Pontifical Legation of the Western Europe

Armenians in the Netherlands

The reliquary of Saint Servatius in the homonymous Basilica in Maastricht

The roots of the Armenian-Dutch relationship began in the 4th century, when the Armenian clergyman Servatius (Srbatios-Serovbe) came to the Netherlands. Arriving from Jerusalem to Tongeren (a city in present-day Belgium) he was ordained a bishop (381-382) and preached Christianity. Avoiding the attacks of the Huns, St. Servatius moved the episcopal see from Tongeren to Maastricht, where he died in 384․ His remains are in the main Catholic church of Maastricht, which bears his name.

Armenian and Dutch interactions are believed to have started in the 13th and 14th centuries, when Dutch merchants arrived in Cilicia and Armenian for trade. Armenians brought into the Low Countries carpets, dyes, cotton, and spices from Armenia and from around the world.

Apart from the contemporary Armenian community which spreads throughout the Netherlands, there had been an independent Armenian community concentrated in Amsterdam during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Many Armenian merchants in Amsterdam went to Southeast Asia in the 19th century to trade, and to set up factories and plantations, establishing a vibrant  community of Armenians in Java.

In 1660 an Armenian printing house was established in Amsterdam by the efforts of Archimandrite Matteos Tsaretsi. It was headed by Archimandrite Voskan of Yerevan. In 1666 the first Armenian edition of the Bible was published here. In 1685 one of the students of Voskan Yerevantsi, Archimandrite Matteos Vanandetsi, started the second Armenian printing house in Amsterdam, which operated for 32 years. In 1695 Movses Khorenatsi’s “Armenian History” was first published in this printing house in 1660.

In 1714 by the efforts of 40 Armenian merchants, the Armenian Apostolic Church of the Holy Spirit was built in the central part of Amsterdam. It is built with non-traditional architecture. The church is located on the first floor of a three-story building. Before that, the Armenians held their funeral ceremonies in the “St. Karapet” chapel not far from the “Holy Spirit” church, where the Voskan Vardapet also served liturgies. The history of the “Holy Spirit” church is special. From the end of the 18th century the number of Armenians living in Amsterdam started to decrease. The last church service there was held in 1806. From 1874 the building served as a Catholic school.

The community was revived in the 50s-80s years of the 20th century, when Armenians from Turkey, Iran, Indonesia and Greece settled there. In 1986 they rebuilt the building of the “Holy Spirit” church and after the necessary renovation, was re-consecrated as an Armenian Apostolic Church on November 29. In the 1990s, the Armenian colony was replenished with Armenians again emigrated from Iraq, Russia, Armenia, and Syria.

Until 1991, the Armenian community of Almelo purchased a former school building and consecrated it as St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in 1993.

Currently, there are approximately 25,000 Armenians living in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, mainly in Amsterdam, Almelo and Amersfoort. Fewer families live in other cities of the country, such as Hague, Dordrecht, Leiden, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Assen, and elsewhere. There are church communities in Heerhugowaard, Dordrecht, Eindhoven, Assen, Arnhem, Hertogenbosch. St. Karapet Armenian Apostolic Church has been operating in Maastricht since 2013.

The “AJO” youth union, the women’s union, and the “St. Grigor Narekatsi” Sunday school also operated next to the “Holy Spirit” church in Amsterdam.

Since 2017, the Dutch-language religious daily Khorhurd was published in Dutch.

The Armenian Church of Almelo St. Gregory the Illuminator Church has a youth union, a women’s union, St. Mesrop Mashtots Sunday School, deaconry and school classes, as well as the Zartonk Dance Ensemble.