|A BRIEF HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION ON NIZH VILLAGE||1 2 3|
The Local Churches. Note: All the churches and cemeteries of Nizh were in a good state of preservation between 1985 and 1987, but nothing is known about their present conditions.
St. Elisha Church, Mijin Tagh. Built in the grave site of Vlas the Martyr, one of the disciples of Elisha the Apostle, St. Elisha Church was a famous place of pilgrimage from time immemorial:
Beside a stream flowing through Nizh, in the centre of the village, the tomb of Vlas the Martyr, one of the disciples of Elisha the Apostle, used to be situated. It had a chapel once regarded as a place of pilgrimage, but later demolished by an Uti priest named Astvatzatur. While destroying it, that clergyman found two copper crosses which, as legend has it, were placed there by St. Mesrop the Translator during the martyr's interment: now a church bearing St. Elisha's name is built over that grave..." _*60.
The inscriptions engraved on the tympanum of the southern entrance (in two parts, inside the church) and the epitaph of a tombstone lying near its southern exterior wall attest that Priest Astvatzatur Jotaniants built it over Vlas the Martyr's holy grave in 1823.
The following lapidary inscriptions cast light upon the construction of St. Elisha Church:
1. Inside the church:
This holy church, built by Dghorants... Zakar... I, Avetis, had it written in the year 1823.
2. On the tympanum of the southern entrance, 3 lines in the Armenian original:
This church, dedicated to St. Elisha, was built with Priest Astvatzatur Yengibarian's hard-earned means, through the support of brother Ohan, a follower of the Enlightener's faith.
3. In the same place, 6 lines in the Armenian original:
This church, dedicated to St. Elisha, was built with ... Father Astvatzatur's hard-earned means...
4. On a tombstone lying below the southern wall of the church, 7 lines in the Armenian original:
This grave retains the remains of the founder of St. Elisha, Nizh inhabitant Yenkibar Jodaniants' son Ohanjan and his son, Priest Avetis, who did not have any offsprings ...had my tombstone brought and hewed. May God have mercy upon the parents of those who will read this. 1840.
St. Elisha Church (exterior dimensions: 18.14 x 11.17 metres), which represents a three-nave basilica thoroughly built of finely-finished porous pumice, has two entrances opening into its western and southern facades. Two pairs of circular columns support the vaulted covering lying below the gable roof of the monument. Light penetrates into the sanctuary through 6 windows widening inward: 3 of them open into the eastern facade, 2 others into the southern and the last into the northern one. A vestry of a rectangular plan is located on either side of the main semi-circular apse situated in the east (it is connected with the church hall through two three-stair stone staircases). The northern wall of the church retains a cruciform font built of a single block of stone. The central nave of the vault is double-centered and sagittate, with semi-circular side aisles.
Every year after the festival of the Holy Ascension, on 28 April, a great number of pilgrims used to visit the sanctuary to commemorate Elisha the Apostle _*61:
... the church, which is a great place of pilgrimage, bears St. Elisha's name: large multitudes of people from the nearby Armenian villages came here on pilgrimage on the fourth day of the Holy Ascension, i.e. on Thursday" _*62.
In 1879 the parishioners repaired the damaged parts of the church at the expense of 1,000 rubles _*63.
Sourb Astvatzatzin (Holy Virgin) Church. In 1869 Diocese Vicar Aristarchus the Archimandrite solemnly dedicated the newly-built church of the quarter, exhorting benefactor Galust to build a school in its courtyard:
... in a village named Nizh, patriot Galust Youzbashi of Uti origin erected a magnificent domed stone church with his own means, showing his highly-praised piety..." _*64.
The construction inscriptions of the church provide further proof of the aforementioned:
1. On the tympanum of the southern entrance, 4 lines in the Armenian original:
In memory of those dead and alive from the Rstakessiants' family, founded in the year 1866 of the Armenian calendar and completed in 1869.
2. On the tympanum of the southern entrance, 5 lines in the Armenian original carved above the previous one:
Sourb Astvatzatzin Church was built in 1870 with the means of Galust, Khachatur, Harutiun and Hambardzum, four brothers from Nizh.
