The Armenian Patriarchate, Armenian Quarter

The Armenian Patriarchate, Armenian Quarter

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The Armenian Quarter is the smallest among Jerusalem’s Quarters, and it is actually an ancient monastery and the abode of the Armenian Patriarchate. The origin of the Armenians is from the areas of Van Lake and Ararat Mountain in modern North - Eastern Turkey.

The Armenians were the first nation to accept Christianity in year 301 AD, under the leadership of King Tiridates the 3rd.  The Armenian alphabet was created in the beginning of the 5th century, in order to translate the holy scripts to Armenian. The Armenians of Jerusalem are considered to be one of the most senior communities in the area. During the Roman era they fought with the 10th legion soldiers, and when Christianity was introduced to the Holy Land, Armenian pilgrims started arriving in Jerusalem. Researchers claim that many of the first monks in the Judea desert were Armenian. 

According to the tradition, the Armenians received a special permit from Mohamed to practice their traditions in the Holy Land. They even received a written approval from the Umayyad Calif Omar Ibn Al Khattab from Damascus. Following the crusaders’ invasion and the foundation of the Crusader Kingdoms, the kings of Armenia maintained close relations with the Crusader Kings and some of them even married Armenian women. During that time, the compound was expanded in order to host crusaders and serve as a center for religious studies. Following the massacre of the Armenians in Turkey during World War I, many Armenian refugees arrived in Jerusalem, and found refuge in the monastery. Since then, the monastery has been used as living quarters. 

Most of the Armenians living in Jerusalem today are descendants of the survivors from the massacres. The thick walls of the monastery enabled Armenians to live safely in this place for hundreds of years. It houses most of the community’s institutions, including the Patriarchate, the Armenian school, an ancient museum and library, grocery shops and even two social clubs that represent two rival parties. 

The members of the clergy are only a small portion of the residents of the monastery, which is currently inhabited mainly by secular citizens who rent apartments and rooms within the monastery, and are accordingly obliged to adjust to the its rules. The prevailing language in the monastery is Armenian, and in every corner there are Armenian signs and flags. The Armenians are strict in maintaining their privacy and the guard at the entrance will not allow you to enter the monastery, unless you are invited by one of the community members. On the other side of the road is the theological seminar of the Armenians. There, the acolytes coming from Armenia and other countries around the world pursue their studies. The compound is closed to visitors with the exception of visitation to the Saint James cathedral courtyard, or the church itself during prayer services. 


Saint Jacobs Cathedral is located in the Armenian Quarter, which was built as a monastery and serves as the abode of the Armenian patriarchate of Jerusalem. The church was built during the crusader times, as evident in the massive construction style and the pointy intersected arches, and it was established in memory of Saint Jacob. According to the Christian faith, two saints named Jacob are buried here: Jacob, the brother of Jesus, who was the first bishop of Jerusalem, and “Jacob the Apostle”, one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. 

Only his head is buried here. His body was buried in the crusader’s city Santiago de Compostela, north-west of Spain. At the façade we can see the crosses carved in stone, known as Khachkars (Khach=cross, Kar=stone), which were donated by pilgrims who have visited the place over the years. In the courtyard, next to the gate through which you have entered, you can see the tomb of Abraham, the fist patriarch from the days of Salah A-Din. 

The church itself does not use electricity, only oil lamps. One of the interesting details in the courtyard are the wooden boards hanging at the front, known as “Nakos”. The monks knock on these boards before prayer, since they were the only ‘bells’ the church was allowed to use until the 19th century. Until then, the Muslims have prohibited the use of bells in the churches of Jerusalem. Today one can see these Nakos in many monasteries. The blue ceramic tiles are another nice detail in the church and in the courtyard. The ceramic art was brought to Jerusalem by 3 Armenian families who arrived from Turkey. These ceramics were ordered by the British, who wanted to renovate the mosques in the Temple Mount. Although the project was not carried out, the families stayed in Jerusalem and developed their unique techniques. Today these ceramics are identified with the Armenians of Jerusalem. They are characterized by images of birds and intertwined branches, which symbolize the human soul. It is easy to identify the Armenian priests, by the pointy hat they wear which resembles the top of Ararat Mountain, which is sacred for the Armenians. 

The entrance to the church is only possible during the prayer times, between 15:00 to 15:30.

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based on 81 traveler reviews
  • Alex Drukpa.
    Alex Drukpa.
    April 5, 2023

    Beautiful church at the third station of the via crusis(way of the cross). It'ss located in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Armenian Apostolic Church is officially recognised under Israel's confessional system, for...

  • Melvin Diaz
    Melvin Diaz
    March 3, 2019

    Beautiful church at the third station of the via crusis(way of the cross). As all the religious places, there is no charge or fee to visit. Go early or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. Recommended!

  • Mirosław Siemieniuk
    Mirosław Siemieniuk
    May 4, 2017

    It'ss located in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. The Armenian Apostolic Church is officially recognised under Israel's confessional system, for the self-regulation of status issues, such as marriage and divorce. Beauti...

  • Mônica Israel
    Mônica Israel
    November 28, 2020

    An amazing history and unforgettable churches, had painted ceramics and great food

  • Jay Levinson
    Jay Levinson
    November 15, 2021

    Beautiful church. Don't miss the museum that can be entered from inside or outside the compound. There is also an Armenian archives. Opposite the entrance to the Quarter there is a store with nice Armenian products at rea...

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