historical sources, such as the travelogue of Frenchmen Jean Baptiste
Tavernier (1605-1689), some photos kept at Tehran’s Golestan Palace, and
the photos taken by Ali Khan Vali, the governor of northern Azarbaijan
during the reign of the Qajar king Nasser ad-Din Shah and kept in the Adl
family archives, indicate that the bones of Saint Stephanus (Saint
Stephen), who acted as a direct successor to Saint Peter, Saint Matthew,
and the Prophet Daniel, are being kept in the St. Stephanus Church.
East Azarbaijan Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department sent a letter to
the Prelacy of Iran after the team discovered the bones, asking their
representative to attend the process of gathering the bones from the site
last Sunday,” Adl said.
team has also discovered several pieces of board from the boxes containing
the bones, yellow and beige clothes, seeds of frankincense and some pieces
of wax, and ocher beside the bones.
bones have been examined by a team of anthropologists of the Cultural
Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO).
bones have been damaged because of the bad condition of the place. Thus,
we could only determine that they are the bones of a single body but the
individual bones can not be distinguished,” said team member Farzad
complete skeleton belongs to a man about 50 years old with a strong body,
bones have been transferred to the Prelacy of Azarbaijan in
because restoration work is currently underway in the church, but they
will be returned after the renovation is complete.
bones will be returned to be kept in a specific place during a special
religious ceremony,” East Azarbaijan Cultural Heritage and Tourism
Department Director Ali-Akbar Taqizadeh said.
Ajimian, an Armenian scholar and historian, recorded that the church was
originally built in the ninth century CE, but repeated earthquakes in
Azarbaijan severely damaged the original structure. The church was
renovated during the reign of the Safavid king Shah Abbas (1588-1629).
general structure of the St. Stephanus Church mostly resembles Armenian
and Georgian architecture and the inside of the building is adorned with
beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist.
CHTO plans to submit an application to UNESCO to register the St.
Stephanus Church as well as the St. Thaddeus and Zorzor churches in
on the World Heritage List.