The Glorious Church of Kish

Something that very few people realise is there are countries across the globe that that face death and destruction daily. Countries that are full of oppressed people who have been left to suffer in silence. 

Countries that have remained unheard and unhelped for centuries.

Countries like Armenia, like example.

Sharing borders with Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, Armenia is a small country located in Europe that is most well-known for its beautiful scenery and amazing architecture.

Interestingly, it also happens to be one of earliest Christian civilisations on the planet.

With this in mind, it is home to a some of the oldest religious sites and structures in the world – many of which are currently facing their demise. 

Over the last thousand years, Armenia was forced to fight off many invasions before eventually conceding to the Soviet Union in the 1900s. Then, after finally regaining its independence in 1991, it was quickly drawn into a bloody civil war with Azerbaijan. 

As a result, its religious history is facing its doom.

Including the glorious Church of Kish.

The Church of Kish

The Church of Kish, also known as the “church of Saint Elishe” and the “Holy Mother of God Church” in certain regions, is a Georgian Orthodox church that is believed to date all the way back to early 12th century.

Whilst is has been largely inactive since the early 1900s, the occasional mass was regularly held by a Georgian priest during the early 2000s.

The Church of Kish is in the village of Kiş, a place that sits approximately 5 km north of Shaki – a region now under the control of Azerbaijan.

Archaeological research undertaken in in the year 2000 suggested that the building may have first been built as a diophysite Georgian church, before becoming an Armenian Christian church at the height of its popularity in the early 1700s. 

A History of the Church of Kish

According to the 7th century Armenian historian “Movses Kaghankatvatsi”, sometime around 100 AD, Saint Elishe, a disciple of Thaddeus of Edessa, arrived in a place called Gis. Upon his arrival, he is believed to have built a church and recited a liturgy. 

This church rapidly became the spiritual centre and a place of enlightenment of people of Eastern Armenia.

Unfortunately, on his way from Gis, Saint Elishe was killed near the pagan altar in the small Zerguni valley by unknown people.

Over the next few hundred years, the legacy of Elishe and his church lived on in the Armenian people. This legacy made its way to the location of Kish, where it eventually found a home and a haven. 

According to historical texts, in the 10th century, the population of Kish converted to the Georgian Orthodox Church (a religion known as Chalcedonism). Then the church of Kish was turned into a residence of a Georgian bishop, where it acted as a fully functioning church well into until the 17th century. 

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, Kish became the home to a large number of Armenians who were of Christian belief. This resulted in the conversion of the church to one of Armenia Christianity, where it served it people well. 

It is believed that many Armenians settled in Kish fleeing early Turko-Mongolic invasions. However, many more entered the region with the coming of the Soviet Union in the early nineteenth century – likely drawn by the religious beliefs of the location and its people.

Church of Kish Today

While nothing remains today of the original church designed by Saint Elishe, his legacy lives on the current building.

The church in Kish is beautiful, designed its own unique style. While most of the current building dates all the way back to the 12th century, some of its remains date back more than a millennium. 

The masonry building is finely tiled, and it is easily recognised by its marquee dome and narrow windows. The inner architecture is typical of many other small temples in the region, and its inner yard holds an ancient cemetery. 

Because of its ancient history, the Church of Kish is one of the most frequently visited Armenian Christian monuments.

But for how long it will last, we cannot say.

A Threatened Future

Despite its position as the centre of Christianity for the population of Armenia for many years, the Church of Kish may never be returned to its people.

After finally escaping the control if the Soviet Union in 1991, Azerbaijan attacked Armenia. As a result, the Armenian people were forced into a ceasefire agreement that resulted in many locations being handed over to Azerbaijan. 

As you may have guessed, the Church of Kish was included in the territory to come under Azerbaijani control – ending up in the hands of a nation that looks to wipe out the amazing Christian history of Armenia in its entirety. 

There is a real possibility that this Church will never return to the care of its people. 

A chance it will be destroyed, its history slowly fading 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 Church of Kish they need the help and faith of the world.

They need your help, and your faith.

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