Home Travel Guides Bethlehem Church in Isfahan: A Historical and Cultural Gem

Bethlehem Church in Isfahan: A Historical and Cultural Gem

by Parastoo Sahebi
9 minutes read
Bethlehem Church

Isfahan boasts a multitude of sightseeing spots, each with its unique blend of historical, cultural, and artistic significance. Among these, Bethlehem Church stands out as a must-visit destination. A journey to Isfahan is akin to delving into the heart of Iran’s rich tapestry of historical and cultural landmarks. In this article from Eligasht, we delve into the history and beauty of Bethlehem Church in Isfahan. Stay with us.

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History of Bethlehem Church

The origins of Bethlehem Church in Isfahan date back to the Safavid era during the reign of Shah Abbas in the year 1306 AH. Constructed by Khajeh Patres Valijanian, a renowned merchant of that period, this church stands as a testament to the Armenian community’s artistic and architectural contributions to the Jolfa neighborhood. Despite the unfortunate destruction of many Armenian churches over time, Bethlehem Church has retained its grandeur and continues to attract both foreign tourists and local visitors to Isfahan. It is worth noting that the decision to build this church was influenced by the congestion at the entrance of the Holy Mary Church, with Saint Mary and Hakup churches situated nearby.


Why you should visit Bethlehem Church

Bethlehem Church, also known as Beit ol Lahem Church, is a magnificent church located in Isfahan, Iran. It was built during the Safavid period and is considered one of the great churches and places of interest in Isfahan. This church stands out with its impressive dome, which is the highest among the twelve churches in the area. The dome is so grand that it can be seen and recognized from a distance.  The city’s array of tourist attractions is so vast and varied that a single trip may not suffice to explore them all. Many visitors tend to focus on the more renowned sites, inadvertently overlooking hidden gems. But this exquisite church was lauded as one of the world’s 23 most beautiful churches in 2016. Jolfa, a district in Isfahan, is a tourist hub in its own right, home to numerous churches of immense historical and religious significance. Among these, Bethlehem Church shines as one of the city’s most prominent religious sites, second only to Vank Church.  On March 17, 1381, Bethlehem Church was officially registered as one of Iran’s historical monuments with the registration number 7643.

Not only is Bethlehem Church known for its architectural beauty, but it is also renowned for its interior wall paintings. The church’s exterior is equally impressive, making it one of the most magnificent churches in Isfahan.

Bethlehem Church

Access to Bethlehem Church

If you’re planning to visit, you can find the church in Isfahan city, specifically on Nazar Sharqi St., Jolfa Square. The closest metro stations to the church are Si-Se Pol and Shariati stations, and you can easily reach the church from there by taxi. Another option is to take a bus to the Hakim Nizami intersection bus station, which is also nearby.

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Architectural Features

The Bethlehem Church in Isfahan boasts stunning decorations, such as paintings depicting the life of Christ and other religious scenes. The golden embellishments within the church are both beautiful and captivating. The architecture of the church, including its impressive dome, is truly spectacular. An inscription on the front of the church indicates the year 1627 AD, which corresponds to 1036 Hijri.

The church is designed as a rectangular domed hall, oriented in an east-west direction, featuring a double-windowed dome with eight skylights at its base. Standing at a height of 25 meters and with a diameter of 11 meters, the building lacks external ornamentation. Within the church courtyard, numerous tombstones can be found, including that of Khajeh Patres and his family members. Some of these tombstones were relocated to the street in 1936 due to the widening of the side street.

The construction materials used for Beit ol Lahem Church include clay and brick. Inside the church, the walls are adorned with plaster and adorned with biblical-themed paintings. Additionally, the lower portion of the walls is embellished with indigo and blue glazed tiles. It is worth noting that the church is built on two floors, with the second floor specifically designated for women. In the center of the second floor, there is a square hall that draws inspiration from the classical model of the Armenian domed hall.

Bethlehem Church


From the outside, Bethlehem Church presents a relatively modest façade compared to some of its more grandiose contemporaries in Isfahan. The church is constructed primarily of brick, a common material in Iranian architecture, and its plain exterior is punctuated by a modest dome and bell tower. However, the simplicity of the exterior belies the opulence within.



Stepping inside Bethlehem Church is akin to entering a different world. The interior is adorned with intricate frescoes and murals that cover the walls and ceilings, depicting biblical scenes and saints in vivid detail. These frescoes are remarkable for their vibrant colors and the skill with which they were executed, showcasing the high level of artistry achieved by the Armenian artisans of the time.

The altar, a focal point of the church, is resplendent with gilded decorations and intricate carvings. The use of gold leaf and the detailed craftsmanship reflect the importance of the church to the Armenian community and their dedication to creating a place of worship that is both beautiful and spiritually uplifting.

Bethlehem Church


The iconography within Bethlehem Church is a fascinating blend of Armenian and Persian artistic traditions. While the subjects of the murals are predominantly Christian, the style and execution bear the unmistakable influence of Persian art. This synthesis of cultures is evident in the floral motifs and geometric patterns that accompany the religious imagery, creating a unique aesthetic that is both Armenian and Persian.

Cultural Significance

Bethlehem Church is more than just a place of worship; it is a cultural and historical landmark that symbolizes the Armenian presence in Iran. For centuries, it has served as a center for the Armenian community in Isfahan, hosting religious ceremonies, cultural events, and social gatherings. The church’s library houses a vast collection of ancient manuscripts and religious texts, providing a valuable resource for scholars and researchers. It stands as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the Armenian people, who have maintained their traditions and identity while contributing to the rich cultural mosaic of Isfahan.


Preservation and Heritage

In recognition of its historical and cultural value, Bethlehem Church, along with other churches in New Jolfa, has been the subject of preservation efforts. These initiatives aim to maintain the structural integrity and artistic treasures of the church, ensuring that future generations can continue to appreciate this remarkable piece of heritage.

Bethlehem Church

Final words

Bethlehem Church in Isfahan is a shining example of the harmonious blend of Armenian and Persian cultures. Its historical significance, architectural beauty, and cultural importance make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the rich tapestry of Iran’s history. As a living monument to the Armenian community’s contributions to Isfahan, Bethlehem Church continues to inspire and captivate visitors from around the world.



  1. Where is the Bethlehem Church located in Isfahan?

The Bethlehem Church is located in the historic district of Jolfa in Isfahan, Iran. It is situated on the southern side of Vank Cathedral.


  1. What is the historical significance of the Bethlehem Church?

The Bethlehem Church holds great historical significance as one of the oldest Christian churches in Isfahan. It was established in the 17th century by Armenian immigrants who settled in Jolfa. The church represents the rich cultural and religious heritage of the Armenian community in Iran.


  1. What architectural style is the Bethlehem Church built in?

The Bethlehem Church showcases a unique blend of Armenian and Persian architectural styles. It features a traditional Armenian cruciform plan with a central dome and intricate decorative elements influenced by Persian art and design.


  1. Can visitors explore the interior of the Bethlehem Church?

Yes, visitors are allowed to enter the Bethlehem Church and explore its interior. Inside, you will find beautiful frescoes depicting biblical scenes, ornate wooden carvings, and a serene ambiance that reflects the church’s spiritual significance.


  1. Are there any special events or ceremonies held at the Bethlehem Church?

The Bethlehem Church hosts various religious ceremonies and events throughout the year, especially during Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter. These occasions offer visitors a chance to witness traditional Armenian Christian rituals and experience the vibrant cultural atmosphere of the church.

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