Posts Tagged ‘Hromkla’

(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)



Death of Catholicos Gosdantin I of Partzerpert
(May 9, 1267)


Catholicos of All Armenians Gosdantin (Constantine) I’s long tenure, one of the longest in the history of the Catholicoi of the Armenian Church, was marked by complex historical issues.

The son of a certain Vahram, probably born in the 1180s, Gosdantin of Partzerpert or Mavrian was educated in the monastery of Mlij, near Tarsus (Cilicia), which was a renowned center of manuscript copying, and then in the fortress of Hromkla, the seat of the Catholicosate of All Armenians from 1203-1292.

The Kingdom of Cilicia was in turmoil after the death of King Levon I in 1219. His daughter Zabel, who was four at the time of his death, was the heir of the throne, under the regency of the powerful prince Gosdantin the Bailiff (son of Levon’s maternal uncle). To add more complications, in 1221 Hovhannes VI of Sis passed away. Although Gosdantin of Partzerpert was an ecclesiastic deserving such honor, according to the historians, it appears that the regent suggested or handpicked his namesake as successor to the late Catholicos. He is said to have been the bishop of Mlij, which was a monastery and not a diocese, and thus it is likely, according to Maghakia Ormanian, that he was the bishop of Partzerpert.

The marriage of Zabel to prince Philippe of Antioch in 1222 ended in a failure, since the Latinophile policy of the Catholic prince alienated him from the nobility, and the next year Philippe was imprisoned. He died in prison in 1225 or 1226, and Gosdantin the Bailiff decided to marry Zabel to his own son Hetum. Catholicos Gosdantin I married them, both aged eleven, in 1226. In 1252 he would preside over her funeral procession.

In the 1220s, during the first years of his pontificate, the construction of St. Sophia, the royal church of Sis, the capital of Cilicia, was finished. Gosdantin I led a policy tending to maintain the independence of the Armenian Church. Catholicos Gosdantin I was also a man of culture. He opened new schools, founded congregations, and encouraged the production of manuscripts, including works by famous miniaturist Toros Roslin. After 1236, Greater Armenia fell under Mongol domination. In 1242 the Catholicos participated in the first negotiations of the Cilician kingdom with the Mongols. In 1247 the Catholicos sent archimandrite Teotos to the local Mongol general and obtained his agreement to rebuild the monastery of St. Thaddeus in the region of Artaz and found a congregation.

Meanwhile, the situation of the church in Cilicia led Gosdantin to gather an assembly of Cilician bishops in 1243.The ecclesiastic assembly was held in Sis, but the representatives from Greater Armenia were not invited. The assembly approved rules for consecrations, priesthood, moral issues, and so on and so forth.The Catholicos could not accomplish his project of going to Armenia himself and obtaining the agreement of local ecclesiastics. In 1246 he sent historian Vartan Areveltsi to Greater Armenia with such a mission.

In 1254 archimandrite Hagop Klayetsi represented the Catholicos in negotiations with Byzantine emperor John Vadakes and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Manuel aimed at establishing a temporary reconciliation between Cilicia and Byzantium. In the 1260s Gosdantin I engaged in heated controversies with the papal legate in Cilicia and Pope Clement IV himself over doctrinal issues.

After a forty-six year reign, Catholicos Gosdantin I passed away in Hromkla on May 9, 1267, where he was buried. He was succeeded by Catholicos Hagop I Klayetsi.


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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee[ANEC])


Fall of Hromkla [Hromgla]
(June 28, 1292)

Hromkla means “Roman Castle” (Qal’at al-Rum in Arabic, Rumkale in Turkish ). It was the Armenian name of a fortress built on the right bank of the Euphrates River, on the place of its confluence with the Parzman (Merzumen) Creek, 50 kilometers west of Urfa (Edesa).

A strategic border crossing during Byzantine domination of the area, Hromkla was surrounded by water on three sides and by inaccessible rocks on the remaining, with a four-layer wall.


Hromkla Fortress (Pronounced Hromgla)

Around 1080-1086 the fortress was occupied by the short-lived Armenian princedom of Philartos (Filaret) Varajnuni, and afterwards by the Armenian prince Kogh Vasil. After the death of the latter (1112), the dux Baldwin II of Edessa seized the fortress from his son, also called Vasil, and offered it to his relative, Joscelin I de Courtenay, who would succeed him as Count of Edessa (1119-1131).

The Seljuk invasions had forced to move the Holy See of the Armenian Apostolic Church outside Armenia in the middle of the eleventh century. After various moves, Catholicos Grigor III Pahlavuni (1113-1166) settled in Hromkla in 1149 and two years later bought the fortress from Beatrice, wife of count Joscelin II de Courtenay, who had been imprisoned in 1150 after the fall of Edessa in 1144.

Catholicos Grigor III rebuilt the fortifications of Hromkla and founded two magnificent churches, St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Mary. The church of St. Savior was built at a later time. Hromkla became a cultural center during the tenure of Grigor III’s successor, the famous Catholicos St. Nerses IV Shnorhali (1166-1173). Many old manuscripts were collected and illustrated, and new ones were copied and written. Hromkla was famous for its school of miniatures. Two councils held there in 1178 and 1179, with the participation of almost all Armenian archbishops and bishops, studied and rejected the proposal to join the Greek Orthodox, and recognized the authority of the Catholicosate over all Armenians.

Hromkla was a domain of the Catholicos until the beginning of the thirteenth century, when King Levon I of Cilicia (1198-1219) turned the fortress into part of the court domains.

In May 1292 the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt, Melik-al-Ashraf, besieged the fortress. After a heroic resistance of 33 days by the population and the Armenian troops, the superior number of the attackers and the impossibility to obtain outside help forced the defenders to surrender on June 28. The guardians were killed, the fortress was ransacked, and most of the population, including Catholicos Stepanos IV, was taken prisoner. The fall of Hromkla was considered by contemporary historians as a catastrophe. The seat of the Catholicosate was moved to Sis, in Cilicia proper where it would remain until 1920.

The church of St. Mary was turned into a mosque after the sixteenth century, during Ottoman dominion, and the other churches were ruined (the  remains of the Catholicoi Grigor III and Nerses IV were buried at the church of St. Gregory the Illuminator). The bombing by Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, in 1839, destroyed Hromkla for good. Until the beginning of the twentieth century, St. Gregory the Illuminator Church was a sanctuary for Armenians and Yezdies.


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