A 17th Century Dutch Travellers Encounter with Noah’s Ark on Mt.Ararat

Noah's ark on mount Ararat by Jan Struys
Noah’s ark on mount Ararat by Jan Janszoon Struys


Jan Struys
Jan J. Struys

There are a lot of eyewitness accounts and testimonies of people that had some sort of encounter with Noah’s Ark on Mt.Ararat. One interesting testimony of the Arks survival on Mt.Ararat is that of a Dutch traveller by the name of Jan Janszoon Struys, who lived from 1629 till 1694. Struys was a sailmaker from origin, an upper-sailmaker to be precise, besides that he was a traveller, adventurer and writer as well, and travelled through many countries in a period of 26 years from 1647 till 1673.
His voyages took him through countries like Italy, Greece, Livonia, Moscovia, Tartary, Media, Persia, East-India, Japan, and other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. He wrote down all his adventures to publish in his book “Reysen“ (Voyages) in the year 1676, which book became a bestseller translated in different languages, like German, French, English and Russian. A very interesting book, because it contains remarks and observations upon the manners, religion, polities, customs and laws of the inhabitants of those countries and a description of their several cities, towns and fortifications inclusive several beautiful drawings and a sea map all drawn by Jan Struys himself.

1676 Book page Jan Struys
1676 book page J. Struys ‘Reysen’ (Voyages)
Map Caspian Sea by Jan Struys
Map Caspian Sea by Jan Struys

But in this book we also find an account of the authors many dangers by shipwreck, robbery, slavery, hunger, etc.
One of the most terrible things Struys experienced was that he was made a prisoner and sold as a slave to a Persian. In this situation Struys arrived at Yerevan on the north side of Mt. Ararat, together with his master, on June 30, 1670.

By then two Carmelite monks came asking Struys if he by any chance was a surgeon or had some skills in healing. He answered that he was not a surgeon.
Not satisfied with this answer they took his master aside and one of them explained the situation: “My (spiritual) brother (who lives on Mt.Ararat) is suffering from a hernia and if your slave can cure him I shall award you with fifty crowns”. In those days that was a lot of money. The master, keen on money, said to Struys: ”Are you aware that this gives you the chance to regain your freedom? If you’re smart you will take the opportunity…”.
Struys wasn’t a doctor, but he often witnessed and assisted the ships doctor during his many travels on sea. Although the proposal troubled Struys deeply, he saw no way out of accepting it. The master praised his decision. Then it took seven days before Struys got to the hermit who lived in his hermitage high on Mt.Ararat.
Struys says in his book:
“A farmer secured a donkey to carry our provisions and wood. Without the latter, you cannot survive on this uninhabitable mountain. Every night we found a hut where we could sleep and we were so tired as if we’d done hard labour all day long. On the 7th of July we finally reached the hermits little home which was well-hewn in rock. The hermit, by the name of Domingo Alexander, by then had already lived in his hermitage, high up on the mountain, for 25 years. He was born in Rome as a son of one of the richest and most influential families of Rome.” Struys said: “I found out Domingo was suffering from a hernia and examining the area in question, I saw that the hernial swelling had the size of a large hen’s egg. ”How long have you had to put up with this swelling?” I asked him. “Only a month,” he replied, which encouraged me because the swelling was fresh, so it had more chance to be healed.”

So Struys started the treatment by creating a medical cream to put it on the swelling four times a day and wound a compression bandage around it. He had the hermit lying down for two weeks. Then it turned out to be successful as the rupture looked healed and the swelling was gone. Struys advised Domingo to keep using the compression bandage for one year.
Domingo was so pleased that he gave Struys three highly valuable personal presents.
The first present Struys mentions in his account is ‘a piece of brown red hard wood’, the second present ‘a cross attached to a silver chain’ and the third present ‘a piece of rock’ which Domingo told him he chipped off from under the Ark. Domingo then strongly urged Struys to keep them safe as they were highly valuable.
Next in Struys’ account he writes about another important gift.
“When I was ready to depart”, he says: ”I thought that it might not be a bad idea to obtain a written testimony from him as to my experience on Mt. Ararat.”
That what follows now is an excerpt from this declaration originally written in Latin by the hermit Domingo Alexander:
“I thought it would be unreasonable to refuse the request of Jan Janszoon who pleaded me to testify in writing that Jan Janszoon mentioned above was in my cell on the holy Mt. Ararat, subsequent to his climb …This man cured me of a serious hernia, and I am therefore greatly in his debt for the conscientious treatment he gave me. In return for his well doing I have presented him a cross made of a piece of wood from the true Ark of Noah.
I myself entered that Ark and with my own hands cut from the wood of one of its compartments the fragment from which that cross is made. I also informed Jan Janszoon verbally, telling the truth exactly, how and in what manner the Ark is constructed, and also gave him a piece of stone which I had personally chipped off from the rock on which the Ark rests. All this I testify to be true, as true as I am in fact alive here in my sacred hermitage.
Dated the 22nd. of July, 1670, on Mt. Ararat.
Dominicus Alexander Romanus”

