Historic Conservation Project by World Monuments Fund Begins in East

Art Daily
May 4 2011

Historic Conservation Project by World Monuments Fund Begins in Eastern Turkey

Ani Cathedral southwest corner.

ISTANBUL.- Bonnie Burnham, President of World Monuments Fund (WMF),
today announced that WMF and the Turkish Ministry of Culture and
Tourism have embarked on a historic partnership to conserve the Ani
Cathedral and the Church of the Holy Savior, in Ani, a medieval city
in northeastern Turkey. Once the site of hundreds of religious
buildings, palaces, fortifications, and other structures, Ani was, in
the tenth century, one of the world’s great cities. Today, however, it
stands abandoned, and its celebrated historic buildings are in a
precarious state. Support for these conservation projects has been
provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Ambassadors Fund, the
Turkish General Directorate of Cultural Heritage and Museums, and
World Monuments Fund.

Ertu��rul G�¼nay, Minister of Culture and Tourism in Turkey, has stated
about the project: “This partnership with World Monuments Fund is a
milestone in Turkey’s efforts to conserve its many important
cultural-heritage sites. Among these, Ani, which is of global
significance, presents particularly complicated challenges. We hope
that giving new life to the remains of once-splendid buildings, such
as the Ani Cathedral and Church, will bring new economic opportunities
to the region.”

Ms. Burnham added, “There has long been international concern about
the fragile condition of the many extraordinary ruins at Ani, and the
site has been listed on the World Monuments Watch on multiple
occasions, beginning in 1996. In conserving these two important
structures, WMF and Turkey’s General Directorate of Cultural Heritage
and Museums will develop methods that can be applied to the other
buildings still standing in this seismic area. We hope that this work
will usher in a new era in the life of this important site.”

Ani
Situated on a plateau in northeastern Turkey, next to the border with
Armenia, Ani was strategically located along a prosperous east-west
caravan route. While the origins of settlement in the area date to the
Iron and Bronze Ages, Ani reached its cultural golden age in the
second half of the tenth century, when it became the political and
commercial center of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom. Most of its
surviving structures, which include seven churches (one later
converted to a mosque), a city wall, commercial and residential
buildings, and underground passages, are ruins of edifices dating from
the medieval era, when the city changed hands several times and was
ruled by successive Christian and Islamic dynasties.

At its height, Ani’s population numbered well over 100,000, including
Armenians, Muslim Kurds, and Turks, and the city was filled with
artistically and architecturally sophisticated buildings. However, by
the mid-eleventh century, it had begun to decline, due to factors
including internal strife, invasions by various groups, earthquakes,
and the redirection of important trade routes away from the city. By
the fifteenth century, Ani was in terminal decline; by the seventeenth
century, it was a small village; and by the eighteenth century, it was
in ruins and abandoned.

Today, Ani is a haunting presence on the windswept steppe. Long
isolated in a militarized area, since the collapse of the Soviet Union
the border has been gradually demilitarized and has become more
accessible through the recent opening of the region to tourism.

Ani Cathedral
With its pointed arches, four interior columns, and cruciform plan
with clustered piers, Ani Cathedral, completed in 1001, is a
masterpiece of medieval Armenian architecture. It was designed by the
renowned architect Trdat, who had rebuilt the dome of Hagia Sophia
following an earthquake in the late tenth century.

Although Ani Cathedral is still standing, over the course of its
history it has suffered greatly from harsh weather conditions and
innumerable earthquakes. The latter have resulted in damage that
includes the complete collapse of the building’s central dome and the
partial collapse of its northwest corner.

Surp Amenap’rkitch Church (Church of the Holy Savior)
Completed in 1035, the Surp Amenap’rkitch Church (Church of the Holy
Savior) was built as a reliquary for a fragment of the True Cross. It
was a two-part rotunda in form, comprising a lower portion capped by a
smaller one above. Each portion of the exterior comprised 19 sides.
Inside, the lower portion was divided into eight sections, each capped
by a conch, or semi-dome, while the smaller upper portion was a smooth
surface regularly punctuated by windows and capped by a dome.

Like the Ani Cathedral, the Church has suffered earthquake damage
throughout its history. In addition, in 1930 a lightning strike caused
the southeast side of the building to collapse.

From: A. Papazian

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