Cathedral of St. James
The central church in the Armeniam Quarter and the largest Armenian church in Israel is the Cathedral of St. James, or in Armenian, Surp Hagop Church. The church is named for two Saint James – James the son of Zebedee and James the Just – that were buried in the church according to the Armenian tradition.
Built in the 11th century on the ruins of a 6th century Byzantine Church, it is one of the most splendid, beautiful churches in Israel, with features including a basilica and central dome and two side chapels used for various religious ceremonies.
The church still has no electricity and is lit by the sunlight streaming through the windows and huge chandeliers that hang down from the ceiling. Its walls are covered in colored ceramic tiles and decorated with images of the saints, and its doors are studded with shells. The church houses valuable ritual items such as a gold cast bejeweled altar.
The cathedral’s crown jewel is its ancient writings, decorated with colorful miniatures – though viewings are not always possible and require advance arrangements. Visiting during a prayer service is an especially remarkable and recommended experience.