, there have been improvements in living conditions across the globe. That everyone is happier, healthier, and safer than ever before.
And while this might be true for most first-world countries, it is certainly not the case everywhere.
In fact, there are countries around the world that face death and destruction daily. Countries that are full of oppressed people left to suffer in silence. Countries that have remained unheard and unhelped for centuries.
Countries like Armenia.
Armenia is a small European country that shares borders with Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. While it is most well-known for its beautiful scenery and amazing architecture, it also happens to be one of earliest Christian civilisations on the planet.
As a result, it is home to many incredible religious sites and structures.
Religious sites and structures that are now in danger.
Over the course of centuries, Armenia was forced to face down a multitude of invasions before eventually surrendering to the Soviet Union in the 1900s. Then, after finally regaining its independence in 1991, it was quickly drawn into a nasty war with Azerbaijan.
Now many of its religious sites are facing destruction.
Including the amazing Monastery of Saint Translators.
The Monastery of Saint Translators?
As you may have guessed, the Monastery of Saint Translators is a famous Armenian monastery.
According to historical sources, this amazing monastery was built at the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th century by the Saints Mesrop Mashtots and Sahak Partev. It is located north of Daşkəsən, in a region now occupied by Azerbaijan.
Records would indicate that these two famous saints were some of the first people in Armenia to translate the bible from Syriac (which they did in the 411 AD), thus bringing Christianity to the region for the first time.
It was this process that created the need for a Christian monastery within the region – and the Monastery of Saint Translators was born.
Serving as a hub of Christianity for locals, the Monastery started small. It was a believed to have been a small building that offered a place for prayer, and a haven for pilgrims in times of dire need and desperation.
While the precise information of its early years is quite murky, there is evidence to suggest that the monastery complex underwent to significant reconstructions – one during the year 989, and then another in the year 1845.
The first reconstruction was due to the monastery’s rise in popularity, which occurred mostly in thanks to the reign of bishop Gabriel Harutunyan. During his reign, he popularised Christianity throughout the region, causing the monastery to become a popular location for pilgrims across the country.
This increase in popularity – and the increased foot traffic that came with it – led to many of the locals within the region to actively engage in the monastery’s activities, causing its redevelopment and improvement.
Over the next 600 hundred years, the complex was a work in progress.
During the 1600s, the main church of the complex was built in its entirety.
This amazing structure consists of one vaulted dome with an apse in the east that sits between two small rooms. There is a porch located around the nave of the church, which stretches west out onto the church front. It has a two-storey tower built of carved stone that sits adjacent to the porch – this leads to the main entrance of the church.
Finally, the main hall is located to the north of the church, which served as its primary place of worship.
Five meters to the east of the church there were living quarters for the monks of the monastery, giving them a beautiful view to the plains west of the complex.
These living quarters consist of six individual vaulted rooms, each with its own entrance and west facing window. Then, to the south of the rooms, is the dining room which adjoins a smaller room that seems to have served as a kitchen.
Eventually, during the reign of Stepanos Balyants in the 1830s, some slight changes occurred once again. The church and living quarters were rebuilt in places, and a barn and dining room was added to provide more room for the monks and their animals.
The loss of the Monastery
The Monastery of Saint Translators served its people extremely well until the early 1900s when the Soviets took over the nation. Over the next 70 years, the monastery was left to the elements, which were not kind.
It fell into a state of dilapidation – a state that was speed up by Soviet locals who regular vandalised the church.
Then, after gaining independence from the soviets in 1991, Armenia was drawn into a bloody civil war with Azerbaijan.
Although this first war ended in 1994, the monastery was not given enough time to be restored to its former glory. Despite the hope of the local Armenian people, disaster struck before renovations could commence.
In 2020, Azerbaijan again attacked Armenia.
After months of fighting, the Armenian people were forced into a ceasefire agreement and region was surrendered to Azerbaijan.
As you may have guessed, the monastery was included in the territory to come under Azerbaijani control. It was handed over to a nation that intends to wipe out the amazing Christian history of Armenia in its entirety.
There is a real possibility that the Monastery of Saint Translators will never return to the care of its people. That it will never be restored, and slowly fade away into oblivion.
While Armenia has surprised the world with is strength and stoicism in the face of danger time and time again, this threat may be too much for them to face alone.
To retake the Monastery of Saint Translators they need the help and faith of the world.
They need your help, and your faith.