St Sarkis, Kensington
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St Sarkis, Kensington

St Sarkis (Armenian: ?) is an Armenian Apostolic church and a Grade II* listed building in Iverna Gardens, Kensington, London. It was constructed in 1922-23 by Calouste Gulbenkian as a memorial to his parents, and the architect was Arthur Davis.[1] It is the only church in England to have been built in the traditional Armenian style. Its design is inspired by the 13th century freestanding bell tower of Haghpat Monastery. It is the seat of the Diocese of the United Kingdom of the Armenian Apostolic Church.[2]

History

Dedication to Gulbenkian's parents at the entrance of the church.

The construction of the church was funded by Calouste Gulbenkian, an Ottoman-born Armenian oil magnate. He agreed to finance it with the precondition to dedicate it to his parents, Sarkis and Takouhi.[3] Besides being his father's name, it is also the name of Armenia's most celebrated saints--Saint Sarkis the Warrior. The church was designed by Arthur Joseph Davis and build by Holloway Brothers. Its construction began in February 1922 and it was consecrated on 11 January 1923.[4] The church was expanded twice; first in 1937 an baptistery was added to the north side along with a new entrance and, in 1950, a sacristy was added in the south-east side of the church.[5][4]

Catholicos Vazgen I visited the church twice, in 1978 and 1983.[6][7]

Architecture

The bell tower of Haghpat and the church in its original state (1924 photo).[8]

The church follows traditional Armenian church architecture.[9] It is modeled after the freestanding bell tower of Haghpat Monastery,[4][5] built it 1245.[10] The exterior, similar to the Haghpat bell tower, has three stages/levels.[5] The church as been described as an "exotic eastern edifice" by The Economist.[11] It was built in Portland stone and has a Greek cross plan.[5] The entrance has an English inscription recording its dedication to Gulbenkian's parents "in the Armenian Era 1372."[5] The altarpiece contains a painting of Virgin and Child with gilded relief carving of angles in the gable made by the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts. There are also sculptures of Gulbenkian family members inside the church.[5]

Heritage designation

The church was listed as a Grade II* building on 16 January 1981, which classified it as a "particularly important building of more than special interest."[5]

References

  1. ^ Conlin, Jonathan (2010). "Philanthropy without borders: Calouste Gulbenkian's founding vision for the Gulbenkian Foundation". Análise Social. 45 (195): 285. JSTOR 41012798.
  2. ^ "The Armenian Church Today > Dioceses > Europe". armenianchurch.org. Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
  3. ^ Zenian, David (1 March 2003). "England: Home to Generations of Armenians". AGBU News Magazine. AGBU. Archived from the original on 23 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "St. Sarkis Armenian Church, London". accc.org.uk. Armenian Community Council of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 20 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Church of St Sarkis (Armenian Church)". Historic England. National Heritage List for England. Archived from the original on 9 February 2019.; based on Survey of London XLII (1986), pp. 389-391
  6. ^ Editorial (1978). " ?. ". Etchmiadzin (in Armenian). 45 (8-9): 17-31.
  7. ^ Editorial (1983). " ? ? ". Etchmiadzin (in Armenian). 40 (5-6): 6-48.
  8. ^ "Plate 150: St. Sarkis's Armenian church, Iverna Court". british-history.ac.uk. British History Online.
  9. ^ Roberts, Frank C., ed. (1979). Obituaries from the Times, 1951-1960: Including an Index to All Obituaries and Tributes Appearing in the Times During the Years 1951-1960. Newspaper Archive Developments. p. 318. ISBN 9780903713962. As a devout member, Gulbenkian has given considerable material assistance to the Armenian Church. He built and has maintained for over thirty years the graceful little church of St. Sarkis in Iverna Gardens, South Kensington. This fine example of classic Armenian ecclesiastical architecture was erected and endowed as a memorial to Gulbenkian's parents, and serves the Armenian congregation of Greater London.
  10. ^ "Haghpat". armenianheritage.org. Armenian Monuments Awareness ProjectWebsite.
  11. ^ The Economist, Volume 216, 1965, page 344 "...the Armenian church of St Sarkis. The church is the only one of its kind in Britain, an exotic eastern edifice, raising its unlikely head in Iverna Gardens, Kensington."

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