The Monastery of St. Catherine, also known as the 'Black-clad Monastery' is opposite the Church of St. John (Yohana) in a small street to the west of Jolfa called 'Chahar Suq Shekarian' (= 'The Confectionery Market'). This is reached by walking west from the Vank Cathedral and crossing the Hakim-Nezami street. Chahar Suq Shekarian runs parallel to Hakim Nezami on the western side. The Church is abut all that is left of the Monastery and will be opened for you by the curator if you ring the bell on the gate. As can be seen from the above illustration, it is set somewhat below ground level.

The church was erected in 1623 C.E. and was paid for by Yaqyazar Lazarjan. Originally it had some 33 cells, but all but two of these have now disappeared, and since 1954 C.E. there have been no monks here at all.

In front of the entrance is a wooden clapper-board, hanging from a cross beam, which was struck with a wooden hammer to summon the congregation.

The Interior of the church is simple and includes a portrait of St. Catherine, on the right as you enter, as well as a fine 'Nativity' on the left of the altar and a 'Presentation' or 'Circumcision' of Christ on the right of the altar.

The altar is resplendent with silver and is surmounted by a large painting of the Crucifixion, in which the blood of Christ pours into a wine-press, full of grapes, which Christ appears to be pressing with his feet. The association between the wine and the blood of Christ appears to have been particularly strong for the Armenian Christians, as is evidenced by a painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane with a vine growing out of the wound in his side, in the Maryam Church.

In the semidome above the altar there is a fine painting of Christ in Majesty coming to judge the world.


Last Updated: 12 April 2001