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Past, Present, Future

Non-Protestant Christianity in Iran from the Early Church to the Qajar Period

(Philip O Hopkins)


Christianity in Iran is almost as multifaceted as the religion itself. Christians lived and often thrived in Iran. People from every major Christian sect have made, or have tried to make, Iran their home. To a degree, these branches have cross-pollinated, but often they have maintained their own identities, and sometimes they have tried to convert one another. 

This paper provides a summary of non-Prostestant Christianity in Iran for Western readers (thus using mostly Western and secondary sources) from the days of the early church to the Qajar period. A brief mention of Iran in the Old Testament begins this section. It follows with addressing the Nestorians and Armenians (and briefly Georgians) in Iran, the main non-Western Christian sects in the country. Afterwards, an account of Roman Catholic missions is provided. As Protestants did not arrive in Iran until the Qajar Era, their missions efforts are not mentioned.


Beginnings: The Achaemenid Empire (550 – 330 BC) –

The Parthian Empire (247 BC – 224 AD)[1]

Eleven books in the Old Testament directly reference the lands or peoples of Iran.[2] Contrasted with other non-Jewish nations, the Old Testament characterization of Persians is affirming. Cyrus the Great, for example, one of the most important leaders in Iran, is used as a typology of Christ and is called a “servant,” a term used for Davidic kings.[3] Theologian Walter Brueggemann notes: “Compared to the complicated and vexed story of Yahweh with the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians, the story of Yahweh with the Persians lacks drama. On the horizon of this testimony, the Persians are not recalcitrant vassals of Yahweh, need not be broken by Yahweh, and so need no Yahwistic recovery. In this modeling of nations as partners, Persia is the exemplar of a positive, responsive partner.” [4]

Iran as a “responsive partner” with the Judeo-Christian God continues as the history of Christianity begins deep in the heart of the Parthian Empire. Some believe the Magi, the famed “Three Wise Men,” who followed the celebrated star to Christ’s home told about in Matthew 2.1-11 were from Iran and possibly Zoroastrian priests.[5] Another account by the fourth century historian Eusebius states that the king of Edessa and Jesus Christ corresponded with one another (Eusebius, Church History I. 12). During Pentecost, the first grand spiritual awakening for Christians, the author of the biblical book of Acts of the Apostles mentions that Jews from the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites – all tribes in Iran – as those who were converted to Christianity when they heard Peter the Apostle’s sermon (Acts 2.9). Church tradition indicates that a number of Christ’s first twelve apostles had contact with this area. While these accounts may be considered legend by some, generally historians agree that there has been a constant, albeit complicated, Christian existence in Iran since the early days of the faith. These accounts, even if not completely accurate, probably were based on actual historical details as they were accepted by the people of the day.[6]

Primary sources of the earliest forms of Christianity in Persia are scant, but there is a shared consensus on the basic history of the period. Christians were in the area by the 100s AD.[7] Tatian, an Assyrian Gnostic (100-80), is one of the first to give a definitive historical account of the church in Iran.[8] It is also known that the metropolitan areas of   southwest Turkey and northern Iraq are where Christianity into Iran began.[9] Historians Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W Winker speculate that the Jews of the area, many of whom were merchants, brought Christianity to the East.[10]

With the Parthian Empire being one of relative tolerance, Christians practiced their faith with little persecution. Christians fled the Roman Empire to Parthian controlled areas during times of oppression. [11] By the early 200s, Christians became numerous enough for the state to be concerned with security.[12] It is reported by some historians that on the island of Kharg in the Persian Gulf sixty Christian tombs were found where there is also the remains of a Christian church. At Bishapur, on the border of the empire, there are remains of a church with a baptistery.[13] According to a Syrian Gnostic, there were Christians in the provinces of Pars, Medea, Kashan, and Parthia.[14] By the end of the empire, there were twenty bishoprics in Parthian areas.[15] The expansion of the church in Iran was considerable.

The Nestorians

Sassanid Empire (224-651)[16]

As Christianity grew, certain forms of the faith began to arise. Aside from Christians fleeing from Roman to Parthian ruled regions, Christians from the Roman Empire were brought into the area as captives during Sassanian times. As time progressed, the Antiochean school of Christianity became the one of note in Iran.[17] The Antiochean branches in Iran were Assyrian[18] and Armenian,[19] theologically related to Nestorianism[20] and Monophysitism,[21] respectively. [22]

The exact number of Christians in Iran during this time is debatable, but Christians were placed in many cities in the empire.[23] Assyrian Christianity in Iran expanded and its mission and evangelism focus among the peoples of Persia increased eventually becoming the leading form of Christianity in the kingdom.[24] While not much is known about the every day Christian in Iran,[25] higher Christian academic and theological centers were established, indigenous leaders developed, bishoprics created, and churches multiplied. One writer estimates there were over 100 bishoprics in the empire. Eighteen of the twenty-five provinces of the empire were evangelized or had some type of Christian witness;[26] by the seventh century, western Iran was largely Christian.

The Muslim Conquest (651-1256)

Toleration, to varying degrees, marked the beginnings of Islam towards Christianity. Toleration meant compromise, usually in the form of acceptance and allegiance to the Islamic government.[27] While in some ways challenging, many Iranian Christians were relieved that Muslims were now their rulers. The threats of Sassanid persecution and corruption gave them reasons to accommodate their new sovereigns with greater ease.[28] 

Under Muslims, Christianity in Iran declined in number. Nonetheless, depending on one’s interpretation, Christianity also thrived.[29] Educational and cultural centers of Iranian Christianity grew. Influential Christians were prominent in government. They were sought after administrators, translators, and physicians. Most every Iranian shah up until the thirteenth century had a Christian for a doctor. Until the eleventh century the majority of translators were Christian. Until the tenth century the bulk of philosophers were Christian.[30] 

Christians in Iran also were able to commission their missionaries.[31] The Nestorian church expanded into parts of Asia, including India, China, Tibet, and Sri Lanka. Persian inscriptions, Christian manuscripts, and Nestorian crosses dating to this period were found in those areas.[32]

The Mongol Conquest (1256-1500) – Safavid Period (1501-1785)

Muslims did not extinguish Christianity in Iran; the Mongols did. By the time of Genghis Khan’s death, the Mongols had moved into Iran. A few years later, all of Iran was under Mongol control. The beginnings of Mongol rule seemed encouraging for Iranian Christians as Mongols promoted a policy of religious non-interference. Because of the Nestorian mission efforts, Mongols were familiar with Christians in other parts of Asia. In fact, certain Mongol tribes professed Christianity[33] and five of the first six Mongol kings were connected with Christianity. Mongols lifted many restrictions placed on Iranian Christians by their Muslim predecessors and, as with Iran’s former sovereigns, Christians were able to attain influential positions within the government as physicians and other occupations of prominence. One writer records that Christians seemed to be managing the country.[34]  

The Mongols’ attitude changed against Christianity during the Crusades. Muslims were making gains, and with the majority of Iran’s population adhering to Islam, the Mongols began to reconsider their policy of religious tolerance. With the rise of the Mongol king Ghazan, and his profession of faith to Islam, many Mongols converted to Islam. With the reign of Timur less than one hundred years later in the fifteenth century, thousands of Christians were murdered, and churches, monasteries, and schools were destroyed. Outside of a few conclaves in the western part of the country, Nestorian Christianity ceased in Iran.[35]

The Armenians

Before the Safavids

While Armenia has its own celebrated history distinct from other nations or peoples, various sovereigns in Europe and Asia have fought over its territory.[36] Within a milieu of multicultural influence, Armenian Christianity arose in 301 AD, the first nation to make Christianity a state religion.[37] It was a Christianity that allowed Armenia to gain a unique identity. Throughout the time before the Safavids, Armenian Christians, similar to Nestorians, impacted Christian centers, translated scientific and philosophical works,[38] and were advisors in the court of Iranian rulers. Iranian influence on Armenian Christianity even here is noteworthy. One writer calls the Iranian empire the “midwife which helped it [the Armenian Church] at [her] birth.”[39]

Overall, Armenian Christianity largely fell under the same conditions as Nestorian Christianity. Unlike their Nestorian counterparts, Armenians did not try to evangelize the peoples of Iran or the surrounding cultures.[40] Armenians integrated into Persian society[41] and eventually lived in every major city in Iran, leaving a positive impression on Iranians. They demonstrated to Iranians that one can be simultaneously Christian and Iranian, and showed that the Christian faith can be integrated into Iranian culture.[42] 

The Safavids

For a thousand years, the Nestorian church was the most influential Christian sect in Iran, but its demise left a void. Armenians unwittingly filled the vacuum left by Nestorians. The Armenian population in Iran was small, less than the Jews and Zoroastrians,[43] but with a new government, changes occurred in Iran’s territory. Mesopotamia and Iraq, areas where Christianity historically had a presence, were not under Safavid rule, and conflicts in the northwest with the Ottomans led to some drastic changes. 

Beginning in 1530, the Safavids started to transport Armenians in Armenia proper and Nakhchevan to Iran. Not much is known about this deportation, source material is limited, but it began a period of transferences of Armenians to Iran that lasted about 100 years. There is more evidence around the second major deportation that started in 1603 and lasted until 1629. Shah Abbas was warring against the Ottomans and did not want to lose the Caucasus to them, so he attacked Armenia. The Shah used a scorched earth policy in the Araxes Valley (in Nakhchevan) and destroyed the area. He spared the Armenians, known for their skilled artisanship, negotiating skills, and dislike for Ottomans, and deported them to Iran. Many died during the transfer. The climate killed others, especially ones relocated to the Caspian region.[44] Armenians were placed in as many as twelve areas all over the country.[45] In total, the number of Armenians taken with deportations starting in 1603 was around 60,000 families or 300,000 people.[46] From the 1603 deportation on, Armenians became the largest Christian sect in Iran.[47]

One group of Armenians fared better than the rest, the Armenians in Julfa, Nakhchevan. They were an influential group of economically secure Armenians that Shah Abbas moved to Esfahan, the capital of Safavid Iran. They were defended by the Shah’s guards, had their own courts, their own mayor, and schools that taught in the Armenian language. By 1630, there were around 80,000 Armenians in this area. New Julfa became the religious and cultural center of the Armenians in Persia. Religious freedoms were provided. They established the first printing press in Iran,[48] the first book printed being the Old Testament book of Psalms. They produced other religious literature.[49] Missions historian Kenneth Latourette called New Julfa the “center of religious devotion and learning” for the Armenian people in Iran.[50]

The Shah’s interest in protecting Armenians lied not in that he was a benevolent leader or that he had interest in converting to Christianity – the coming of the Safavid Empire established Twelver Shi’ism as Iran’s state religion,[51] a period not the kindest to other faiths – the Shah was interested in economic and political gain. Iran overtook China as Europe’s silk provider, and the Shah needed trusted, competent partners. The Armenians became this community. The Shah gave the Armenians a monopoly on silk trade. The Armenians in return gave the Shah a percentage of the revenue, which provided an additional source of income.[52]Armenians also had connections with Russia, strengthened ties with Europe, and were attached to the Safavid court.

However, in the late 1600s, the government position on Armenians changed. Many of their privileges were revoked and by the end of the century, there was little difference between the Armenians and other religious minorities,[53] but their significance remained. Few converted to Islam; the Armenians became a reminder of the compatibility of Christianity in Iran. Waterfield notes their influence, “The incorporation of a large body of Christians into they very heartland of Persia and their continuing presence in the country was to have a very considerable effect on the future of Persia. From now on they were always confronted with a body of devoted Christians, who inspite of many attempts to induce them to abandon their faith and adopt Islam very rarely did so.”[54]

