Vazgen I

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. The following three served for 39 years as Catholicos of All Armenians or Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia:

  1. Peter I (1019–1058) — Պետրոս Ա Գետադարձ (Catholicos of All Armenians),
  2. Gregory II the Martyrophile (1066–1105) — Գրիգոր Բ. Վկայասէր (Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia) and
  3. David IV (1590–1629), d. 1633 — Դավիթ Դ Վաղարշապատցի (Catholicos of All Armenians).
His Holiness

Vazgen / Vazken I

Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
ChurchArmenian Apostolic Church
SeeMother See of Holy Etchmiadzin
Term ended1994
PredecessorGeorge VI
SuccessorKarekin 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
BuriedMother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin

The three longest reigning Catholicoi were:

  1. ) Nerses IV the Graceful (1166–1173) -- Սուրբ Ներսէս Դ. Կլայեցի (Շնորհալի), who served 53 years as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia,
  2. ) Constantine I of Cilicia (1221–1267) -- Կոնստանդին Ա. Բարձրբերդցի, who served 46 years as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia and
  3. ) St. Sahak I (387–428) -- Սբ. Սահակ Ա Պարթև, who served 41 years as Catholicos of All Armenians.

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 30, 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 a long suffering.[2]


External linksEdit


  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