The Magaravank Pilgrimage

Hrayr JebedjianThe preservation of the past and the determination of the future
By Hrayr Jebedjian*

The notice on a small paper at the entrance of the Turkish occupied Magara Vank caught my attention. It was written in English, and it described the history of the Monastery which was built in 1000AD by the Coptic Church. In 1425AD, it was handed over to the Armenian Church. It has been an important center for research and study for Armenian and non Armenian pilgrims who made a stopover at the Monastery on their way to the Holy Lands. The writing on the paper did not end here. It continued by saying something about today: The picturesque and idyllic view of both the sea and the mountains makes this place a ?touristic? spot where one can enjoy the splendid nature in a relaxed atmosphere and drink a cup of coffee?!

I moved around the ?remaining? parts of the Monastery, trying to catch up with every cornerstone and ruin and absorb history in its fullness. I lived the history of the many clergy, pilgrims, students, historians and intellectuals who spent a lifetime building the lives of mankind in the spirit of the Christian ethics of love, peace and reconciliation. Many intellectuals had devoted years to preserve the Armenian culture. I started looking through an empty space in one of the ruined buildings which was once a window. I started tracing the historical path of the Monastery by looking through this window.  I could see the Light that Magara Vank had spread: the path of civilisation throughout the ages within the Armenian community and others.

The church service inside the small madour was overwhelming. The sharagans touched the heart of each and every one of the 200 pilgrims present on this pilgrimage. The singing seemed to echo that of the past, bringing the ruins and the remaining of the Monastery back to life and changing the ?touristic? spot back to its original Mission.

The pilgrimage on Sunday, May 10, 2009, was organised by the Office of the Armenian Representative in the Cyprus parliament in cooperation with the Armenian Prelature of Cyprus. I joined the group together with many of my Armenian-Cypriot friends who told me many things about life at the Monastery before 1974. How can a centre of light and civilisation be turned into a ruin in only thirty-five years?

The answer to my question came through Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian?s message during the service that day. It was a call for determination, ?The determination to rebuild that which was destroyed,? he said. This is the challenge of our survival in today?s world: The preservation of our legacy and the determination to rebuild and carry it forward to the future; the legacy of the past with its Identity, Faith, Culture and the Struggle for a Just Cause. This legacy, in its fullness, needs to be rebuilt but, most of all, carried forward to the future.

I went back to the front gate and re-read the notice on the small piece of paper. Magara Vank can never be a touristic spot. It is the spot to preserve the past and rebuild the future.

There are many challenges to rebuilding the future, though: The future with the many unknowns and uncertainties that impact our lives in the present circumstances. Nevertheless, there is one ?road map? through which we can navigate on our journey of the many unknowns. There is one road map that will help us tackle the many Pan-Armenian concerns that we face today: The road map that creates the Pan-Armenian mind and effort in spite of all our differences. This is the road map that can lead us to the safe shore even when ?we walk in the valley of the shadow of death?.

The Magara Vank pilgrimage was a confirmation of the preservation of the past and the determination to rebuild the future.

*Hrayr Jebedjian – Armenian Evangelical Church – Cyprus (photo)

Source: “Gibrahayer” (, 11 May 2009

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