During the first half of the 12th or maybe earlier Armenians built a wooden church in Botoșani and in 1350, the first Armenian stone built church was constructed and named Saint Mary (Sf. Maria). It is located on Armeană Street, no 3. Close by, stands the first Christian graveyard discovered in Botoșani, where graves date back to the 15th Century with inscriptions in the Armenian language. Over time, the Church went through substantial restorations to prevent degradation and to also maintain Botosani’s important cultural heritage.
The Armenian Church of The Holy Trinity (Sf. Treime) is located on Armeană Street, no 15, about 100 meters from St. Mary’s Church. It was built in 1795 on a site where once stood St. Axente (Sf. Axente) Armenian Monastery (1560). The Holy Trinity Church was known as the most beautiful Church in Botoșani and one of the most stunning Christian-Orthodox Church in Moldova region. Its bell tower, built in 1816 by A.Taft, was the highest observation point in Botoșani. Worthy of note, that in its courtyard there are marble tombstones with Armenian inscriptions, most of which were brought from Constantinople. Today, the church and its bell tower are in a dilapidated state and in need of remedial work to prevent a structural collapse.
In Botosani, there is yet another Armenian Church called Avetum (Buna Vestire), built in 1884 at the Eternitatea (Eternity) Armenian graveyard, located on Eternității Street, no 10. This Church is a national heritage building, which was originally intended as a cemetery chapel. It houses the tombs of founders Avedik and Maria von Pruncu, along with figures and liturgical objects. A walk in the cemetery will reveal the rich monumental patrimony which existed since 18th – 19th Centuries. Most of these monuments were created in famous workshops of various European cities like Vienna, Genova, Milano, Cernăuți, Constantinople and also in some Romanian workshops. All of these monuments form a rare “sanctuary” for artistic heritage reservation in the Botoșani area. To find out more about the three churches, click here.
Suceava (Bucovina region)
The Armenian Monastery Hagigadar (The fulfillment of wishes) was built in 1512, in Bulai village, Moara Commune by Drăgan Donavachian. The monastery is situated on the right hand side of the road which links Fălticeni to Suceava, at about 3 km from Suceava. It is positioned on top of a hill known as The Bulai Hill; to seemingly elevate its holy presence. According to tradition, if you crawl up to the top of the hill or crawl around the Church three times, and pray at each of the four corners of the monastery, your wishes will come true. Therefore, to this day, Armenians, Romanians and other ethnic groups with fervent desires uphold the tradition in the hope that their wishes will come true. This traditional event takes place on the nearest weekend to 15th August each year. There are a series of celebrations starting on Saturday evening until Monday afternoon in all of the four churches in the city. These special celebrations are considered a pilgrimage for the Armenians of Romania. There is a legend behind the chosen location of the monastery. It is said that some Armenian sheep traders, heading to a fair, stopped on the hill for the night. The following day, all their sheep had become ill. The traders reluctantly decided to postpone their departure. Troubled by the whole situation, one night one of the traders had a dream in which the Virgin Mary appeared to him and told him that if they built a church on the place where they were staying, the sheep would recover. So they built the church, the sheep recovered and they went to the fair. This is also the reason why the church was built with locally sourced materials. To discover more about the church, click here.
The Armenian Church of St. Simeon (Sf. Simion), also known as The Red Tower Church due to its reddish bell tower (1551), was built in 1513 by an Armenian called Donik and has since gone through numerous renovations. It is located at the upper end of Armenească Street, on I.G. Sbiera Street (formally George Enescu Street), no 51. The church is rectangular in shape, with a polygonal altar apse, and it is supported up to a certain height by a newer wall with small buttresses. In the church yard there is an old Armenian graveyard.
The Armenian Church of The Holy Cross (Sf. Cruce) was built in 1521 by Cristea Hanco (Hacig Hancoian) in place of an old wooden church from the 15th Century. It is located on Armenească Street, no 1. Together with St. Simeon Church, they form a core part of the area’s Armenian past. After a restoration in 1878, the church adopted several architectural elements specific to Moldavian churches. In 1824, an Armenian school was built in the church yard which lasted until the beginning of the 20th Century. To find out more, click here.
The Armenian Zamca Monastery, which is a fortified medieval complex, was built in 1606 and is located on Zamca Street, no 30. Occupying a good strategical location, the monastery is enclosed by thick walls that form a trapezoid shaped area and are secured by buttresses on either side, but without defense towers. The site consists of seven constructions which form the monastery complex: St. Auxentius (Sf. Auxentie) Church (1551), St. Gregory (Sf. Grigore) Chapel – located in the bell-tower (1606), St. Mary (Sf. Maria) Chapel (17th century), hermitages (19th century), enclosed wall (17th century), the bell tower (1606) and the mud fortification (1691). To find out more, click here.
Pruncul Chapel was built in 1902 on the grounds of the Armenian cemetery in Suceava. Constructed by members of the noble Armenian family ‘Pruncul’, and initially served as their family mausoleum, but later became the chapel of the cemetery. The chapel is the only liturgical Armenian site constructed in the old Armenian style. Located on Zamca Street and shares its name with the neighbourhood of Zamca, this street links two other Armenian edifices: the Zamca Monastery and St. Simeon (Sfântul Simion) Church (aka The Red Tower Church).
