Proposal to erect a statue of Jesus on Mount Hatis sparks concern among experts, Yerevani residents
Statue of Jesus to be erected in Armenia
In Armenia, an initiative has been proposed to install a statue of Jesus Christ. This is an initiative of one of the richest businessmen in the country, the leader of the Prosperous Armenia party, former MP Gagik Tsarukyan.
The Armenian Apostolic Church does not approve of this idea. Its ministers believe that the establishment of the statue of Christ is contrary to the traditions of worship of the Armenian Church.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that the government is positive about the project. In his opinion, the statue of Jesus will increase the tourist interest in Armenia.
However, tourism experts do not share this view. They say that the statue will not attract new tourists, and Mount Hatis, on which they are going to erect it, will no longer be of interest to hikers.
The project of the statue has not yet been submitted to the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports. And the department demanded to stop construction work until the project is approved. In addition, the ministry said in a statement that there are historical monuments in this area and urges not to take steps that could damage them.
Photos taken on the day the statue was founded, from Gagik Tsarukyan’s Facebook page
Tourism project at the cost of destroying monuments?
The statue of Christ will have a height of 33 meters, which symbolizes the number of years he lived. It will be installed on a 44-meter plinth. In addition, a museum will be built on top of Mount Hatis. It is reported that the statue of Jesus and the museum will be ready to receive visitors in 3 years.
According to Gagik Tsarukyan, in order to facilitate the ascent to the mountain, a cable car will also be built for visitors.
There are statues of Jesus Christ in more than 20 countries of the world -the most famous is of all located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Gagik Tsarukyan announced his intention to erect a statue of Jesus six months ago. At the same time, a layout competition was announced. In early May, the results became known. Together with the opinion of the special jury, the results of the sms-voting were taken into account, the project of the sculptor Armen Samvelyan won.
The begining of the construction was announced on 9 July. The foundation ceremony was also attended by Armenian Minister of Economy Vahan Kerobyan.
“This is really a large-scale, perhaps the most large-scale tourism project in Armenia. We are ready to do everything to make the project come true as soon as possible”, he said.
The enthusiasm of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Economy is not shared by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports. The department considers the idea of a statue acceptable, but demands to stop construction work on this territory. The ministry said in a statement that it is first necessary to submit a construction project and receive a professional assessment. In addition, the ministry fears that ancient monuments located there may be damaged during construction.
There are about 20 monuments on the slopes of Mount Hatis. In 2019, during the research of the Armenian-Italian archaeological expedition, an ancient fortress from the Bronze and Iron Ages was discovered on the top of the mountain. It has not yet been included in the list of monuments. However, according to the current legislation, the recently discovered monument is also subject to protection – until it is included in the state list.
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“The project violates the traditions of the church”
After the founding ceremony and the beginning of the construction of the statue from the Catholicosate of the Armenian Apostolic Church, it was reported that the attitude of the church towards the project had not changed.
A few months ago, the Supreme Spiritual Council discussed the initiative of Gagik Tsarukyan and spoke out against it:
“The Church does not consider it acceptable to erect a statue of our Lord Jesus Christ, considering it inconsistent with the centuries-old iconographic and liturgical tradition of the Armenian Church”.
According to tradition, the church accepts only the image of Christ according to the principle of khachkars, that is, cross-stones bearing the name “Amenaprkich” (All-Saviour), it can only be a bas-relief, but not a statue.
It is reported that the spiritual council discussed this issue with Gagik Tsarukyan, under whose patronage several churches were built in Armenia. Although the ministers of the church highly appreciate the activities of Tsarukyan in the construction of churches, however, the council urged him “to refrain from projects that contradict church traditions”.
“Hiking enthusiasts will no longer be interested in the mountain”
Representatives of the tourism sector, experts and guides are outraged that the government supported the statue project. The Armenian Association of Professional Guides appealed to the Prime Minister with a demand to stop the “implementation of an anti-national, anti-cultural, anti-natural and anti-aesthetic project”.
The association considers the installation of a statue of Jesus unacceptable and reprehensible, and from the point of view of tourism – inappropriate and destructive.
In response to the Prime Minister’s assertion that the statue would increase tourist interest in Armenia, the organization presented its counterarguments:
- “For many years, tourists familiarizing themselves with the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church were told that, according to its traditions, there are no statuettes and statues depicting saints in Armenian churches. The installation of this statue contradicts the existing ideas about the Armenian church and the Armenian people.
- After the installation of the statue, Mount Hatis will acquire a “cult” significance, but will have nothing to do with our culture and traditions. At the same time, access for walking tours, hiking will be lost, the landscape, the ecosystem of Mount Hatis will be disturbed.
- In different parts of Mount Hatis, there are about 20 historical and archaeological sites and monuments. What will happen to them as a result of large-scale construction work?
The guides association warns the government that tourism is not only beneficial, but also harmful. And these risks must be taken into account in advance.
“A tourist comes to see and feel real life. And how natural would it be for him to see a huge statue of Jesus on top of a mountain in a country where there are not even small statuettes in the churches?”, tourism representatives ask.
A statue on a volcano?
The 77-meter complex will be located on the top of Mount Hatis, an extinct volcano in the Kotayk region of Armenia.
Sargis Hayroyan, professor of the Department of Geology at Yerevan State University, in response to journalists’ concerns about this, said that he did not see a problem from an engineering-geological point of view. The scientist explained that on a mountain of basalt, if the foundation of the structure is strong and accurate design work is carried out, there will be no danger.
Opinions of Yerevan residents shared on social media
“What is the point of this project, what will the statue bring to the country, besides satisfying Tsarukyan’s ambitions?”
“Let drones be bought instead of this statue so that during the war we don’t have so many victims.”
“Tsarukyan can do whatever he wants with his money. Other oligarchs don’t do anything, they only buy houses and villas abroad. Even if he bought a weapon now, they would still find something to complain about.”
“We are looking forward to the completion of the project. It is very pleasant that another attraction will appear in Armenia.”
“From the beginning of the Bible to the end, God was not pleased with idols, and a statue is nothing but a stone idol. Think before you do anything.”
“Give this money to those in need or provide apartments for several dozen families from Karabakh who have lost their homes.”
“I am sure that those who are now criticizing the project will be the first to run to take a selfie at the statue.”
“It is pointless, tasteless and has nothing to do with Christianity. Approval from an incompetent, anti-national government does not surprise me.”
“You can get closer to Jesus with your heart and soul, not with a cable car.”