Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Marlene R. Breu and Ronald T. Marchese


This paper reports on data collected from textiles used in the religious life of members of the Armenian Orthodox Church community of Istanbul, Turkey, specifically consecrated items associated with the expression of the Divine Liturgy. Our analysis of selected objects and their inscriptions revealed a valuable source of information about the culture and how it expressed itself in one of the key aspects of Armenian identity as a minority population in the Islamic society of Istanbul—its religion. The production and use of these artifacts contributed to the cohesiveness of a people both in Istanbul and in the Diaspora, where Armenians have maintained their social, historical and national identity largely through their religion and language.

The paper is based on ongoing data collection and analysis since 2000, with substantial new information in 2007. It focuses on the composition and design of the textiles and a large body of inscriptions found on the textiles and non-textiles to illustrate the intersection of individual, society and religion. It illuminates the cohesiveness within the Armenian Orthodox Church community of Istanbul and the shared social values and moral principles associated with Armenian identity as a result of the individual and collective contributions of textiles to the spiritual life of the community and the artistic accomplishments of its members.