The cathedral –Kelisa-ye Vank in Persian- was built between 1648 and 1655 in the Armenian neighborhood of Jolfa, dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees that were resettled by Shah Abbas I during the Ottoman War of 1603-1618. Jolfa is the Armenian and Christian quarter of Isfahan which was established in 1603 during Shah Abbas I Safavid. Jolfa is located on the south bank of the Zayandehrud River and is linked to the Muslim part of Isfahan by Siosepol bridge. The town of Jolfa on the Araxes River in Azarbaijan (now on Iran's northern border) at one time was the major Armenian settlement until Shah Abbas I imported Armenian families to new Jolfa in Isfahan. Today, Jolfa is a quiet area of Isfahan with predominant Christian community.
The varying fortunes and independence of this suburb across the Zayanderud River and its eclectic mix of European missionaries, mercenaries and travelers can be traced almost chronologically in the cathedral's combination of building styles and contrasts in its external and internal architectural treatment.
The interior is covered with fine frescos and gilded carvings and includes a wainscot of rich tile work. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of the creation of the world and man's expulsion from Eden. Pendentives throughout the church are painted with a distinctly Armenian motif of a cherub's head surrounded by folded wings. The ceiling above the entrance is painted with delicate floral motifs in the style of Persian miniature. Two sections, or bands, of murals run around the interior walls: the top section depicts events from the life of Jesus, while the bottom section depicts tortures inflicted upon Armenian martyrs by the Ottoman Empire.
Library and Museum
On the corner of the courtyard, there is a museum and a library. The museum of Armenian culture is the building next to the cathedral. The museum displays 700 handwritten books, the first book printed in Iran, a variety of objects related to Armenian community in Isfahan such as Safavid costumes, tapestries, European paintings brought back by Armenian merchants , embroidery, and other ethnological displays related to Armenian culture and religion. There are several carved stones showing scenes from the Bible outside the museum. The highlight of the museum is a fabulous collection of illustrated gospels and Bibles, some dating back as far as the 10th century. Appropriate to a city of miniature painters, relatively recent gifts to the museum include a prayer written on a single hair that is possible to see only with the aid of a microscope and one of the world's smallest prayer books. A memorial outside commemorates the genocide of 1915.