Though Armenians do have their own church, it isn’t a major world religion. So why do the Armenians have a quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem along with Christians, Muslims, and Jews?
Armenians have had a strong presence in the city since at least the fourth century, when Armenia became Christian. Their quarter is said to be the oldest living Armenia diaspora community. Thousands of displaced survivors of the Armenian Genocide relocated to this part of Jerusalem in the 20th century.
Armenians displaced from the former Ottoman Empire because of the genocide brought with them a special type of Turkish-style ceramic, which has since become synonymous with Jerusalem and Armenians. It’s now used for all the street signs in the Old City and is also sold in many stores. Explore the walled Old City of Jerusalem, and you’ll soon spot beautifully crafted ceramic street signs spread through the area.
Over the years, Armenians have made many other contributions to the city. They established the first printing press in 1833, the first photographic workshop in 1855, and their Holy Translators’ School was the first coeducational school in Jerusalem. This unique little outpost also has chosen to remain on the Julian calendar.
Today, this small quarter has the seat of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, an Armenian museum, library, and of course the beautiful Cathedral of St. James, where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West baptized their daughter on their way home from a visit to Armenia. The monastery is said to have relics of St. James himself.