Ireland’s Armenian memorial a pleasant surprise

On a recent visit to Ireland, I decided to visit the popular Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin. I was told there was an Armenian Genocide Memorial erected there nearly a decade ago, and I was excited to see it. 

The monument was easy to find. The cross stone (khachkar) was dedicated by Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the UK and Ireland Bishop Hovakim Manukyan on December 5, 2015, according to the Armenian National Institute. It was erected and consecrated in the Peace Garden of the cathedral in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

The monument is beautiful with incredibly detailed artwork and was designed by Aram Hakhumyan, who lives in Ireland. It features a Celtic and an Armenian cross made from volcanic stone and includes many Irish and Armenian details, such as shamrocks and grapes. 

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On April 30, 2023, there was a gathering at the monument for the 108th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The commemoration took place during the Choral Evensong, an evening church service, which was sung by the Cathedral Choir. The students of St. Hripsime Armenian Sunday School in Dublin recited Armenian poetry. Varazdat Khachatryan played the piano, and Aydah Arshagian sang the hymn of the martyrs of the Genocide.

I’m not surprised the people of Ireland have honored the Armenians in this way. Irish citizens understand oppression from their own history and appear to have genuine empathy for others who have endured similar struggles. Most recently, many people in Ireland have protested for the rights of Palestinians in Gaza who are going through extreme hardship and famine. 

I found an interesting bit of trivia that shows how the Irish and Armenians are alike in regard to their monuments. According to writer Narine Mkrtchyan in an article published in 2018 titled “Armenia-Ireland: A Train from Past to Future,” Armenia and Ireland are the only two nations to have adopted the Christian symbol of the cross stone as a monument. The cross stone is a “peculiar momentum of monumental art in the Armenian Highlands. The cross symbolizes the crucifixion of Christ. In 2010 Armenian cross-stones art Symbolism and Craftsmanship of Khachkars was included in the famous list of non-material cultural heritage of UNESCO,” according to Mkrtchyan. 

Armenian Genocide commemoration in Dublin (Photo: United Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough, April 30, 2023)

The Irish have also been dedicated journalists of the truth. One of the few newspapers to suggest that a massacre was happening in 1915 was the Irish Times. Ohan Yergainharsian, the Honorary Consul of Armenia to Ireland, whose grandfather was the only survivor of seven brothers and four sisters from Erzurum, compiled a series of Irish Times articles from 1915 reporting on the Genocide.

Ireland also has a small but growing Armenian community, with estimates of up to 500 Armenians in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and county Clare. The majority of Irish Armenians live in and around Dublin. There are even some living in Northern Ireland. 

On a personal level, as someone with Armenian ancestry, I have to admit being emotionally moved by the kind and important historical gesture by the Irish church. The time and effort put into the monument was clearly done with a passion for humanity and freedom.

If you happen to be in Dublin and would like to visit the memorial, it’s located on the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral, Christchurch Place, Wood Quay, Dublin 8.

Stephen Emirzian

Stephen Emirzian

Stephen Emirzian is a half Armenian and half Irish writer from Collinsville, Connecticut. He recently celebrated his 60th birthday in Ireland.

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