• The first Christian church in the Caucasus

The first Christian church in the Caucasus

Christianity was officially recognized in Azerbaijan in the early 4th century AD, according to historical records. Christianity was widespread in Caucasian Albania, then a powerful state on the territory of Azerbaijan. However, the new religion began to spread here even earlier A History of Albania by Albanian historian Moisey Kalankatuklu preserves precious records on the spread of Christianity and the construction of various churches. Historical records describe the Albanian church as an apostolic church. The apostle St Eliseus spread Christianity in Azerbaijan between 54 and 57 AD, earlier than in Georgia and Armenia. Only three centuries later, in 327 AD, did the Armenians adopt Christianity, thanks to the missionary St Gregory.

A history of Albania records that the missionary activity if St Thaddeus, a disciple of Jesus, ended in failure in Armenia, since Sanaturk, the pagan Armenian king, had ordered the arrest and execution of the apostle. St Eliseus, a disciple of St Thaddeus, returned to Jerusalem and proclaimed that the apostle had fallen martyr. St Jacob, the religious brother of Jesus, sent St Eliseus to Caucasian to preach Christianity there. St Eliseus headed for Caucasian Albania (now Azerbaijan) through Persia and began to spread the faith. He went to the village of Kish in the region of Uti (now north-western Azerbaijan) and began to build a church. The church of Kish in the Sheki district is the first Christian church built in Caucasian Albania and the South Caucasus as a whole. The church walls are of planed stones, about one meter thick. The cylindrical dome on the roof of the church is completed with a pointed, conical cover. The church has been repeatedly reconstructed, but remains well preserved. Although the church has no markings, it once had an inscription ahowing that it was the church of St Eliseus and had been reconstructed in 1244 by Seraphim, archdeacon of the Albanian church. In 1836 after the Albanian Church was abolished bu order of the Russian Tsar, the inscription on the church was completely erased, as happened with other Albanian churches, too. Throughout the centuries this church stands has been known as Kish, which means “religion, belief, and worship”, for more than 2,000 years.

On 10 April 2003 the State Committee for Religious Affairs registered the Albanian-Udin Society of Azerbaijan. This marked the resurgence of the Albanian Church. Up to 130 monuments belonging to the Christian churches of Caucasian Albania have been registered throughout the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan to date.

Today, thousands of tourists who are coming to Azerbaijan visiting this magnificent monument in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. Many tour operators are organizing tours to the Church of Kish from Baku or another regions. Don`t forget to visit not only Baku but also another regions of Azerbaijan and especially Church if Kish in Sheki if you`ll cross the border of Azerbaijan.

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