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Turkish Censorship of Armenian Printing: YediKilisa Monastery of Mount Varag

The monastery of Yedi Kilisa, situated on the slopes of that mountain, is the most frequented of the numerous cloisters in the neighbourhood; and thither we made our way on a fine November day. The first snowstorm of the coming winter had raged during the night; and the snow was lying in spite of a brilliant sun. A ride of some seven miles along the windings of the track brought us to the door of the enclosure. We had passed over rising ground, in places furrowed by the plough, but, except for the oasis of the village and monastery of Shushantz, entirely devoid of trees. A mere fleck upon the white canopy of the hills on our right hand had been named to us as the cloister of Surb Khach. Our Armenian friends in Van were fond of speaking of these foundations as centres of light and learning in the older and happier times. They have been scattered with a liberal hand over this magnificent landscape; yet how they have fallen from their estate! Two poor monks, who lived on gritty bread and salted cheese inlaid with herbs, received us at the gate. One was the abbot, or rather the deputy of the abbot; for that office is still held by the present Katholikos, the Hayrik or Little Father of the Armenians. Daniel Vardapet—for so he was addressed—is a type of the better-educated priest. A delicate man some fifty years of age, his features were those of a Casaubon. I am afraid his attainments would not compare with those of that scholar; yet he had the suavity and the speech of a cultivated man. His assistant was a monk of the peasant class. Some fifteen youths were housed in the cloister—the remnant of the school founded there years ago by Khrimean. A cloud of unusual gloom enveloped the destinies of the ancient place; and one might doubt whether the gentle Daniel had ever experienced so many calamities during the thirty-five years which he had passed within these walls. The most severely felt of all the blows which the Turkish Government had been raining upon [114]them was the loss of their printing press. Some short while back the officials appeared and walked off with the precious instrument, of which the voice had been mute for many years. They erected it in Van, and, having kidnapped an Armenian compositor, used it to publish an official gazette. In company with the Mudir I had happened to pass the building where it was lodged; and my companion remarked to me that he was looking forward to obtaining some money for his schools with the proceeds of the sale of the paper.86
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