The Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, is now running an extraordinary online exhibition titled, “Ancient Faith: The Churches of Nagorno-Karabakh.” Visitors to the museum’s website can go on a virtual tour of seven of Artsakh’s most impressive and precious Armenian Christian sites—including Amaras, Dadivank, Gandzasar, and Ghazanchetsots—to learn about their remarkable histories, as well as the threat of cultural erasure that hangs over them in the wake of last year’s war.
At the heart of the online exhibit are seven videos, documenting the sacred spaces themselves, the religious culture that brings them to life, and the personal stories of faithful Armenian Christians who have lived and worshipped in Artsakh for centuries.
Among the latter is a moving interview with a couple who had planned to hold their wedding in Shushi’s Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, but had to change plans when that splendid edifice was the target of an Azeri missile strike in October 2020.
Risk of Destruction
To launch the exhibit, the museum held a virtual panel discussion on June 24, featuring Dr. Christina Maranci of Tufts University and Fr. Shahe Ananyan of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, who discussed the church sites and architecture, the risks they currently face, and the need to preserve these irreplaceable expressions of the Armenian Christian heritage. Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Varuzhan Nersesyan, spoke on Artsakh’s present-day struggles.
The aftermath of the Artsakh war is a recurring topic in the online exhibit. “Today, in Karabakh, the Christian holy sites of an ancient community are at risk of destruction, alteration, and cultural appropriation,” reads text accompanying the videos. “International organizations, such as UNESCO and Blue Shield International, whose missions include the protection of cultural heritage sites are working to document and secure these sites in their present state.”
The current exhibit also quotes His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, in his plea to preserve Artsakh’s human and cultural Armenian presence: “I pray that the world will awaken to this call, standing up to protect this small piece of land and its significant contribution to universal human culture.”
The Museum of the Bible has previously announced that it would mount a live, in-person exhibition in 2022, titled “Breath of God: Armenia and the Bible,” in cooperation with Holy Etchmiadzin and Armenia’s governmental and cultural institutions. Diocesan Legate Archbishop Vicken Aykazian has also been instrumental in these arrangements.
CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO ENTER THE ONLINE EXHIBIT: