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Gherla or Armenopolis – A Former Armenian City in Romania

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Gherla is a quite anonymous city in Northern Romania, but Gherla has a secret. Gherla was once built by Armenians but now they are gone. Follow me on a visit and see the remains of the Armenian architecture.

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The Holy Trinity Cathedral.

We start with some basic facts.

Gherla is a town located around 45 km north of Cluj-Napoca in Transilvania. The population is around 20.000 and among them 80% are Romanians.

What’s makes Gherla unique?

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Along this street is the Armenian representation clearly visible.

Gherla is an old city. Fragments dated before Christ has been found, but Gherla is mentioned first time in 1291 under the name Gherlahida. It was still a village and continued to be until the Armenians settled here.

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The main street of Gherla.

When the first Armenians arrived isn’t sure, but before the 18th century, the town was called “Հայաքաղաք (Hayakaghak)” which means the pretty logical name, Armenian City. We also find a name in German sources, where they call Gherla “Armenierstadt”. In medieval Latin and Greek, we find a similar name: “Armenopolis”. Armenopolis was used as an official name.gherla-armenopolis-3-1

How did Armenians end up in Northern Romania?

The Armenians have for a long time been represented in several geographic locations. The Armenians who settled down in today’s Gherla was from the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. They came to Transilvania around the year 1650 from Crimea and Moldova.gherla-armenopolis-7

Armenopolis was transferred into a modern city in the early 18th. The Armenians built houses and the Holy Trinity Cathedral was finished in the year 1808. The cathedral is now the main building for the Ordinariate for Catholics of Armenian Rite in Romania.

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The Holy Trinity Cathedral.

Gherla is now seen as one of the best preserved older towns in Romania.

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The interior of Holy Trinity Cathedral.

The Armenians built the town from scratch, and their dedication to their architecture can still be seen on plenty of places in the city. The buildings are here, but the Armenians are gone…gherla-armenopolis-6

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4 Comments

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  1. Thank you for the article. In german the name of Gherla was Armenierstadt, not Armenianstadt. Please, correct it, if you can. And the Armenians who settled down in Transylvania, came from Ani, the capital of the Armenian Kingdom between 961-1045 A.D. After the collapse of the Armenian Kingdom (it became part of the Byzantine Empire), some of the Armenians from Ani went to south, later they established the Cilician Kingdom (1198-1374), and some of them went to north. After a few centuries spent in Nor Nakhichevan (or Nakhichevan on Don), in Crimean peninsula and Moldova, in the 17-th century they settled down in Transylvania. It is true, that later Armenians came to Transylvania also from the Kilikian or Cilician Kingdom. Today in Gherla, Hayaqaghaq, Armenopolis are living approximately 125-150 people, whose ancestors were Armenians.

  2. I am glad that you wrote about Gherla, which in the XIX/th century was a real Armenian metropolis, keeping strong cultural ties with Europe and Asia. In this city has been edited and published during the end of XIX-th Century and beginning of XXth Cnetury the Armenia a very well documented cultural review about Armenians all over the world.

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