Latin text testimony monk
Latin and Dutch text testimony monk


Latin text testimony monk
Latin and Dutch text testimony monk

Now this is very interesting; besides the three given presents, Domingo informed Struys how and in what manner the Ark actually was constructed.
This is information about high quality shipbuilding! How one can build a ship that isn’t able to sink and won’t leak! After all; the Ark did survive the floodwaters.
How valuable would this information be, at a time that most travelling was done by ship and therefore many sank and many lifes were lost?

Another interesting thing Struys was told by Domingo is that on the summit of the mountain nothing ever changes and that for that reason the Ark is still kept and hasn’t deteriorated.

Struys continues by saying in his account:
“Carrying these holy relics, whose possession fulfilled all my desires, and proud of the fine success of my first operation, I descended the mountain with my donkey and my guide.
I followed the same route as before, but I experienced far more difficulty than the first time, particularly while the ice-laden clouds hung over a path so rough, slippery and steep, that each step we ran the risk of tumbling head over heels. Toward the foot of the mountain, the wind, the rain, and the even more treacherous pathway almost made me despair of getting back at all. I did arrive, but not without vowing never to return there in all my life. Neither the Ark nor the rock which cradles it, as my hermit’s testimony asserts, would have an attraction sufficient enough to draw me back there again. Thus, I saw the famous Mt. Ararat, and my experience goes to prove that, although the climb is difficult, the mountain is not inaccessible as many claim.”

Now there’s still one more thing which may be something of interest.
Jan Janszoon Struys was befriended with someone who wrote a book about shipbuilding; the Dutchman Nicolaes Witsen. Witsen also was a Dutch diplomat, a geographer, Mayor of Amsterdam chosen thirteen times, he was a good friend of Tsar Peter the Great, he had a great love for scholarship, but he became famous for his magnificent book about shipbuilding titled: “Architectura Navalis” of 1690 which was a revised edition of his book: “Ancient and Modern Shipbuilding and Government” of 1671. In this book Architectura Navalis the name of Jan Janszoon Struys is mentioned in connection with shipbuilding.
What was it that Struys wanted the world to know? Did he as sailmaker invented a new type of sail to make a ship go faster?
No, it’s stated on page 198 that Jan Janszoon Struys: “claims that he’s able to build ships in which no water comes, and which very seldom get leaky”, after which he describes his method.

Nicolaes Witsen
Nicolaes Witsen

This is most interesting in the light of Struys’ adventure on Mt. Ararat.
Could there be a link between this information and the information Domingo Alexander shared with Struys on Mt. Ararat? That’s an intriguing question!
If the method of shipbuilding by Struys, as mentioned and explained in the book of Nicolaes Witsen, is influenced by the knowledge of the Arks construction Struys received from the hermit on Mt. Ararat, then this is a very interesting chapter in the Arks history indeed.

A number of people have difficulty with Struys’ Ararat adventure and find it hard to believe.
Others consider it to be a most intriquing story because of the many interesting and remarkable details. One commentary says “..The narrative of Struys’ ascent is imbedded in a context which bears numerous marks of authenticity.” ¹
And it’s true, Struys’ account of his ascent and descent of the mountain shows many details which could only be known by someone who really climbed the mountain.
A most interesting 17th century testimony of the Arks survival on Mt. Ararat by the Dutch traveller Jan Janszoon Struys.

“Reysen” 1676, Jan Janszoon Struys, pages 226 – 232
¹ “the Quest for Noah’s Ark”, Prof.John Warwick Montgomery, page 95 – 101
“Architectura Navalis et Regimen Nauticum” 1790, page 198, Nicolaes Witsen