territory and resettled the population in various parts of his realm. Special treatment was accorded to the opulent merchant community of Julfa, which was relocated opposite his new capital at Isfahan. It enjoyed rights not afforded to other religious minorities, such as permission to elect their own mayor, employ bells and conduct religious processions in public.23 These were granted because of the community's domination of the Iranian silk trade.24 The new diocese quickly expanded, with some seventy churches founded within its first half-century. At one point the shah contemplated rebuilding the monastery of Ejmiacin in New Julfa in order to assure the community's continuing loyalty However, he was finally satisfied with a token gesture of relocating fifteen stones, now incorporated into one of the churches there. The second bishop, Xacatur Kecarec'i (1620-46), was particularly active, creating an influential school where a host of Armenian luminaries studied, including several later catholicoi. Around 1636 he also established the first printing press in Iran, which issued an important series of service books, an initiative in which it appears he gained assistance in acquiring ink and paper from the recent French Capuchin mission in Isfahan under Fr Pacifique de Provins.25
Despite this, the Capuchins were forbidden to preach in Armenian churches, and tensions between the two communities grew with the arrival in 1650 of the Jesuits, who had French government support; to the extent that the next prelate, Dawit' (1652-83), threatened them with expulsion.26 Nevertheless, some influential Armenians like Xo ja Sarhat of the Sehrimanean family became converts and financed the construction of a chapel and a school. By the 1680s polemical tracts were distributed by both sides, and the theologian and artist Yovhannes Mrk'uz often engaged in debates with the missionaries as well as with representatives of the Armenian Catholics like the poet Step'anos Dastec'i.27
23 For a contextualisation of this within the shah's overall treatment of Armenians, see Vazken S. Ghougassian, The emergence of the Armenian diocese of New Julfa in the seventeenth century (University of Pennsylvania Armenian Texts and Studies 14), (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1998), 56-76.
24 See Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, The shah's silk for Europe's silver: the Eurasian trade of theJulfa Armenians in Safavid Iran and India (1530-1750) [University of Pennsylvania Armenian Texts and Studies 15] (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1999).
25 Richard, 'Missionnaires francais en Arménie', 197.
26 Ghougassian, Armenian diocese of New Julfa, 125-56.
27 This initiative included the first publication of Grigor Tatewac'i's Book of Questions of 1397, in which a number of Catholic doctrines are condemned, on which see Oskanyan, Haygirk's 1512-1800 t'vakannerin, 286-7.
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