One of the 12 apostles, St. Thaddeus, also known as Saint Jude, (not to be confused with Judas Iscariot), was martyred while spreading the Gospel. He is revered as an apostle of the Armenian Church. Legend has it that a church dedicated to him was first built on the present site in AD 68.
Not much appears to remain of the original church, which was extensively rebuilt in 1329 after an earthquake destroyed the structure in 1319. Nevertheless, some of the parts surrounding the altar date from the 10th century.
Most of the present structure dates from the early 19th century when Qajar prince Abbas Mirza also helped in renovations and repairs. The 19th century additions are from carved sandstone. The earliest parts are of black and white stone, hence its Turkish name Kara Kilise, the Black Church.
A fortified wall surrounds the church and its now-abandoned monastery buildings.
In July 2008, Iran tour the St. Thaddeus monastery was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, along with the Saint Stepanos Monastery and the chapel of Dzordzor (two other Armenian monuments located in the same province).
The Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew traveled through Armenia in AD 45 to preach the word of God. Many people were converted and numerous secret Christian communities were established there.
Around that time, Abgar died after ruling for 38 years and the Armenian kingdom was split into two parts. His son Ananun crowned himself in Edessa, while his nephew Sanatruk ruled in Armenia. About AD 66, Ananun gave the order to kill St. Thaddeus in Edessa. The king’s daughter Sandokht, who had converted to Christianity, was martyred with Thaddeus. Her tomb is located near the Ghara Kelisa.