The Priest House of Julfa of Isfahan
(A Cultural, Touristic, Residential Complex)

Isfahan is one of the largest cities of Iran and has been the most famous city in the east throughout the 17th – 19th centuries-A.D. On the strength of historical resources, this city was founded by Tahmoures one of the kings of Iranian Pishdadis. Before Islam, Isfahan used to be a troops concentration center. That’s why it was used to be called “ESPAHAN”. Because of a mild and moderate climate and the existence of Zayanderood the city focused the attention of Moslem marshals and became among the important cities of Iran.

The fructification of Iran began after Islam and from the period of Aale Booyeh. In this era, supported by Saaheb Ebn Ebad, the efficient vizier of Moayyedodoleh Deilami, Isfahan was converted into a center for scientists, poets, and cultural advocates, and its fame was spread all over the world.

In the Seljuk period Isfahan was chosen as the capital of on supported by the wise and powerful prime ministers of this dynasty a Amidolmolk Kondory and Khaje Nezamolmolk the city was enlarged and fully developed. This is evident from the gardens, mosques, places, schools and minarets  which have remained from those times. Nasser Khosro, the famous tourist of this period has described Isfahan in his book as a developed city : “ Isfahan is a city adjacent to the desert, with a good climate, wherever you dig a well of  10 Gaz (about eleven meters), a very good and cold water would emerge. The city has a high and strong wall round it”. He has stressed   that “ all over the Farsi speaking lands I have not seen any city better, more comprehensive and more developed than Isfahan”. Isfahan’s fructification was in full swing in the time of the Safavides. In this period Isfahan was re-elected as the capital and the Safavide Kings did their best for its development and prosperity. Many of the bridges, places, caravanserais, quarters and ancient monuments date back to those times. According to Jean Chorden, the famous French Tourist the city has been the greatest city of the world. Thomas Herbert, the British tourist who visited Isfahan in the seventeenth century has said “ Here and there there is a garden for recreation  and relaxing, I have not seen such a vivid garden all over Asia, It’s green and resembles a paradise.”

King Abbas, the first had decided to turn Isfahan into the range of the great cities of the world, and in order to achieve this objective he enjoyed the cooperation of artists, architectures and craftsmen. In order to spread the boundaries of the city he made thousands of Armenian families to immigrate from their homeland, Julfa of Azerbaijan to Isfahan, residing them within a limited quarters name “ Julfa”. Alleys, arcades, squares, Turkish bathrooms and to large caravanserais are peculiarities about which western tourists have  described in their descriptions of Julfa. Holster who has lived in Isfahan in 1870-1880 decades has said “ more than half of Julfa region consists of garden boulevards and fully planted yards, so that the actual buildings of the houses are not visible in summer”. He has mentioned the number houses in Julfa to be 380 and the number Armenians living in Julfa 2600 individuals.
When Julfa prospered and squares and churches were created, the number of houses also increased. Although most of theses houses were ruined by the lapse of time and particularly because of immigration of Armenians from Isfahan but there are still houses which are unique from the view point of architectures, decorations and other peculiarities. Old houses have often similar characteristics which include their large areas. Entrance portal, entrance path, porches, entrance corridor,  yard, and the surrounding rooms, pond, basement public utilities. The entrance doors of ancient house are usually made of wood and are formed of two single doors making a pair. Two iron make devices are hanging from them, one is like a sledge hammer which for male callers and the other which is loop like is used by females.

HASHTI (porch) : After arriving at the house we reach a roofed area which is geometric and has eight sides, and there are seats installed in it. Hashti is made to divide different parts of a house and sometimes in order to have access to several houses. The yard, pond and garden : In the ancient houses, the yard used to be at the center of the house as the heart in the body of the building, and the pond and garden were of the most creditable parts and were used to decorate it.

GALLERY : The gallery was generally a space with lots of beautiful decorations which was fully visible beside the plain rooms of the building. Galleries were decorated with stucco, mirror works, painting on the stucco and also painting on wood. Galleries were used as entertainment where the visitors and guests were received.

The direction of the houses were generally Northern/Southern and the main living spaces were also built in theses two directions.
Having said such primary description we now introduce one of the very few of such houses remained  the glorious periods of Isfahan.
The “Priest’s House”, one of the very few houses remained in Julfa, has been built with Safavide style, and stands in Sangtarashha (masons) Alley of Tabriziha Quarters of Isfahan. This historical house belonged to Gargin Haranian, the honorable priest of Julfa who died in September 1940 and was buried beside the belfry of  Vank church.

The priest Gargin Hananian whose original name was Karapet Giragusian was born in Julfa on 6th May 1881. He spent his years of primary education  in the American schools of Julfa and he went to India to resume his studies. He began his career as a teacher in the Armenian schools of Julfa as of 1897, and in 1910 he attained the grade of priesthood and chose Gorgin Hananian as his religious name. In parallel with religious activities he began writing and translating, and published numerous articles in the Armenian, Persian, English and French languages in different publications. Of his most important written and translated books are  “ Armenian Church” into English and the Martyred Armenia, which was originally in the Armenian language and was  translated from French into English.

His most significant service he has rendered to the culture and education of this country is the compiling of Persian/Armenian Dictionary with the foreword of Herachia Ghajarian, the famous culturalist,  researcher and Armenian linguist which was first printed in Tehran in 1933.

The house of the priest was purchased by Mr. Homayoun Afham, one of the genius families of Isfahan and among the lovers of   Iranian Art & culture in 1005 from the heirs of priest Gargin Hananian with the purpose of protection of culture and civilization of this territory and revival of the art and architecture of the Safavide period, and it was reconstructed and textured, aided by the experts of repair of artistic works.

The main building consists of Hashti, the rooms, the gallery, the angle building and a large platform the interior of which has been ornamented by stucco and mirror works. The roof of the platform is supported by four high wooden pillars and has been decorated by wooden frames resembling a chessboard.

In addition to the main building which is located at the Northern side of the house, a newly made complex has been built on the other three sides with a style matching with the previous architecture and as high as that building in 3 floors and has been added to the old building.

This complex including numerous suites, gathering hall, kitchen and butler’s pantry, yard, water pond,  beautiful  gardens, and a valuable library containing very valuable old books, hand written books, and gramophone discs of Iranian music together with the old structure of the building has combined the two traditional and modern styles which although they are quite simple with no flamboyance they still give the visitor a soft feeling of peace and tranquility.

The cultural, touristic residential complex of the  “ Priest’s House” with it’s charming simplicity and eye-catching beauty is ready to receive those interested in Iranian architecture, and the ancient houses of Julfa of Isfahan.