Patriarch Harutiun
Armenian Jerusalem
entrance to Armenian Patriarchate

Two of the supreme leaders of the Armenian church in the Holy

Land were kaghakatsis, members of the Mnatzaganian clan,

according to family sources. This, despite the fact that

an unwritten Patriarchate edict prohibits kaghakatsi

youth from joining the church as members of the

priestly Brotherhood of St James.

Ardavazt Minassian, whose mother is a Mnatzaganian, and Apraham Mnatzaganian report separately that their common ancestral family included a son who later became Patriarch Giragos. Giragos was born in AD 1783 and ordained a celibate priest in AD 1807. He was consecrated bishop in AD 1815 and elected Patriarch in AD 1847. The tales our two clan sources tell differ differ slightly in the details. According to Ardavazt, two brothers had originally come to Jerusalem in the early AD 1800s from Persia. Apraham raises the number to 4. "The story I was told in my childhood was that there were 4 brothers that arrived in Palestine from Tchoogha (Djolfa near Ispahan)," he says. Ardavazt reports that from AD 1825 to AD 1834, Giragos was posted to Egypt before returning to Jerusalem in AD 1847 as Patriarch. While in Egypt, he fostered a Moslem boy and converted him to Christianity, giving him the name Harutiun. Harutiun, born AD 1819 (his family name had been changed to Vahabedian) went on himself to become the Patriarch of Jerusalem, from AD 1886 to AD 1889. He had been ordained in AD 1850 and bishop in AD 1860. "He was very successful in buying a lot of land and property for the Armenian convent," Ardavazt says. He notes that Patriarch Giragos died in 1850 under suspicious circumstances, possibly having been poisoned, a fact apparently buttressed by an incident his aunt Marianne relates. It seems she had gone to pay her respects to her distant relative the Patriarch, and when she came back, she remarked that as she ran her hand along his face, the hair from his beard came out in her hand. She said they "have poisoned him!" Apraham says he had requested a search among the Jerusalem Patriarchate records, but had been told "there was no entry of Giragos as a Mnatzaganian - which I thought was curious at the time." The Patriarchate's official chronological list of patriarchs lists a "Giragos of Jerusalem" and a "Harutiun Vehabedian." But research conducted by Haig A. Krikorian (April, 2005) does mention a "Giragos Mnatzaganian Yerusghameatzi (1847-1850)" and a "Harutiun Vehabedian Yekibdatzi" (1885-1910). According to Apraham's account, of the three other brothers who came to Jerusalem, one established the family line to which he belongs, another settled in Jerusalem as well and became scion of the family line that Berge and Giragos Mnatzaganian belonged to. "The 4th disappeared, probably went West," Apraham says. He concedes that he has "been intrigued by this story for some 60 years, and perhaps the time has come now, through the kaghakatsi Armenian family tree project, for me to explore this line of my genealogy."
Patriarch Vehabedian