The Georgians

            There were other non-Western Christian sects in Iran.[55] None had the influence of the Nestorians or Armenians, but the Georgians’ role was important in Safavid times.[56] With one estimate stating that over 100,000 Georgians were deported to Iran, they were significant numerically, though many Georgians and other Christian minorities assimilated into the culture, converting to Islam.[57] Many Georgians (and other Christian minorities) during Safavid times became slaves and were brought into the Shah’s court and Christian women were in the royal harem. What distinguishes the Georgians is their military expertise; as Armenians were known for their business acumen, the Georgians were known for their military skill. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, for example, the Georgians overthrew their Muslim leaders and had the ability to attack the heart of Iran.[58] As will be seen, Georgians were also a force in the Constitutional period. The Shah’s personal guard had thousands Georgians, and they formed the foundation of the Iranian army.[59]

Roman Catholic Missionaries

The Parthian Period – Mongol Conquest  

During the beginnings of Christianity, there was only one “catholic” or universal church. The splits in the Church between East and West need not be accounted here other than to state that the Assyrian church officially separated from the West in 486. For the next several hundred years, other than occasional attempts by certain Nestorians to rejoin Rome and sporadic missionary efforts by individual Catholic orders, Western Christians remained uninvolved in Iran.[60]

Here, a word needs to be stated about the Crusades. Beginning in the eleventh century and ending in the thirteenth century, the Crusades started with European Christian concerns over biblical lands being ruled by Muslims (they eventually became more political and economic). While they affected only a small percentage of Asia, the Crusades left a scar on relations between indigenous Eastern Christian communities and their Muslim counterparts. Regarding Iran, by in large, their impact was indirect, in the sense that Crusaders did not attack the lands of Iran.

Around this time, Catholic missionaries arrived in Iran. Their task was twofold: politically, it was to halt additional attacks in Europe by the Mongols; religiously, it was to convert them.[61] Catholic orders disembarked as messengers from the Pope to the Mongol leadership.[62] With the Mongol ruler’s blessing they were able to expand their influence into Iran, and several Catholic communities were founded.[63] Most of the Catholic converts came from Nestorian and Armenian communities, although the Mongols allowed for evangelization among the Muslim population, too.[64] The Mongols themselves seemed ripe for conversion with their policy of religious tolerance and with Nestorians in court positions.

Hopes of conversion lasted until Timur.[65] Compounded with Timur using Catholic missionaries to convey messages to Europe – he used archbishops to tell of his victory over the Ottomans and to set up treaties – those in Europe thought they had an ally.[66] However, Timur systematically killed Christians (and other Iranians, Muslims included) throughout Iran and Central Asia effectively bringing an end to Nestorian influence.

Safavid Period  

Political and economic reasons marked Europe’s return to Iran during the Safavid Period. While there was ongoing interaction between Europe and Iran, additional trade routes were opened and a period of extended contact began. Catholic missionaries arrived soon thereafter. The missionaries served a dual purpose: to the church and to the state. Often these responsibilities were blurred. To the church, evangelism was a priority. To the state, governmental responsibilities were paramount. To Safavid leadership, missionaries acted as intermediaries between Iranian and European leadership; evangelistic activities were tolerated to varying degrees.

When Shah Abbas began his rule, he welcomed Catholic missionaries and gave them freedom to operate. While there was some Safavid interest in Christianity before his rule, he seemed more concerned and amenable than his predecessors towards the faith. He allowed several European Christian communities to build churches in Esfahan. In addition to the Catholic missions already present, he approved additional ones.[67] Some missionaries communicated to their constituents that the Shah was on the cusp of conversion.[68] However, while he wanted to learn about Christianity, he desired to use missionaries to form a political alliance with Europe, and to keep in balance the internal powers in Iran. He wanted no group to gain an advantage. At different points in his administration, relations with all parties of influence were cordial.[69]

During the time after Shah Abbas, his successors tended to be less tolerant of Christians. Though religious dialog with Christians still occurred, the Muslim clergy began to assume a stronger role. Throughout this period, few from among Iran’s majority Islamic population converted to Christianity. Eventually, this led Roman Catholic missionaries to concentrate on non-Catholic Iranians and expatriate Europeans in Iran, most notably the Armenians. It is not within the scope of this paper to examine the consequences of this approach other than to say that a) it caused strife among the Christian sects in Iran and that b) Protestant missionaries followed the same pattern.


