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Armenian Graves Calcutta -
Roman Catholic Church

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A Roman Catholic cemetery wouldn't be your first port of call if you were looking for Armenian graves.  However, in "Some Eighteenth Century Armenian Graves in Calcutta" by Mesrovb J. Seth (which, incidentally are not in his book "Armenians in India"), he researched and annotated the follow.

In the historic Roman Catholic Church1 commonly known as the Murgihatta Church, in Portuguese Church Street, (off Canning Street) where the English worshipped for some time, after the destruction of the Church of St. Anne, during the Sack of Calcutta, by Nawab Suraj-ud-dowlah in June 1756, there are some old Armenian Graves, with beautiful marble tombstones bearing the inscriptions,  carved in raised letters, in Armenian and Latin. The map below indicates the closeness of the Catholic Church to the Armenian Church.

As very few persons know of the existence of these old graves that have stood the ravages of time and the elements for 200 years, in a damp place like Calcutta, they are published here, with biographical notes, for the information of lovers of old Calcutta.  They may also prove of some interest in the Indian Epigraphical Department.

 

The photographs of the graves are located at The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Rosary on Brabourne Road,  and were donated by and are courtesy of Nigel Galstaun:

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1              Hic Armenus Leo nomine dictus at quem mors ipsa facta Leo Nazareth patri meo Persaeque patriae meae tollere non parcit, annos sexaginta natus sacramentis munitus jacao appositus ad patres.  Lector aliorum fata meditans disce vita fungi; sic namque totum geritur recte negotium, Anno 1734.

Translation of (1) above.

Here, joined to my ancestors, lie I, called Leo, an Armenian aged sixty years.  Death, itself a lion, has not hesitated to tear me away from my father Nazareth and from Persia, my fatherland.  Readey(?), learn how to make a proper use of life by meditating on the fate of others.  Thus will the business of life be carried on rightly.  In the year 1734.

2             Hic jacet Sarkis de Agavally, natione Armenianus in Persia natus qui ætatis suae annum 48 attingens in pace quescit die 7 Februarii anno Christi 1736.
 
 
Translation of (2) above
 
 Here lies Sarkis de Agavally2 an Armenian, born in Persia, who sent to a peaceful rest in the 48th year of his age, on the 7th February, in the year of Christ. 1736.
 
 There is also an inscription of 4 lines in ancient Armenian.

3             Tristes hic jacent exuviae Emmanualis Sarhatte natione Armeni; ex illustri Xerimanorum stripe in Persia oriundi sed vera fide (quam ad obitum usque integer servavit) magis laudandi; licet ætatis flore, viggessimo acilicet octavo raptus fuerit, attamen consummatus in brevi explevit tempora multa; placita enim erat Deo anima illusi, propter hoc properavit educere illum de medio iniquitatum; æternitatis laurea cum coranatus mortem oppetiit die nona Martii 1738.
 
Translation of (3) above

Here lie the remains of Emmanuel Sarhatte, an Armenian born in Persia, from the illustrious family of the Xerimani; but he is deserving of greater praise for his steadfastness unto death in the true faith.  Although carried off in the flower of youth, i.e., in his 28th year, he being made perfect in a short space, fulfilled a long time, for his soul pleased God, therefore he hastened to bring him out of the midst of iniquities.  Crowned with the laurel of eternity, he died on the 9th of March, 1738.
 
 There is also an inscription of 8 lines in ancient Armenian in which Sarhatte, or Sarhad, is stated to be the son of Emmanuel, or Manuel Xerimani, which in the Armenian, is called Shahriman.

Photo donated by and courtesy of Nigel Galstaun:
The grave of Peter Izakan

 

4             Hic Jacet Petrus Armenius et Catholicus qui en patre nomine Izakan in Persida natus vitam finivit in Colcutta die 23 Octobris Aerae Christianae 1742 annum aetatis suae 50 attingens.

Translation of (4) above

Here lies Peter, an Armenian and a Catholic, born in Persia; the name of his father is Izakan.  He died in Calcutta on the 23rd of October, A.D., 1742, in the 50th year of his age.


There is also an inscription of 3 lines in ancient Armenian, in which the name is given as Isakhan.

