The 10th Century Armenian Church In Turkey As Target For ShootingPra

Armenian version and the photo of the church carving are attached.


REF: PR/04/11/013

Assembly of Armenians of Europe
Contact: Armine Grigoryan
Rue de Treves 10, 1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 647 08 01
Fax: +32 2 647 02 00


Brussels, 11/11/2007 – The correspondent of the Milliyet newspaper
(Turkey) alerts from Van (Eastern Turkey) that the marvelous carvings of
the 10th century church of Akhtamar (Lake Van, Eastern Turkey) are
regularly being used as targets for shooting practice by visitors. The
newspaper published also a photo where one can see the state of carvings
after such visits. The correspondent reports that the church is
protected by a guard in the summer time only during the working hours.
During the rest of the day the visitors entertain themselves by shooting
on the carvings of the Akhtamar Church, and some of them even try to
find some treasure. Pr. Veli Seçkin, professor at the archeology
department of the University of Van says that there are rumors among the
population that there is treasure cached in the island of Akhatamar.
Even the guard of the Church was arrested while he was ~Shunting for

Already in May 2004 the newspaper Zaman alerted that the famous church
of the Holy Cross of the Akhtamar Island in Lake Van was almost in

The church, which is visited by many foreign tourists, is badly negleted
and close to ruins. The church has been neglected and harmed by treasure
hunters and is at risk of collapsing. Both its foundation and ceiling
have cracks and holes.

The City of Van’s Culture and Tourism Province Director, Bilal Sonmez,
told Zaman that a project for the preservation of the historical
identity of the church is already being prepared. Sonmez said that the
issue has already been transferred to the Culture and Nature Assets
Council and that the directorate is waiting for a decision.

Unfortunately the above-mentioned project for the preservation of the
historical identity of the church was never carried out and the Church
is not protected by UNESCO, since each country decides which are the
monuments to be protected by UNESCO.

The Assembly of Armenians of Europe and upon its request many Armenians
all around the world sent alert letters to UNESCO, but they remained
without answer.

In order to raise the awareness of the European an exhibition ~SArmenian
Architectural Heritage in South Caucasus and Middle East~T, organized by
the Assembly of Armenians of Europe with the co-operation of the
Research on Armenian Architecture under the patronage of the MEP Jonas
Sjostedt (GUE,NGL, Sweden) took place in the European Parliament,
Brussels at the end of September 2004. The exhibition was composed of 4
parts ~V Armenia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan. The photos in Azerbaijan and
Turkey show clearly the wanton and premeditated vandalism and
destruction of the Armenian Architectural monuments in those countries.
Indeed, such behavior is the direct consequence of the denial of the
Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and which is
not recognized yet by the Republic of Turkey. We believe that such
attitude from the Republic of Turkey aspiring the EU full membership is
not acceptable and should not be tolerated.

Hereby we call upon the UNESCO, European Institutions and international
organizations to urge Turkey to stop destroying the Armenian
Architectural monuments which are located in the territory of the actual
Republic of Turley and instead to begin a genuine programme of
protection and preservation of this great cultural heritage that belongs
to the whole of Europe and the world.


Akhtamar Chruch

The Church of Holly Cross, the Akhtamar Church is situated in Lake Van,
Eastern Turkey. The Church was built during the reign of King Gakik I of
the Vaspurakan Dynasty during the years 915 – 921 B.C. This is one of
the finest jewels of Armenian architecture. In its design and conception
of volumes and surfaces, this sanctuary is an intellectually original
variation of the cruciform and central cupola’d churches of the high
Middle Ages. The church has a four leaved clover plan with a domed
center, and it is built from red colored cut tufa stone. All the
interior walls and even the cupola are covered with beautiful frescoes,
the best of which is the one painted on the high altar wall representing
the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, sitting on a white donkey.
Because of its novel conception, its high reliefs and frescoes of rare
artistic value