            Christians have been in Iran for hundreds of years. They have been involved in Persian culture since the early days of the church often integrating their faith into society. As rule in Iran changed, Christian sects adapted and other factions rose to prominence. This paper summarized those events through the Safavid Period centering on the Nestorians, Armenians, and Catholic missionaries in Iran.  

[1] The Parthian Empire, also known as the Arsacid Empire, included parts of Turkey, Syria, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Kuwait.

[2] Some specific references for each of the books mentioned include: Gen 10.22, Ezekiel 34.24, 2 Chronicles 36.22-23, Isaiah 44.38, Jeremiah 51.11, Daniel 5.31, Esther 1, Ezra 4.7-24, Nehemiah 2, Haggai 1.1, and Zechariah 1.1.

[3] Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2012), 517.

[4] Ibid., 518.

[5] Peter Clark, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction to an Ancient Faith (Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2001), 155. Church father John Chrysostom mentions Persia as the origin of wise men: “they [the Jews] learn from a Persian tongue first of all, what they would not submit to learn from the prophets . . . when they saw that wise men, at the sight of a single star, had received this same, and had worshipped Him who was made manifest.” See: John Chrysostom, The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, 80; in Philip Shaff, ed., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. X. George Prevost (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1888), in <>, site editor, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed 28 February 2013.

[6] J P Asmussen, “Christians in Iran,” in The Cambridge History of Iran: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods, vol. 3 no. 1, 927.

[7] Richard C Foltz, Spirituality in the Land of the Noble: How Iran Shaped the World’s Religions (Oxford: Oneworld, 2004), 80; Mark Bradley, Iran and Christianity: Historical Identity and Present Relevance (London: Continuum, 2008), 2008, 138; and Ian Gillman and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, Christians in Asia before 1500 (Richmond, UK: Curzon, 1999), 109.

[8] Aziz S Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity (London: Methuen, 1968), 247.

[9] Anthony O’Mahony and Emma Loosley, eds., Eastern Christianity in the Modern Middle East (London: Routledge, 2010), 249.

[10] Wilhelm Baum and Dietmar W Winker, The Church in the East: A Concise History (NY: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 8-9. It is still used today in the Assyrian church of Iran for liturgy. See: Waterfield, Christians in Persia, 17.

[11] Waterfield, Christians in Persia, 17.

[12] Asmussen, “Christians in Iran,” 928.

[13] See: Foltz, Spirituality in the Land of the Noble, 80; Bradley, Iran and Christianity, 138; and W Stewart McCullough, A Short History of Syriac Christianity to the Rise of Islam (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982), 112.

[14] H W J Drijvers, Bardaisan (Assen: van Gorcum, 1966), 188.

[15] Chronicle of Arbela, trans. Timothy Kroll (Lovanii: Aedibus E Peeters, 1985), 16, <>, site editor, University of California Irvine, accessed on 1 March 2013.

[16] At its height, the Sassanid Empire included the Parthian Empire as well as territories in India, the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates), Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Tajikistan, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.   

[17] Two competing schools of thought arose in Iran (and Christendom in general), Alexandrian and Antiochean. The Alexandrian school was not as accepted in Iran and eventually became associated with Western Christianity, while the Antiochean school became known as Eastern Christianity and developed its own divisions. The Antiochean sects in Iran, the Assyrian and Armenian, were theologically related to Nestorianism and Monophysitism, respectively. Regarding Assyrian Christianity, there are other names given such as the Nestorian Church, the Church of the East, the Antiochene church, and the Eastern Syriac Church, but they all are associated largely with the same branch of the faith. Baum and Winker, The Church in the East, 21-24, state that some Assyrians do not like being called Nestorians and feel the term in derogatory and inaccurate.  For a helpful summary of other Christian sects in Iran see: Nicholas Sims-Williams, “Christianity iii: In Central Asia and Chinese Turkestan,” < articles/christianity-iii>, site editor, Encyclopedia Iranica, accesed on 15 September 2013.

[18] There are other names given to Assyrian Christianity such as the Nestorian Church, the Church of the East, the Antiochene church, and the Eastern Syriac Church, but they all are associated largely with the same branch of the faith. Baum and Winker, The Church in the East, 21-24, state that some Assyrians do not like being called Nestorians and feel the term in derogatory and inaccurate. 

