St Yeghiche Armenian Church (Սուրբ Եղիշե եկեղեցի) is the largest church of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Great Britain with seating capacity of 1000. It is located in Cranley Gardens, Kensington, London. The church was built as St. Peter’s Anglican Church and was closed c.1973, the building was purchased in 1988 by benefactors Vatche and Tamar Manoukian and after extensive renovation the church was consecrated by His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians on 10th June 2001.
The Armenian Church is pre-eminently a national Church, through which all the cultural activities are channelled. Faith helps to keep the moral of the people high through all the troubles of its post – First World War dispersal to every corner of the globe. The Church is seen as that, which unites all Armenians, whether or not they go to services. The mother country is now split up between Turkey, Iran, and independent Armenia. Mount Ararat, the landing stage for Noah’s Ark, stood at the heart of this nation, which adopted Christianity before any other, in 301 under king Tiritades III. The cathedral at Etchmiatzin, built of Ararat granite, has stood for over 1700 years.
There are no icons or statues in Armenian churches. Murals, alter paintings, or stained glass is fine, but the cross, such as that at St Yeghiche, must be plain with no representation of human form like a western crucifix. At the altar, twelve candles are set burning, representing the twelve apostles, and beside the Cross at St Yeghiche is a large picture of the Virgin and Child. The sacrament is given in front of the altar to the communicant who is barefoot or slippered.
Armenian chants and hymns are most impressive, some dating from the 3rd century. They bear some relationship to Gregorian Chants. St Yeghiche has a twenty – voice Choir, strengthened with additional voices on high Holy Days. The church also possesses an immense organ, the second largest in the country. The word for the Armenian hymnal is the Sharakan, which translates as “row of gems”.