Vartan of Nazareth

Malcolm Billings

260 x 216 mm, 240, 200 illustrations, 9781907372438, £25.00, Paperback, Paul Holberton Publishing
15 September 2012

Currently in stock.

ē A lavishly illustrated account of a true medical pioneer

Vartan of Nazareth is the little-known story of a medical hero who founded a hospital in Nazareth 150 years ago. This book traces the remarkable story of Pacarooni Kaloost Vartan, the son of a poor Armenian tailor in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Born in 1835 at a time of great change in the Ottoman Empire, the young Vartan attended the first American missionary school in the imperial city. He left school to join the British Army as an interpreter in the Crimea and, having witnessed the rigours of battlefield medicine, he was drawn to a career as a surgeon and physician. The book recounts the story of his time in Edinburgh as a missionary medical student, his marriage to Mary Anne, a daughter of the Manse and, with the ink hardly dry on the marriage certificate, the young couple's departure for Palestine.

The book is rich in descriptions of nineteenth-century Nazareth: the plight of people whose remedies amounted to old wives’ tales, village bone-menders and leeches to blend the afflicted; the doctor's struggle to overcome local prejudice and aversion to Evangelical missionaries. The Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society sponsored Vartan's work in Nazareth and his quarterly reports to headquarters in Edinburgh preserve a vivid picture of his hard work to establish the hospital. The Vartans were not immune to tragedy. Five of their ten children died in infancy; they are buried with their siblings and parents in the graveyard on the edge of the hospital compound. The Vartans visited Jerusalem as the Holy City became the focus of huge pilgrimage traffic and the failed attempt to evangelize Jews in time for the second coming of the Messiah.

Lavishly illustrated, Vartan of Nazareth features contemporary photographs taken by the Royal Engineers on their Survey of Palestine, including one taken by the young officer who would become famous as 'Kitchener of Khartoum'. Photographs of the Vartan family, and of day-to-day activities at the hospital where patients with gunshot wounds would arrive by camel, contribute to this unique historical record. The book also tells of Vartan's legacy after his death in 1908 and follows the development of the hospital through the turbulent times of the First World War, the British Mandate and the birth of modern Israel. Against all odds the hospital survived. It is still registered in Scotland and, as a remarkable element of continuity, the founder's great grand-son, John Vartan, is actively involved.


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