Lost Religious Relics from Dikranagerd and Akhtamar Find New Home at Ararat-Eskijian Museum

Oil lamps from St. Giragos and St. Sarkis Churches of Dikranagerd) and a flabellum from Holy Cross in Akhtamar at Ararat-Eskijian Museum

MISSION HILLS, Calif.—Ararat-Eskijian Museum has acquired five unique items from the 18th and 19th centuries, which were used in Armenian churches in the cities of Van and Diyarbakir.

The flabellum (kshots, in Armenian), or ceremonial fan, dates from the late 1700s, and originates from the Cathedral of Holy Cross on the island of Akhtamar in Lake Van. The four oil lamps (gantegh, in Armenian) date from the late 1800s, and originate from St. Giragos and St. Sarkis Cathedrals in Dikranagerd (Diyarbakir).

The Armenian inscriptions on the objects explain that they were originally gifted to the corresponding churches by patrons and parishioners on different occasions.

During the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide in the early 20th century, as religious and cultural sites were pillaged and looted, these relics, along with countless other treasures and heirlooms of Armenian heritage, were stolen and seemingly lost forever to the .

However, about 35 years ago, these four oil lamps “resurfaced”, when they traveled from Trabzon to Istanbul into the hands of an antique dealer. Recognizing the Armenian script engraved on the objects, the dealer realized their significance and brought them to the attention of an Armenian family that collects such relics. The flabellum was “found” in similar fashion 20 years ago.

Considering the important and active role the three cathedrals, from where these relics originate, played in the spiritual, religious and cultural lives of the Armenians of the region, Ararat-Eskijian Museum Director Maggie Mangassarian-Goschin says the Museum is proud of this acquisition and grateful to the generous donation from the Abrahamian Trust that made it possible. “These objects had an interesting journey through history undergoing attempts to melt, deface and erase the Armenian inscriptions and, thus, their provenance. They are silent witnesses of a lost time but have now found a new, eternal home here.”

The items are currently displayed in Ararat-Eskijian Museum, but they will soon be moved to their permanent and more appropriate location in Ararat Home’s Sheen Memorial Chapel.

Following COVID-19 restrictions, Ararat-Eskijian Museum welcomes visitors on Saturdays and Sundays, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., or on weekdays by appointment, which can easily be made by calling (747) 500-7585. The Museum is located on the Ararat Home campus at 15105 Mission Hills Road, in Mission Hills.

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