3. West of the southern entrance, 8 lines in the Armenian original:
Uti Prince Khachatur Yeghiazarian donated five hundred rubles for the construction of the church.
These inscriptions attest that Sourb Astvatzatzin was founded in 1866 and accomplished in 1869, its consecration being held in 1870.
Sourb Astvatzatzin (exterior dimensions: 20.52 x 11.56 metres), which has double-storied vestries and semi-circular vaults, shares the composition features of St. Elisha Church, so we shall present only their differences and peculiarities. The vaulted covering of the former is supported by two pairs of cruciform columns. As compared to the latter, it has one more window opening into the northern facade. A number of frescoes representing God the Father, the four Evangelists, etc. have survived in the lower part of the plaster. The church, whose southern facade bears a sundial, is thoroughly built of finely-finished stone and mortar. The belfry, that ends in a pointed hexahedral broach resting upon six columns, rises on top of the western pediment.
The Church of St. Gregory the Enlightener, Pitzili. By 1867 about half of Darabagh's 170 families had abandoned their place of residence and founded a new quarter at the southern extremity of Nizh, naming it Pitzili or Verjin Tagh. They also built a church there for their spiritual needs:
...consulting with each other and uniting their efforts, they erected... a church bearing the name of the Holy Enlightener" _*65.
The monument was destroyed in the Soviet years.
Sourb Astvatzatzin (Holy Virgin) Church, Verin Tagh. The largest and the only domed religious monument in the village, the sanctuary (exterior dimensions: 25.73 x 13.74 metres), which is built of bricks, has two entrances opening into the western and southern facades, an octahedral drum and double-storied vestries. According to an inscription engraved on the tympanum of the southern entrance, it dates as far back as the 1890s:
In the year 1890 the construction of Sourb Astvatzatzin Church of Nizh Village commenced with the local people's means. 189...
Below a fresco representing Echmiatzin Cathedral, near the southern entrance of the church (on the exterior), the following inscription is engraved in painted characters:
...Dedicated to Echmiatzin in memory of Zani Galustian: from his son Arakel Vejibiants. Oct. 1914.
In 1917 it was planned to repair the sanctuary that was in a semi-destroyed state on account of St. Elisha Church provided that the parishioners should grant permission for that. By 20 September 1917, however, that permission had not been obtained yet _*66.
The authorities took possession of the church on 30 December 1928 _*67.
The Local Cemeteries. All the 4 main quarters of Nizh had their own cemeteries which were very large and abounded in thousands of tombstones, a fact proving the populousness of the settlement. The majority of the tombstones that dated as far back as the 19th and 20th centuries was of finely-finished rectangular stone and bore epitaphs, while those tracing back to earlier periods (before the 19th century) mainly represented rough or semi-hewn blocks. The graveyards were rich in epitaphs tracing back to the 19th century, those bearing earlier dates being rare.
As compared with the epitaphs preserved in the cemeteries of purely Armenian settlements, those in Nizh did not have any peculiar features apart from mentioning that the person buried was of Uti origin and spoke that language.
To give a clearer picture of the aforementioned, we are presenting some of the epitaphs found in the cemeteries of Nizh:
1. Here Karapet Arakelian Lachiniants from Nizh rests in eternal peace. 1810.
2. Here Stepan Nasibiants' remains repose. 1863.
3. Here Nizh's old prince, Poghos Mateossian's remains rest in eternal peace. May the world know only my name: I am an Uti adherent of the Holy Enlightener. The gravestone placed by his grandson Minas. 2 March 1877.
4. This grave retains the remains of Mahtesi Avan Poghossian Dallakiants from Nizh, Christ's servant and an Uti-speaking follower of the Enlightener. Waiting for my death angel to raise me to life... May those who come across my grave remember me with mercy. 1892.
5. Here Nizh inhabitant, Tumas Astvatzaturian Zarkariants' remains repose in eternal peace. From his son Grigor. 1897.
6. This grave retains the remains of David Zargariants, an Uti who consigned his soul to God at the age of 50 in the year 1909. His brother is Aghakum Daniants.
