Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church, Baku

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Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral
Armenian church in Baku.jpg
The church in April 2013
Basic information
Location 38 Nizami Street, Baku, Azerbaijan[1]
Geographic coordinates 40°22′18″N 49°50′11″E / 40.371623°N 49.836466°E / 40.371623; 49.836466Coordinates: 40°22′18″N 49°50′11″E / 40.371623°N 49.836466°E / 40.371623; 49.836466
Affiliation Armenian Apostolic Church
Country Azerbaijan
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Not functioning[2]
Architectural description
Architectural style Armenian architecture
Groundbreaking 1863[3]
Completed 1869[3]

Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church (Armenian: Բաքվի Սուրբ Գրիգոր Լուսավորիչ եկեղեցի, Bak’vi Surb Grigor Lusavorich yekeghetsi; Azerbaijani: Müqəddəs Maarifləndirici Qriqori Kilsəsi),[a] is a former Armenian Apostolic church near Fountains Square in central Baku, Azerbaijan. Completed in 1869 it was one of the two Armenian churches in Baku to survive the Soviet anti-religious campaign. It is the only Armenian monument to stand in Baku.[4]


The church was built between 1863 and 1869.[3] In 1920 it became the cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Diocese of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.[5] It survived through the Soviet state atheist policies of the 1920s and 1930s when all but two Armenian churches in Baku were destroyed.[5]

1990 pogrom and aftermath[edit]

The large Armenian population of Baku—around 200,000 in the mid-1980s—was targeted in a January 1990 pogrom in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.[4] The city's Armenian population was forced to flee. Serious damage to the church was caused by an arson attack on December 25, 1989, but it remained standing.[6]

Current state[edit]

Thomas de Waal wrote in his 2003 book Black Garden that the church "remains a gutted shell eleven years after it was burned in December 1989; the cross has been removed from the belfry, now used as a pool hall." He also wrote that it remains the only visible Armenian monument in Baku.[4] Jason Thomson wrote in 2005 that it was "transformed into a billiard hall and tea house."[7] The library of the church consisting of 5,000 books and manuscripts has been preserved.[8][9]

In 2002 the church was transferred to the Presidential Library,[10] which is located nearby, and now houses its archive.[2][1] In 2006 Azerbaijani Minister of Culture Abulfas Garayev stated that converting the church into a library is purposeful because there are not many Armenian Christians in Azerbaijan.[11] There have been proposals about reopening it as a church.[9]

Visits by Armenians[edit]

In April 2010 Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, visited the church and prayed and sang medieval hymns there. He expressed hope that the church will eventually "reopen its doors to believers."[12] It was the first time since 1990 that prayer was heard at the church.[13]

In April 2012 the Armenian delegation participating at a Euronest Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Baku visited the church.[14]



  1. ^ It is often referred to as the Armenian Church of Baku: Բաքվի հայկական եկեղեցի, Bakıda erməni kilsəsi
  1. ^ a b Musayeva, Günay (5 August 2011). "Erməni̇ Ki̇lsəsi̇ İbadətə Açilacaqmi?". Yeni Müsavat (in Azerbaijani). Musavat. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Gamidov, Gamid (1 August 2011). "Толерантный Баку — часть IV: армянская церковь [Tolerant Baku - Part 4: Armenian Church]" (in Russian). Echo of Moscow. Archived from the original on 7 March 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Stepanyan 2009, p. 47.
  4. ^ a b c de Waal 2003, p. 103.
  5. ^ a b Stepanyan 2009, p. 54.
  6. ^ Stepanyan 2009, p. 55.
  7. ^ Thomson, Jason (2005). In the Shadow of Aliyev: Travels in Azerbaijan. Bennett & Bloom. p. 60. ISBN 9781898948728. ...the Armenian church of Gregory the Illuminator, built in the 1860s as the centre of worship for the Armenian Diocese of Baku, but closed and transformed into a billiard hall and tea house after being damaged by arsonists during the violence against Armenians of January 1990. 
  8. ^ Loshak, Viktor; Gyulieva, Emilia (15 July 2007). "Большой прорыв [Big breath-thru]". Ogoniok (in Russian). Kommersant. Мы же были поражены и тронуты, когда в бакинской библиотеке, которая расположена сейчас в бывшей армянской церкви, обнаружили хранящимися 5 тысяч томов на армянском языке. 
  9. ^ a b Huseynov, Rizvan (6 July 2016). "В Баку предлагают открыть для богослужения армянскую церковь св. Григориса Лусаворича". (in Russian). В репортаже на телеканале ATV также выдвинута идея открыть для богослужения армянскую церковь св.Григориса Лусаворича в Баку, которая отреставрирована засчет государства и в ней хранятся сотни армянских книг и рукописей. 
  10. ^ "Армянская церковь в Баку, возможно, станет библиотекой". (in Russian). Agency of Religious Information «Blagovest-Info». 19 April 2006. Archived from the original on 8 March 2017. 
  11. ^ "Armenian Church in Baku May Be Converted to Library". Asbarez. (via Armenpress). 20 April 2006. 
  12. ^ "Armenia Church Leader Meets Azerbaijani President". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 27 April 2010. 
  13. ^ "After decades Armenian prayer and Armenian church psalm was heard in the Baku St. Grigor Lusavorich Armenian Church". Armenpress. 27 April 2010. 
  14. ^ "Հայկական պատվիրակությունը Բաքվում այցելել է Սուրբ Գրիգոր Լուսավորիչ եկեղեցի [Armenian delegation visited Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church in Baku]". (in Armenian). Armenian Ministry of Diaspora (via Armenpress). 5 April 2012. Archived from the original on 7 March 2017.