The Armenian quarter of Esfahan dates from the time of Shah Abbas I, who transported a colony of Christians from the town of Jolfa (now on Iran’s northern border) en masse, and named the village ‘New Jolfa’. Abbas sought their skills as merchants, entrepreneurs and artists and he ensured that their religious freedom was respected – albeit at a distance from the city’s Islamic centre. At one time over 42,000 Armenian Christians lived here.
Today Kelisa-ye Vank (Vank Cathedral) forms the centre of this fashionable area. There are also a number of Armenian churches here and an old cemetery, serving a Christian community of approximately 6000. Many visitors visit in the afternoon and stay on in Jolfa to enjoy dinner in the relatively liberal village atmosphere.