7. Today I yielded up my spirit to God, consigning my remains to my grave. I am Mahtesi Avan Dalakiants' son, Uti-speaking sinful priest Hovhannes from Nizh Village. I left this world without leaving any offsprings. May those who come across my grave remember me with mercy. 27 December 1910.
The Sanctuary of Geoy Murat (Kyomrad, Geom-Murat).
It is located at the top of a mountain branch extending east-westward, 7 kms south of Nizh:
...a lofty mountain retains a sanctuary commonly known by the name of Geom Murat. It comprises a cross-stone standing under the canopy of a big oak-tree but bare of any date or inscription. As legend has it, one of Yeghish the Apostle's disciples suffered martyrdom and was buried in the village town of Nizh, another in this very place and the third one in Vardashen. It is a pilgrimage site not only for the Armenian but also the Muslim population of the adjacent villages_*68.
"On New Sunday, the people leave churches and go to the pilgrimage site of Keomrad via Putzullu Quarter: the local inhabitants etymologize it as Geoy Murad, or Kyor Murad. Situated on the mountain ridge of the Armenian village of Tzirik called Keomradn Burukh by the people of Nizh, in the south of the latter, it is as old as Nizh itself. There is a small rock at its top with two trees growing on either side... A small part of red brick wall is preserved in Keomrad: people say a chapel used to be situated there in earlier times..." _*69.
Geoy Mourat, whose feast-day was annually celebrated on 1 May, was one of the famous sanctuaries in Nizh _*70.
Anapat. The ruins of a large village (known by the name of 'Anapat,' i.e. 'Desert' among the local inhabitants), its church and cemetery have survived on an elevation on the left bank of the river Durkan, about 3 kms south-west of Nizh. The church represents a simple building of a rectangular plan, its only entrance opening into the western facade. The walls which have been preserved to a height of 1.5 to 2 metres are built of finely-finished stone. The tympanum of the western facade bears some plain cross reliefs.
The cemetery lies in the east of the semi-destroyed church, its closely-located graves mainly having rough tombstones.
The Local Bridge. A single-span bridge, built of finely-finished stone over a slow stream swampy in some sections close to the bank, lies on the road from Nizh to Anapat's church (according to the local people, its construction inscription has been lost in water). Its stylistic and structural peculiarities place it among the architectural monuments of the late 19th century.
Priests. St. Elisha Church, Mijin Tagh. From 1832 until at least 1857, Avetik Ohanjanian Jotaniants served the quarter (born in 1788, he was ordained in Jalet Monastery, his teacher being a certain Khalat)_*71.
In 1851 the spiritual guardian of the quarter was Priest Avetik Ter-Astvatzatriants _*72, the same duties being performed by Avetis and Hovhannes Jotaniants in 1868_*73.
In about 1873 Priests Avetis Jotaniants and Nicolaus Ter-Mkrtchiants died _*74.
In 1859 Hovhannes Ter-Astvatzatrian Jotaniants, who had been granted the title of a fourth-degree sexton in 1839, was ordained as priest (he had four sons: Karapet, born in 1837; Harutiun, born in 1842; Yeremiah born in 1845 and Martiros, born in 1857) _*75. After Priest Hovhannes Jotaniants' death (1885), in 1886 309 people applied to the ecclesiastical leaders of the country with a request to ordain Sexton Hovhannes Thomassian Jotaniants, but their petition was rejected:
One of the four churches of our village, St. Elisha, has been left without any priest _*76.
On March 1 1877, hundreds of inhabitants addressed another petition to Catholicos of All Armenians asking Him to ordain their co-villager, Sexton and Mahtesi Hambardzum Dallakiants, as priest _*77. The Supreme Pontiff meeting their request, in 1879 Hambardzum (Hovhannes) Avagian Dallakiants' (born in 1851) ordination took place: the latter held his post till 1910 _*78, dying on 27 December of the same year (see his epitaph).
In 1888 the parishioners applied to the spiritual powers for the purpose of ordaining Astvatzatur Petrossian Dallakiants as spiritual shepherd of St. Elisha Church _*79. In 1890 they made another formal request to ordain Daniel (Vagharshak) Harutiunian Jotaniants as the second priest of the church _*80: the latter was ordained in 1892 and still led its parish in 1910 _*81.