Holly Mother
Krikor Lusavoriç

Kayseri and Armenians

Kayseri plays a very important role in the history of Armenian Church. Once being the most important city in Middle Anatolia and having 400.000 population in 250 A.D, it is the place where Surp Krikor was raised, studied and adopted Christianity as his religion.


Under leadership of Surp Krikor, King of Armenia Dırtad III adopted Christianity as a state religion in 301 and Surp Krikor founded Etchmiadzin Cathedral.

Every society has its own holy lands. If Mecca is considered to be sacred for Muslims, Kayseri is the same for Armenians being the first city where Christianity was adopted, Surp Krikor was raised and the church with his name was founded, also it is one of the pilgrimage places for Armenians.

After adopting Christianity in Kayseri, Krikor went to Armenia and became an influence on the king, princes, army and the nation to adopt the religion. King Dırtad sent him to Kayseri and he became the first Armenian Patriarch at the beginning of 4th century.

The 84th Patriarch of Armenians in Turkey, Mesrob II Mutafyan explains St. Krikor's life and the importance of Kayseri like this in one of his statements;

"Kayseri is a very sacred territory that played a crucial role for the constitution of St. Krikor's spiritual formation. After Istanbul Council in 381, Kayseri Episcopacy was joined to Istanbul Church and Kayseri remained the Achiepiscopate. Today still being open to worship, the church which has the name of St. Krikor, maintains the heritage of him and the traditions which go back to the ancient times."

Kayseri continued to be a very influential religion center in Greek-Armenian geography in 361. It still played an important role in assigning religious leaders for Armenian Community even after St Krikor Lusavoriç. His sons Arisdages I (A.D 326-333) and Vırtanes I (A.D 333-341), Husig I (son of Vırtanes) (A.D 341-347) and again their sib St. Nerses (A.D 353-363) became Armenian Catholicos with the approval of Archbishop of Kayseri.

Ekerede Surp Garabed Manastırı
Surp Garabed Monestry

The spiritual center for Kayseri Armenians was in the Monestry of Surp Garabed, in Efkere, (in the present it is in Bahçeli district in the town of Gesi).

This was the place where some of baptist Yahya's bones were found and a monestery was built by St.Thaddeus in the 4th century. Built upon a hill, this monestry was a very important pilgrimage place. In this monestry there were a caravansaray, a library with 200 writings and 20.000 books and a seminary which provided highest level of education.

Armenians In The Time Of Ottoman

In his book, Evliya Çelebi speaks of Kayseri like this: "Pastrami and sujuk of this city go to Sultans as gifts. Because it is in the mountside of Mount Ercieyes, the climate is cold. The people are fit and couregous.The educated ones speak Farsy and Arabic but Turkish is the common public language. They speak with their rayahs in Armenian but they do not speak neither Greek nor Kurdish. In Boyacıoğlu gate, you can find Karakaş the Armenian doctor who is a very talented surgeon. He completed his studies of Medicine in Spain. He has a blue water for toothaches and a red water to take this tooth out with your bare hands.

From the beginning of the 17th century, Kayseri started to become known in the markets of Amsterdam and Venice with its Armenian merchants. The Armenians were not successful only in trade but also in manufactering. In such an early date as 1856, the textile factory which was built by Hasırcıyan brothers, carried 300 weaving stalls.The carpets and fabrics weaved by Kayseri Armenians, who were also successful in leather trade, carpet business, jewellery and textile, found buyers even in foreign markets. Armenians who were spending their summers in vineyards were famous for the fruits and wines they produced. Armenians are the ones who started pastrami industry in Kayseri. It has been with Armenians' effort and hard work that Kayseri became very famous for its pastrami and sujuk since livestock industry was first held by Armenian people.

In brief, Armenians played a big role in development of Kayseri's commercial environment and advanced craftsmanship.

In 1700s, instead of military service Armenians paid jizya and tribute to the state. Their dress and shoe colors were different than Muslims'. For instance, Jewish and Armenian communities used to wear shoes in black and purple color; Greeks used to wear in purple. On the other hand, especially the wealthy Muslims used to wear yellow shoes.

There was a primacy in Kayseri which was subsidiary to Istanbul Patriarchate. According to 1914 Ottoman census, there were more than 50.000 Armenians living in Kayseri. In the city center, there were 3 churches along with schools which belonged to Orthodox Armenian community. Those were; Surp Sarkis Church (Hagopyan School), Surp Asdvadzadzin Church (Hagyan School), Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church (Gümüşyan and Aramyan Schools). Besides, there was only groundwork of Surp Megeryos Church in Armenian Cemetary but until the beginning of 20th century, Armenians both from the city and near the city came to visit the remnants on Surp Megeryon Day and sacrificed animals. Another pigrimage place was a cave outside the city.

According to the census carried out by the Armenian Patriarchate between 1901-1902, it was identified that there were 42 Armenian schools with 3795 male, 1140 female students and 125 teachers.