[19] Sometimes confused with Orthodoxy, Armenian Christianity differs with the Orthodox Church in theology (Council of Chalcedon) and practice (Armenian Christianity does not submit to the same church leadership).

[20] Nestorians stress that the disunity of the natures of Christ and come close to stating that there are two Christs (one divine, one human) in one body.

[21] Monophysites believe that Christ has one nature; the divine and human elements of Christ being united.

[22] There were other Christian sects in Iran, but the Nestorian and Armenian were the most influential. For a helpful summary see: Nicholas Sims-Williams, “Christianity iii: In Central Asia and Chinese Turkestan,” < christianity-iii>, site editor, Encyclopedia Iranica, accesed on 15 September 2013.

[23] J Duchesne-Guillemin, “Zoroastrian Religion,” in The Cambridge History of Iran: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods, vol. 3 no. 1, 879.

[24] R N Frye, “The Political History of Iran under the Sasanians,” in The Cambridge History of Iran: The Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian Periods, vol. 3 no. 2, ed by Ehsam Yarhshater and W B Fisher (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 149. 

[25] Waterfield, Christians in Persia, 30.

[26] Bradley, Iran and Christianity, 139-41.

[27] William Ambrose Shedd, Islam and the Oriental Churches (New York: Young People’s Missionary Movement, 1908), 99.

[28] Ibid., 111-12.

[29] For example Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity, 271, and Vine, The Nestorian Churches, 101-08, believe as the church became influential in politics and developed more wealth, it also became more secular with even church offices becoming politicized.  

[30] Khanbaghi, The Fire, the Star and the Cross, 45, 48, 49.

[31] Atiya, A History of Eastern Christianity, 253-71.

[32] Baum, Church of the East, 47-57.

[33] Edward Browne, A Literary History of Persia: From Firdawsi to Sa‘di (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1906), 440-41.

[34] Vine, The Nestorian Churches, 145-46.

[35] van Gorder, Christianity in Persia, 56-57. This, coupled with, plagues that came after his reign that killed much of the population.

[36] Boghose Levon Zekiyan, “The Iranian Oikumene and Armenia,” Iran and the Caucasus 9 no. 2 (2005): 231.

[37] George A Bournoutian, A Concise History of the Armenian People: From Ancient Times to the Present (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda: 1980), 49 and Robert W Thomson, “Mission, Conversion, and Christianization: The Armenian Example,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 12/13 (1988-89): 32, argue for a later date, sometime after 311 and the Edict of Milan. Armenians call their church the “Armenian Apostolic Church” because they believe it descends directly from the apostles’ teachings. Sometimes confused with Orthodoxy, the Armenian Apostolic Church forms a separate and independent branch within Eastern Christianity.

[38] Nigel Allan, “Christian Mesopotamia and Greek Medicine,” Hermathena no. 145 (Winter 1988): 52.

[39] Toumanoff, “Christian Caucasia between Byzantium and Iran,” 147, 185.  

[40] Hagop A Chakmakjian, Armenian Christology and Evangelization of Islam: A Survey of the Relevance of the Christology of the Armenian Apostolic Church to Armenian Relations With Its Muslim Environment (Leiden: Brill, 1965), 62, argues that nationalism along with ceremonialism of the Armenian church and sacredotalism of the Armenian hierarchy were the main reasons for lack of evangelism. 

[41] S H Taqizadeh, “The Iranian Festivals Adopted by the Christians and Condemned by the Jews,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 10, no. 3 (1940): 653.

[42] Bradley, Iran and Christianity, 147. See also: Gillman and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, Christians in Asia before 1500, 91-100.

[43] Khanbaghi, The Fire, the Star and the Cross, 111.

[44] Ibid., 94-96, 111-13.

[45] van Gorder, Christianity in Persia, 63.

[46] Vartan Gregorian, “Minorities of Isfahan: The Armenian Community of Isfahan 1587-1722,” Iranian Studies 7, no. 3 / 4 (Summer–Autumn 1974): 664.