The Armenians built the St. Greorge Church (Sf. Gheorghe) in Gura Humorului city in 1862. This church was given to the Augustine Protestant community in 1929 due to the lack of Armenian parishioners. Today the name of the church is Sf. Împărați Constantin și Elena (The Holy Emperor and Empress Constantine and Helen). The church is located on Mănăstirea Humor Street, no 2. Embedded in the inner walls of the church are two marble slabs, attesting the Armenian identity of its founders. To find out more, click here.
As part of the wall which surrounds the cemetery in Siret city, there are some tomb stones with Armenian inscriptions. To find out more click here.
The Armenian Church of St. Mary (Sf. Maria) is located in the city center, on Armeană Street, no 22. It was built of stones and hand made bricks in 1395. The builders were by Hacig, Fr. Hagop, Hadji Markar and Hadji Grigor. It is the oldest building in Iași city and it has had numerous repairs from the grounds up. It is located close to the Podul Vech, the main old city road. The parish house of the church was built in 1932 at the courtyard. It is located on Armenească Street, no 20. To find out more, click here.
The Armenian Church of St. Mary (Sf. Maria) was built in 1609 by an Armenian called Agopșa on the place of an old church bought from the Saxons in 1355. It is located on Veronica Micle Street, no 13 and has been repaired a few times. A known fact is that in 1868 the church was renovated by Teodoros Soghomonian and Donig Simeon Pipian. There is an Armenian chapel in the Eternitatea Romanian cemetery. The great Romanian scholar Nicolae Iorga affirmed that in 1609, in Roman city there were more than 500 Armenian families and the city’s economic activity was closely linked to their existence. To find out more about the church, click here.
The Armenian Church of St. Mary (Sf. Maria) was built in 1825. It replaced an older 18th Century wooden Church. It is located on Văleni Street, no 7 and it is the oldest Armenian monument on the territory of Bacău County. In the cemetery, which was drastically reduced at the end of the 19th Century due to the construction of railway tracks, there are valuable tombstones. To find out more, click here.
The Armenian Church of St. Mary (Sf. Maria) is located in Prelungirea Traian. It was built in 1858 on the same site where Armenians once had a wooden church. This further proves the Armenian community’s existence around 14th-15th Century. In 1669, historian Luigi Maria Pidou described the church as “a very old one”.
In 1821, a group of Greek revolutionaries pursued by Turkish soldiers took refuge in the Armenian Church. To force them out of the building, the Turks burned down the church. Fortunately, a year later, the church was repaired and made good.
The church received regular maintenance work. The last consolidation, redevelopment and restoration works were carried out between April 2007 and March 2008.
The Armenian Church of St. George (Sf. Gheorghe) is located on Cotești Street, no 22. It was built in 1733, although some evidence suggests it was built even earlier, between 1710-1715, after the Armenian community which had established an important economical and financial viability, purchased the land to build a Church. In the 18th Century, the Armenians, one of the most important ethnic groups in the city, had a large and thriving community. The Church had extensive restoration and consolidation works between 2006 and 2009.
The Armenian Church of St. Mary (Sf. Maria) is located on Republica Street, no 3. It was built in 1780 due to an interesting fact: Focșani city was divided between the Moldavia country and the Wallachia country. The St. George (Sf. Gheorghe) Armenian Church was located in Wallachia, and the Armenians from Moldavia country had to cross the border every Sunday to attend the Liturgy. Eventually, they decided to build another Church in Moldova, hence St. Mary Church. It is located about 300-400m from St. George Church. In the church yard there was an Armenian Girls’ School and also an Armenian Boys’ School where Armenians, Jews and Romanians studied. They were taught several foreign languages intensively. The schools existed until 1925.
The Holy Resurrection Chapel (Sf. Înviere) in the Armenian Cemetery, was built in 1891, by Harutiun and Garabet Popovici brothers. The Cemetery which is located on Dionyssos Street has lots of monuments of artistic heritage. The Chapel is surrounded by conifer trees and monuments of its founders. Considering the role of the Armenian community in Focșani in 17th-18th Centuries, we can conclude that an important piece of history of Focșani city can be found in this cemetery.
Lost Armenian sites
Suceava – The St. Mary Church (Sf. Maria) in close proximity to The Holy Cross Church (Sf. Cruce) lasted until 1512. The Holy Trinity Church (Sf. Treime), was demolished in the 18th Century and the existence of St. Nicholas Church was referenced in 1830.
Iași – The St. Gregory the Illuminator Church (Sf. Grigore Luminătorul) was built in 1616 in Ulița Cizmăriei, but was destroyed during the big fire of 1821. Its ruins were finally destroyed in 1899.
Bacău – The Saint Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church (Sf. Arhangheli Mihail și Gavril) was one of the important landmarks of the old city of Bacău. It was built between 1848 and 1858, from contributions made by parishioners and a generous donation of 200 gold coins from ruler Mihail Sturza. It was demolished in 1977, on account of having an unsafe foundation impacted by the big earthquake of 4th March 1977.
Siret – Records show that Armenians had a church in 1507, which was destroyed in 1551. In 1669, another Armenian Church is documented but was later demolished.
Throughout the centuries, we see references of Armenian churches in Vaslui (1526 and 1608), Cotnari (1669), Bârlad (1646), Huși, Dorohoi (15th Century), Tecuci (1830), Fălticeni, Negostina (1862), Căiuți (Catholic church) and in Târgu Trotuș (early 13th Century) where a wooden church was replaced by a stone building in 1333 its ruins can still be found today.