The city had a very advanced cultural life. Armenians had their own theatre groups and press. They started to publish weekly magazine Dikris in 1907, weekly newspaper Sepor in 1910 and weekly magazine Nor Serunt in 1912.

In Yukarı Talas district, there were mansions which belonged to rich Armenians. Kalust Gulbenkyan, one of the most famous Armenians who was an oil king and a generous donator has roots of his ancestors in this region.

Kayseri Ermeni Hastanesinin doktor kadrosu, Kayseri, 1903

Armenian society was an important part of the city life in Kayseri. The only dentist with a diploma was also an Armenian whose name was Mıdırgıc Degirmenciyan.

Armenians took part in municipality organization too during the presidency of Dr. Mustafa Hilmi in 1906. The borough council consisted of;

• Şeyh İbrahim Efendi
• Hoca Hacı Hilmi Efendi
• Müftü Hacı Enver Efendi
• Kösehalilzâde Emin Efendi
• Dr. Karabet (Armenian)
• Dr. Manukyan (Armenian)
• Kalpağı Güdük (Armenian)

In 1914, one of the deputies in the Ottoman Parliament representing Kayseri was an Armenian called Karabet Tomayan.

Many of 50.000 Armenians who played crucial roles in Kayseri's economical life were forced to emigrate in 1915. (In Talat Paşa's personal diary, the number of people who were forced to emigrate was 47.617.)

Tomarza Ermeni Kilisesi   Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusavoric Kilisesi

Before the First World War, being different than other Middle Anatolia cities, there was a prosperous economy in Kayseri but because of the emigration during the war, the city lost this feature.

Some of the regions and districts where Armenians used to live were; İslim Paşa, Hasünlü, Samur, Neseb Hatun, Tac-ı Kızıl, Ekidere, Bahçebaşı, Bahçe, Batman, Büyükoduncu, Caferbey, Çakoloz, Çivicibektaş, Dadırharput, Gürcü, Fırıncı, Hacı Kasım, Hacı Mansur, İsaağa, Karakürkçü, Keklik, Kiçikapı, Konukboğan, Köyyıkan, Mermerli, Merkepçi (Mürekepçi) Mustafa Necip, Rum Sultan, Rumyan, Sasık, Selaldı, Sisliyan, Sultan, Süleyman, Şarkiyan, Şuturban, Tavukçu, Tomarza, Varsak, Talas, Zincidere, Germir, Gesi, Efkere, Derevan, Mancınsın, Mumcusun, Erkilet, Develi, İlibe, Çomaklı, İncesu, Cücün, Taşhan, Gömedi, Çayıroluk, Yenice.

Develide Ayakta Kalabilen Son Ermeni Evleri

There were some Armenians who were kept in a place and hidden by their Muslim neighbours and also some came back to Kayseri after Mondros Truce. As a matter of fact, half of the population of Develi, which is one of the biggest counties in Kayseri, consisted of Armenians after WWI.

Armenians In The Time Of Rebublic

After declaration of republic, because of demographic, social, economic and cultural changes in city life, Armenian community started to migrate to the western part of Turkey. In 1965, the priest of Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church states in his interview that there were only 130 households left in the city that belonged to Armenians and the number was too low even when compared to past few years. According to his observations, the church and its community had become a layover station for the ones who were willing to do some savings before moving to Istanbul.

Nowadays, except for a few families, an assembled Armenian community does not exist in Kayseri. There are faith visitations organized by Istanbul Armenians to Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church twice a year. Many Armenians from different parts of Turkey and abroad participate to these visits as well.

Kayseri Kilisesi Avlusu


Foundation of Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Armenian Church is a foundation, which was founded with the edict of Mehmed the Conqueror bound to Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, continue's its existence with the donations of charitables today.

The history of Armenians in Turkey stands back to 3000 years ago in this territory. Armenians most of which live in Istanbul today is the most crowded Christian community of Turkey, Istanbul Armenians rely on republic's bright future and wait in hope.

Tarihçi Arşag Alboyacıyan (1879-1962) Geniş Kayseri Tarihi, Halit Erkiletlioğlu
100 Yıl Once Turkiye'de Ermeniler (Osman Köker ,Birzamanlar Yayıncılık) Kayseri ve S. Krikor Lusavoriç Kilisesi (Türkiye Ermeni Patrikliği , 1986)
1965 yılında kayseri ermeni cemaati(Rıfat N. Bali) Evliya Çelebi Seyahatnamesi (NTV Tarih Sayı 23)
Talat Paşanın Evrak-ı Metrukesi (Murat Bardakçi) Kayseri Büyükşehir Beldiyesi Web Sayfası
http://www.milliyet.com.tr/2006/10/24/yazar/uras.html http://www.ardost.com/turkiye/kayseri/kultur1.htm
http://www.erciyestv.com.tr/yazar_detay.php?id=106 http://www.virtualani.freeserve.co.uk/kayseri/turkish.htm