The Armenian Church of St. John the Baptist in Rangoon
Unfortunately the records for this Church were lost during World War II. However the Armenian cemeteries in Mandalay, Syriam and Rangoon indicate that Armenians first came to India from Iran around 1608, some of them went on to Burma and settled there, playing a prominent part in the promotion of trade, especially in the three towns mentioned above.
In the 18th century they constructed the Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator in Mandalay, on a plot of land graciously presented to them by His Majesty the King of Burma. In this Church, divine services were held regularly until the 1920’s, when the community in Mandalay gradually moved down to Rangoon.
The Church of St. John the Baptist in Rangoon was erected by the community there in the year 1862 on land they had acquired in October 1858. This Church was formally consecrated on the 17th July 1863 by Revd. Father Aviet Chaytor, the then resident priest. The church was internally remodelled with a new roof during 1908-1909.
Update October 2012
I am grateful to Henri Aslanian of Hong Kong for permitting me to use photographs from his recent trip to Myanmar. I reproduce his photographs and comments with full acknowledgement and thanks to Henri.
Henri says: “….Met the only Armenian still living in Myanmar – a 86 years old Mr. Martin (Mardirossian) whose brother still lives in Bangladesh and whom I met last year in Dhaka – and visited the Armenian Church of Myanmar in Rangoon (built in 1862-exactly 150 years ago this year). The church is located in prime real estate, still standing and is under renovation. The Armenians arrived in Burma as early as 1612 and were some of the first foreigners in Burma but they left in the mid-20th century when the military government took power. They built some of the most impressive landmarks in the country including the famous Strand Hotel. Even after all these years living in Asia and travelling extensively throughout South East Asia, I am still impressed by the amazing footprints that these Armenians left in this part of the world including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and India. Part of Armenian history that many don’t know about…Very inspiring…”
Henri says: “…….The Armenian Church is truly a jewel… following a recent donation by a Russian Armenian, the Church is undergoing minor renovations but there are lots of seriously incredible pieces of Armenian religious items in the Church that are simply getting destroyed by humidity………