 

6             Hic jacet corpus Ignacii Isaac de Sauquic Armenus natione naturalis ex Persia oriundus ex civitate Julfa, diem Supremum obit die trigessima mensis Maii Anno Domini 1746.
 
 
Translation of (6) above
 
 Here lies the body of Ignatius Isaac de Saquic, an Armenian, born in Persia, in the city of Julfa.  He died on the 30th of May A.D. 1746.
 
 There is an inscription of 4 lines in ancient Armenian, in which the name of the deceased is given as Minas, the son of Sahak, of the family of Dzakik.

 

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5  Here lyeth interred the body of Satur de Azarmal, son to Azarmal3 of the Armenian nation, born in the province of Julfa, in Persia, and of the Roman Catholic religion, aged 45 years, who departed this life on the 13th of May 1746.

There are no inscriptions, either in Latin or Armenian.

 

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7             In isto tumulo jacet corpus defuncti Zacaria Xerimani natione Armeni (Mercator) diem supremum obit Colicatæ die 26 Novemberis, Anno 1754.

Translation of (7) above

In this tomb lies the body of the deceased Zacaria Xerimani, an Armenian merchant.  He died at Calcutta on the 26th November in the year 1754.

 

The grave of Philip Xerimani also known as Philipose Shahriman

 

8             In isto tumulo jacet corpus defuncti Philipi Xerimani, natione Armeni (Mercator) diem supremum obit Colicatæ die 27 Octobris Anno 1755.

Translation of (8) above

In this tomb lies the body of the deceased Philip Xerimani, an Armenian merchant.  He died at Calcutta on the 27th day of October, 1755.

There is also an inscription of 6 lines in ancient Armenian.

 

9             Hic jacet Joseph Bacarum Xerimani natione Armenius, obit die XI Juni, Anno Domini MDCCLXIII.
 
 
Translation of (9) above
 
 Here lies Joseph Bacarum Xerimani, an Armenian.  He died on the 11th of June 1763.
 
 There is an inscription of 8 lines in ancient Armenian in which Joseph the son of Bagram of the noble family of the Sharimans, born at Julfa, in Ispahan, is called a “devout” person.

 

10           Hic jacet Zacharias Bacarum Xerimani natione Armenius, obit die vigresimma septima Novembria, Anno Domini, MDCCLXIV.
 
 
Translation of (10) above
 
 Here lies Zacharia Bacarum Xerimani, an Armenian.  He died on the 27th  November, A.D. 1764.
 
 There is an inscription of 7 lines in ancient Armenian, in which Zacharia, the son of Bagram of the noble family of the Sharimans, born in Julfa, in Ispahan, is called a “devout” person, like his brother Joseph.

Zacharia Bagram Shariman was the brother of Joseph Bagram Shariman (No.9 above).  Both the brothers are buried next to each other, having similar tombstones, carved with raised inscriptions and floral decorations of the same style, without any difference, with the exception of the Christian names.  These two brothers were great patrons of Armenian letters and learning and between the two, they bore all the expenses of the printing of the monumental History of Armenia, in three big volumes, by Father Michael Chamchian of the learned Mechitharist Society of Venice, a religious order founded by the Armenian monk, Mekhithar, in 17091, for the preservation and advancement of the ancient language and culture of Armenia, which had fallen into deplorable decay, through ages of persecution of the Armenian race at the hands of the cruel Tartars, the Turks and the Persians, in the land, where, in the words of Byron, “God created man in His own image”.

 

11            Acuiesta sepultado ocorpo de Gabriel Joannes nacas Armenio de idade LXVIII an Sonoual iadecaoa XI dei anetroanio Dominio MDCCLXXXII.
 
 Above the Portuguese inscription, which is carved in a very poor and inartistic style, there is a beautiful inscription of 13 lines in ancient Armenian, from which it appears that the deceased Gabriel, of the noble family of Johannes, was a devout, good and just person of irreproachable character, humble and chaste.

 

12           Hic jacet Georgius Johannis Drascoelu nationis Graecus ex Phillippopolis.  Anno Domini MDCCXXIII die XX Augusti.
 
