15.COM 8.B.31

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Armenia have nominated Pilgrimage to the St. Thaddeus Apostle Monastery (no. 01571) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The annual three-day pilgrimage to St. Thaddeus Apostle Monastery in northwestern Iran is held each July. The pilgrimage venerates two prominent saints: St. Thaddeus, one of the first apostles preaching Christianity, and St. Santukhd, the first female Christian martyr. The bearers of the element are the Armenian population in Iran, Iranian-Armenians residing in Armenia, and followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Pilgrims gather in Tabriz before departing for the monastery. They cover 700 kilometers from Yerevan to the monastery annually. The commemoration ceremony includes special liturgies, processions, prayers and fasting. It culminates in a Holy Mass with Holy Communion. Special times are set aside for traditional Armenian folk performances and Armenian dishes are served. The pilgrimage is the primary social and cultural event of the year. Because attendees reside in tents in close proximity to one another, the sense of community is enhanced. The monastery has been a pilgrimage site for over nineteen centuries. However, during the years of Soviet power in Armenia, participating in the pilgrimage was prohibited. Bearers of the element preserved cultural memories of the pilgrimage and transmitted it to families and communities. Only after independence in the 1990s was the pilgrimage from Armenia resumed.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The nomination file demonstrates that, as the primary social and cultural event of the year, the Pilgrimage to St. Thaddeus Apostle Monastery presents an opportunity to establish new relations and renew old friendships and bonds within the communities concerned and with Armenians who travel long distances to practise the element. The associated knowledge and skills have been transmitted by formal and informal channels in both countries. In particular, the nomination file explains the role of the church and groups of women in overseeing the revival of the element. The file also illustrates that the element is an example of co-existence between Islam and Christianity, enhancing diversity and inclusion. The Pilgrimage also strengthens existing peaceful ties and paves the way for peaceful co-existence and the rapprochement of cultures in both States Parties.

R.2:   The file demonstrates that the Pilgrimage enhances solidarity, tolerance, respect for cultural diversity and dialogue, fostering cohesion and participation among different communities and ethnic groups both in the territory concerned and abroad. As it has already been inscribed on the World Heritage List (as part of the ‘Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran’, property inscribed by the Islamic Republic of Iran), the St. Thaddeus Apostle Monastery could help ensure the visibility of the pilgrimage as the associated practice of intangible cultural heritage.

R.3:   The nomination includes a variety of creative safeguarding measures, designed based on the input of the communities concerned. These include the publication of a monthly booklet, the creation of a website, and making a documentary film to be broadcast. The nomination file includes an overview of the proposed safeguarding measures, including concrete details, along with the role of the different actors in each of the measures. The governments of the two States Parties also have concrete plans to support these safeguarding measures.

R.4:   The nomination process was carried out with the participation of a large group of Armenian pilgrims and authorities from Iran, as well as some representatives of the Armenian communities in Iran. Close cooperation was established with the bearers of the element, participants, research institutes, the Ministry of Culture, the Armenian National Commission for UNESCO and representatives of the corresponding institutions in Iran that were responsible for preparing the nomination file. This process indirectly contributed to improving cultural dialogue between the parties involved.

R.5:   In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the element was included in the Iranian National List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009. In the Republic of Armenia, the element was included in the ICH National Inventory of Armenia in 2019. The former list is updated every one to three years by the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, while the latter has been updated in 2016, 2018 and 2019 by the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, since its creation in 2009.

  1. Decides to inscribe Pilgrimage to the St. Thaddeus Apostle Monastery on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;

  2. Commends the States Parties for presenting a multinational file that demonstrates how the practice of this element fosters friendly cooperation between the two States Parties, helping to build peaceful societies, solidarity, and respect for cultural diversity and the communities’ cultural heritage;

  3. Further commends the States Parties for nominating an element that demonstrates the close link between intangible and tangible heritage, especially a property inscribed on the World Heritage List;

  4. Recalls the importance for States Parties, when submitting nomination files in the future, to ensure that all nomination documents, including letters of consent, refer to the correct listing mechanism under the 2003 Convention;

  5. Reminds the States Parties that updating is an important part of the inventorying process and invites Armenia to include detailed information in its next periodic report on the implementation of the Convention at the national level concerning the periodicity and mode of updating of the ICH National Inventory of Armenia, in accordance with Article 12.1 of the Convention;

  6. Further invites the States Parties to take particular heed of the impact of increased, undue tourism on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its potential decontextualization.

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