[47] Khanbaghi, The Fire, the Star and the Cross, 94-96, 111-13.

[48] Gregorian, “Minorities of Isfahan,” 665-69, Khanbaghi, The Fire, the Star and the Cross, 115, and van Gorder, Christianity in Persia, 62.

[49] Khanbaghi, The Fire, the Star and the Cross, 134.

[50] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity: Reformation to the Present, Volume II—1500-1975 (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1975), 235-36.

[51] Similar to Protestant Christianity, there are different “denominations” in Shi’ism. Twelver, Sevener, and Fiver (and divisions within these denominations). The distinctions centered on the succession of imams. For a simple yet helpful explanation of the differences see: “Shia Diversity: Twelver, Fivers, and Sevener,” < 2006/10/12/shia-diversity-twelvers-fivers-seveners/>, 12 October 2006, site editor, Far Outliers, accessed on September 2013, which is taken from Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future (New York: W W Norton, 2007), 75. For a more detailed explanation see: Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai, Shi’ite Islam, trans. Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Albany: State University of New York Press: 1975), 75-84.

[52] Gregorian, “Minorities of Isfahan,” 669-70, Khanbaghi, The Fire, the Star and the Cross, 116-20, and James Barry, “Iranian-Armenians on the Silk Road,” <>, site editor, Monash Asia Institute, accessed on 20 September 2013, 5.

[53] Khanbaghi, The Fire, the Star and the Cross, 117-20, 128-29. The next chapter, in dealing with Catholics, and Armenian Catholic relations in Iran, addresses Armenian persecution in the Safavid era.

[54] Waterfield, Christians in Persia, 63.

[55] Nicholas Sims-Williams, “Christianity iii: In Central Asia and Chinese Turkestan,” <>, site editor, Encyclopedia Iranica, accessed on 15 September 2013, mentions some other Christian sects in Iran.

[56] Gregorian, “Minorities of Isfahan,” 655, states that similar to other Christian minorities in Iran, Georgians faced sporadic persecution followed by periods of religious freedom. Like the Armenians, the Georgians have their own history distinct from Iran and trace their Christian beginnings to the apostles. Under Safavid rule, they had many of the same privileges as the Armenians.

[57] D M Lang, “Georgia and the Fall of the Safavi Dynasty,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 13, no. 3 (1952): 523-26.

[58] A C S Peacock, “Georgia and the Anatolian Turks in the 12th and 13 Centuries,” Anatolian Studies 45 (2006): 127.

[59] Lang, “Georgia and the Fall of the Safavi Dynasty,” 525.

[60] Gabriel Oussani, “Persia,” The Catholic Encyclopedia vol 11 (New York, Robert Appleton Company), 1911, <>, site editor, New Advent, accessed on 10 October 2013.

[61] Moffett, A History of Christianity in Asia: 1500-1800, 406-07.

[62] Oussani, “Persia.”

[63] “The First Dominicans in Iran,” <>, site editor, Saint Abraham’s Church, Tehran and The Dominicans in Iran, accessed 8 October 2013.

[64] James D Ryan, “Saints of the High Middle Ages: Martyrdom, Popular Veneration and Canonization,” The Catholic Historical Review vol. 90, no. 1 (Jan 2004), 6-7.

[65] Adam Knobler, “Pseudo-Conversions and Patchwork Pedigrees: The Christianization of Muslim Princes and the Diplomacy of Holy War,” Journal of World History, vol. 7 no. 2 (Fall 1996), 184-91.

[66] Laurence Lockhart, “European Contacts with Persia, 1350-1736,” The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 5 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), ed. Peter Jackson and Laurence Lockhart, 373-412. 

[67] Vera B. Moreen, “The Status of Religious Minorities in Safavid Iran 1617-61,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies vol. 40 no. 2 (April 1981): 125.

[68] R W Ferrier, The European Diplomacy of Shah Abbas I and the First Persian Embassy to England, Iran vol. 11 (1973), 77 and Knobler, “Pseudo-Conversions and Patchwork Pedigrees,” 194.

[69] Matthee, “The Politics of Protection,” 255-64.