 
Translation of (12) above
 
 Here lies George John Drascoelu of Greek Descent, born in Phillippopolis. A.D. 1728, on the 20th August.

 

 

There is yet the tombstone of another Greek, one Nicholas Christianitza, a native of Transilvania, “a man of sincere faith in God and upright in his dealings with mean” who died on the 17th August, 1713, according to the Latin inscription on his tombstone.

It may be mentioned that the oldest tombstone in that Church is to the memory of one Maria Tench, the daughter of Edward and Margaret Tench who died at the age of twelve, on the 9th April 1712, Mrs. Margaret Tench, the mother of the girl was the founder of the Chapel erected in 1700, as stated in the beginning of this article.  The Shahrimans, or the Xerimani as they are called in the Latin inscrptions, belonged to an aristocratic Armenian family of the Roman Catholic faith.  The ancestor of the family came from Julfa on the Aras, in south Armenia, and settle at Ispahan in 1605.

They were eminent merchants and great bankers who carried on an extensive trade with India, Italy, Austria and Russia.  Some members of the family lived and died at Calcutta, Madras and Surat.  For the valuable services rendered by the Shahrimans to the Catholic cause in Persia, by reason of their great influence at the Persian Court, they were created Counts of the holy Austrian Empire by the Emperor Leopold on the 23rd June 1699.

One Count Pogose (Paul) Shahriman, who rose to be a commander of the Imperiod Austrian army, was presented with a gold cross by the renowned Empress Maria Theresa, for his valour and bravery in the Military service of the Austrian Empire.  Another member of that illustrious family, Count Emmanuel Shahriman, was the Ambassador of Persia at the Russian Court.  One of the sons of the Ambassador, Count Johanness Shahriman, died at Madras in 1791, and another member of the same family, also Count Johanness Shahriman died at Madras in 1848, and was allowed to be buried in the Armenian churchyard of that city, although a Roman Catholic, thanks to the toleration of the holy Apostolic Church of Armenia.

There lives at Madras a lineal descendant of the Shahriman Counts, who resided and died in that city during the 18th and 19th centuries, as stated above.  This last representative of the illustrious Shahriman family in India, is a Government pensioner, having retired from the Telegraph service.  He is attending the orthodox Armenian Church at Madras and in his old age, is learning the language of his ancestors.  A praiseworthy zeal indeed, would [be] that some of the Anglicised Armenians in India followed his noble example.

Mesrovb J. Seth M.R.A.S., F.R.H.S.
No. 9 Marsden Street
Calcutta

 Calcutta 1938.

 
1 The church, which was a small chapel at first, was erected in 1700, at the expense of a devout Catholic lady of Calcutta, a Mrs. Margaret Tench, whose only daughter, Maria Tench, was interred there in 1712.  The Portuguese community having grown in numbers, the chapel was extended in 1720 at the expense of another devout Portuguese lady of Calcutta, a Mrs. Sabastian Shau, who died in 1725 and was interred in the church where her grave can be seen to this day.  In 1797, the church was demolished and on its site, the present beautiful church was erected by public subscriptions.  It was consecrated on the 27th November 1799, and dedicated to the Bless Virgin Mary.
2 There was an eminent Armenian merchant at Madras, Sarkis Satoor de Agavally by name, born at Basra in 1745, died on the 16th November 1812, and was interred in the churchyard of that city.  He was a patron of Armenian learning and had established a printing press at Madras in 1809 for publishing books in the ancient language of Armenia for which there was a great demand amongst the Armenian colonists in India and the East.  The press, after printing some important works, was closed down immediately after the death of the owner, in 1812.  (See Madras, the Birth place of Armenian Journalism P.11 by the present writer M.J. Seth).
3 Azarmal is a corrupt form of Hazarmall.  The Hazarmalls were a wealthy Armenian family of Calcutta during the first half of the 18th Century.  A pious member of that family, Agah Manuel Hazarmall, erected in 1734, the beautiful belfry of the Armenian Church at Calcutta, on which rests the handsome English clock presented by Agah Catchick Arakiel, a prominent member of the Armenian community of Calcutta in 1790.

 

 

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