Since 1991, 100 Armenian Apostolic churches have been built in the 12 dioceses of Armenia and Artsakh.
Hetq researched the matter to ascertain how much money has been spent, overall, on new church construction ever since Armenia gained independence from the Soviet Union.
While many existing churches and chapels have been renovated, Hetq focused on new church construction.
New churches started to be constructed in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. But first churches were consecrated in 1998. Eight were consecrated in 2000 and again in 2001. During the 2008-2010 financial crisis, 1-4 churches were annually constructed. The most churches, nine, were opened in 2014 and in 2015. The construction boom continues.
New Churches (per Year)
Of the 100 newly constructed churches, only the St. Grigor of Narek Church (in the Aragatzotn village of Ghazaravan) has yet to be consecrated due to architectural mistakes. It has yet to be appropriated by the local diocese or the Mother See of Etchmiadzin. The same goes for the St. John the Baptist Church (Hovhannes Mkrtich) in the town of Abovyan, built by the benefactor Gagik Tsaroukyan.
The Araratian Pontifical Diocese has seen the greatest number of new churches – 18. The Shirak Diocese, with only two new churches, is at the bottom of the list.
New Churches (per Diocese): Aragatzotn - 4, Araratian Pontifical - 18, Artik - 3, Armavir - 12, Artsakh-12, Gegharkounik -6, Lori -9, Kotayk- 9, Shirak-2, Syunik-6, Vayots Dzor-6, Tavoush-13)
The below map shows intense church construction in the Ararat Valley (in Armavir Province, the areas of Artashat and Masis in Ararat Province, and in Yerevan), in the Hrazdan River basin of Kotayk Province (where most residential communities exist in Kotayk), and in Tavoush Province, particularly in communities bordering Azerbaijan.
New Churches in Armenia and Artsakh
Father Vahram Melikyan, who heads the press office at Etchmaidzin, says that over 400 Armenian Apostolic churches under the jurisdiction of the Mother See now operate in Armenia and throughout the world.
Father Melikyan says that the Mother See must sanction all plans to construct churches and chapels and that the architectural council of the Catholicos must approve their design. He couldn’t remember one case where plans to build a new church were rejected, noting that if there were disagreements regarding a project, the plans were sent for redrafting. Melikyan also said that the local dioceses or the Mother See do not require any consecration fee.
While the Mother See of Etchmiadzin did not provide Hetq with the names of benefactors, it did say that it possessed such information.
“Those names are well-known in Armenia and the diaspora. They have been published, on various occasions, by Etchmiadzin in our official communiques and in the Etchmiadzin magazine,” Father Melikyan said.
Regarding the money spent on church construction and the publication of such data, Father Melikyan said: “The Etchmiadzin Mother See possesses such information if the church has been constructed with its initiative, and the benefactor has been provided periodic adequate accounting by the Mother See of Etchmiadzin. As for the amounts spent, they differ according to the scope of the work. The amounts are only published with the permission of the benefactor.”
Millions for Church Construction
Through a variety of informed sources, Hetq has been able to ascertain certain data regarding the amounts spent on church and chapel construction. Our sources include benefactors, provincial governors in Armenia, employees of city and village municipalities, construction specialists in the field, and media reports.
Our research shows that more than US$ 26 million has already been spent on church and chapel construction in Armenia and Artsakh. We must note, however, that this amount does not include amounts spent on very large churches and chapels, especially in Yerevan. This amount would easily double, or even triple, if included.
More than $4 million has already been earmarked for those churches/chapels now under construction. This isn’t the actual amount, however, since we haven’t been able to ascertain the entire amount.
One example is the St. Mother of God Church (Astvatsamor) in Stepanakert, Artsakh. To date, more than 1 billion AMD (US$ 2 million) has been raised to construct the church.
Our research has shown that, on average, it takes $150,000 - $200,000 to construct a rural church. Middle size churches go for more than $500,000. Larger churches cost $1 million, or more. Examples are the St. John the Baptist Church in Abovyan, or Yerevan’s St. Gregory the Illuminator.
In summation, we can state that, at minimum, more than $50 million has been spent to construct new churches in Armenia and Artsakh since independence 25 years ago.
Benefactors: A Who’s Who
A list of the most well-known benefactors of new church construction would include Paruyr Hayrikyan, Vahe Karapetyan, Barsegh Beglaryan, Surik Khachatryan, Samvel Karapetyan and his brother Karen Karapetyan, Vladimir Movsisyan, Valeri Mejlumyan, Vahram Baghdasaryan, Ara Abrahamyan, Ashot Arsenyan, Hovik Abovyan, Aghvan Hovsepyan, Gagik Tsarukyan, Archbishop Nerses Bozabalian, Gagik Khachatryan, Vahan Zatikyan, Alex Manoogian, Nazar Nazarian, Louise Manoogian Simone, Eduardo Eurnekian, Ruben Gevorgyan, Artur Abraham, Hirair Hovnanian, and Hovik Abrahamyan, Hrant Vardanyan and his sons Mikayel and Karen.