Vazgen I

Last updated
His Holiness

Vazgen / Vazken I

Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
Church Armenian Apostolic Church
SeeMother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
Term ended1994
Predecessor George VI
Successor Karekin I
Personal details
Birth nameLevon Garabed Baljian
Born(1908-09-20)September 20, 1908
Bucharest, Kingdom of Romania
Died(1994-08-18)August 18, 1994 (aged 85)
Yerevan, Armenia
Buried Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin

Vazgen I also Vazken I of Bucharest, (Armenian : Վազգէն Ա Բուխարեստցի), born Levon Garabed Baljian (Armenian : Լևոն Կարապետ Աբրահամի Պալճյան; September 20, 1908 – August 18, 1994) [1] was the Catholicos of All Armenians between 1955 and 1994, for a total of 39 years, the 4th longest reign in the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Armenian language Indo-European language

The Armenian language is an Indo-European language that is the only language in the Armenian branch. It is the official language of Armenia as well as the de facto Republic of Artsakh. Historically being spoken throughout the Armenian Highlands, today, Armenian is widely spoken throughout the Armenian diaspora. Armenian is written in its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, introduced in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots.

Catholicos of All Armenians Oriental Orthodox bishop

The Catholicos of All Armenians is the chief bishop and spiritual leader of Armenia's national church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and the worldwide Armenian diaspora. According to tradition, the apostles Saint Thaddeus and Saint Bartholomew brought Christianity to Armenia in the first century. Saint Gregory the Illuminator became the first Catholicos of All Armenians following the nation's adoption of Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD. The seat of the Catholicos, and the spiritual and administrative headquarters of the Armenian Church, is the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, located in the city of Vagharshapat.

Armenian Apostolic Church National church of Armenia

The Armenian Apostolic Church is the national church of the Armenian people. Part of Oriental Orthodoxy, it is one of the most ancient Christian communities. The Kingdom of Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity as its official religion under the rule of King Tiridates in the early 4th century. According to tradition, the church originated in the missions of Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century.


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1) Nerses IV the Graceful (1166–1173) -- Սուրբ Ներսէս Դ. Կլայեցի (Շնորհալի), who served 53 years as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia,

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2) Constantine I of Cilicia (1221–1267) -- Կոնստանդին Ա. Բարձրբերդցի, who served 46 years as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia and

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A native of Romania, he began his career as a philosopher, before becoming a Doctor of Theology and a member of the local Armenian clergy. The leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church hierarchy in Romania, he became Catholicos in 1955, moving to the Soviet Union and residing in the Armenian SSR. Vazgen I led the Armenian Church during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and was the first Catholicos in newly independent Armenia.


Vazgen was born in Bucharest to a family belonging to the Armenian-Romanian community. His father was a shoemaker and his mother was a schoolteacher. The young Levon Baljian did not initially pursue the Church as a profession, instead graduating from the University of Bucharest's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. After graduation, he became a philosopher and published a series of scholarly articles.

As his interests began to shift from philosophy to theology, Baljian studied Armenian Apostolic Theology and Divinity in Athens, Greece. He eventually gained the title of vardapet, an ecclesiastical rank for learned preachers and teachers in the Armenian Apostolic Church roughly equivalent to receiving a doctorate in theology. In the 1940s, he became a bishop, and then the arajnord (leader) of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Romania.

His rise through the hierarchy of the Church culminated in 1955 when, on September 30th 1955, he was elected Catholicos of All Armenians, becoming one of the youngest Catholicoi in the history of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He reigned until his death in 1994. During his long time as Catholicos, he managed to assert some independence for his church in face of the totalitarian Soviet rule in the Armenian SSR, and lived to see religious freedom restored under Armenia's national government in 1991.

From then on, he was busy renewing ancient Armenian churches and reviving institutions of the church. He saved a number of church treasures by establishing the Alex Manoogian Museum of the Mother Church. Vazgen intensified contacts with the Armenian Catholic Church, with the aim of reuniting both wings of Armenian Christianity. He died at his residence in Yerevan on August 18, 1994, after suffering from a long-illness. [2]

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  1. "Vazgen I". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. Wolfgang Saxon (1994-08-19). "Vazgen I, Head of Armenian Church, Dies at 85". The New York Times.
Oriental Orthodox titles
Preceded by
George VI
Catholicoi of the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin and All Armenians
Succeeded by
Karekin I