YEREVAN – Save Armenian Monuments (SAM), a newly-launched initiative to protect historical and cultural sites in Artsakh and the wider region, undertook its first fact-finding mission to Armenia last week. SAM representatives met with religious, political, civic and scholarly stakeholders to assess preservation pathways for vulnerable sacred sites following the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) war.
“During our visit, the SAM delegation laid groundwork for future pilgrimages to historic sites in Artsakh. Such pilgrimages are designed to raise awareness among stakeholder groups as well as the general public, both in Armenia and outside, to seek recognition and enforcement of every Armenian’s right to visit and worship at sacred sites, regardless of political circumstances,” stated Dr. Virginia Davies, New York-based founding president of SAM. “Pilgrimages are not only important for individuals’ spiritual and cultural needs, but also for churches’ preservation as living houses of worship.”
SAM’s delegation was led by Davies and included Advisory Board members Raffi Tanielian (London) and Dr. Antranig Kasbarian (New York). Joining the group were prominent scholars, including University of California Davis art history professor Heghnar Watenpaugh, as well as His Eminence Archbishop Hovakim Manukyan (London), who facilitated the delegation’s discussions with church authorities in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
The SAM delegation took the opportunity to introduce the project to His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, who welcomed the initiative and offered critical advice and insights. The group also met with church representatives overseeing cultural heritage protection, as well as directors of Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA), a leading proponent of research, protection and data collection pertaining to cultural heritage sites. Earlier, SAM had announced its support for modernizing RAA’s visual archiving practices. Senior SAM leaders also met with Armenia’s President Armen Sarkissian, who underscored the importance of Diaspora engagement in preserving cultural heritage.
Founded in 2020, Save Armenian Monuments LLC, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization and subsidiary of the Eastern Prelacy, pursues the sustained safeguarding of in situ Armenian Christian heritage at risk, in particular protection and awareness-building of at-risk churches, monasteries, gravesites, stone crosses, and other sacred sites and structures located in Artsakh and the wider region, through activities including pilgrimages and education. Headquartered in New York, Save Armenian Monuments operates in collaboration with relevant institutional and individual stakeholders.