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Akdamar ( Akhtamar) Holy Cross Church

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Akdamar Holy Cross Church

The Armenian Akhtamar ( Akdamar) Cathedral of the Holy Cross is not only unique because of its location in the middle of the largest lake in Turkey, but also for its rich , millenia long history, fascinating architecture and because of what it means to millions of people around the world. Now for the first time, this holy monument is being Honored 1200 kilometers away from where it stands, with a photography exhibition in Istanbul .

Virtual Tour of Akhtamar :   https://www.akdamarchurch.gov.tr


Armenian Kingdom

Akdamar City and  the Principality of Vaspurakan

In the Middle Ages, Van Region and the whole Eastern Anatolia was mostly under the control of powerful families, who were mainly influential on Armenian lineages.Over time, two of these families stood out. One of these was the Bagratuni Family from the city of Ani and the other was the Artzurini family who dominate dover the Rushtunis. In the beginning of the Middle Ages, Lake Van basin, which was named Vaspurakan belonged to the Rushtunis. The word Vaspurakan, is a name used to refer to the noblest class in the Sassanids. Ardzruni family took overand settled in a part of the Rushtuni land in the south of Lake Van; spread to all Vaspurakan land from Lake Urmiye in the east of Lake Van, to Mount Ararat in the north, and Zap River in the south.

It is known that in the beginning of the Middle Ages, at the end of the struggle for domination on Van region between the Roman Empire, the Parthian and the Sassanid States, Eastern Rome was victorious and that the Eastern Roman armies, who would be named as Byzantium in the 4th century, took over Van.However, it is indicated that during this period of struggle, the armies ofIslam came to the region in 641, during the leadership of Umar, as a third power over these lands. The region was dominated and became an emirate during the time of the Umayyad, Dvin being the centre. Governors sent for the administration of this place mostly dealt with tax affairs, and the internal affairs of the province was administered by Armenian nobles. Abbasids governed the region under the name of Armenia through these Armenian nobles whom they appointed as governors.

During the Abbasid period, when the Islamic sovereignty was fully established, many rebellions broke out in the region due to the influence of Arabic governors. Turkish rulers were assigned to supress these rebellions. In 851, the disturbances provoked by Vaspurakan Prince Ashot in Van region was suppressed by the intervention of aTurkish commander, Boga Al-Kebir, and peace was restored. To prevent these Armenian rebellions and to overthrow the influence of the Byzantine Empire on Armenians,Ali B. Yahya, who was appointed as the governor of Armenia in year 862, gave Ashod B. Simbad of the Bagratuni family, the title of “Ishkan of Ishkans”.

During there in of Muhammad al-Afshin, who was appointed as the governor of Azerbaijan in890 and who is the founder of the Turkish reign called Sacogullari in the region, Simbat bin Ashot was in the Van region and was paying taxes to theAbbasids. When Simbad made an agreement with the Byzantine Emperor Leaon I Vagainst the Abbasids, Muhammad Al-Afshin and the Baratuni Dynasty grow away from each other. As a result of this, Al-Afshin approached the Ardzruni Dynastyand defeated the Bagratuni Dynasty.

Lake Vanbasin was shared between the sons of the Vaspurakan Prince Grigor Derenik from the Arzurini dynasty, Ashot Sargis, Hacik Gagik and Gurgen, after his death.Afshin took advantage of these commotions and subjected all three sons to himself.

In 908, Abbasid Caliph Muqtadir crowned the Ardzruni prince Gagik, who lived in the Vaspurakan region in the southeast of Lake Van, and granted him the title of kingdom. The word Vaspurakan means “the highest, the loblest class” in Sassanid language. Gevaş, which was formerly named Vostan became the centre. The principality was free in its internal affairs and dependent on the Abbasids in its foreign affairs.

During the peacetime after the Abbasid Caliph granted the title of kingdom to Gagik, the two brothers, Gagik and Gourgen began their large-scale constructions in Vostanand Akdamar.

The Armenian historian Thomas Ardzuni, who is from the same lineage as Prince Gagik, mentions of King Gagik as a hero. While he emphasises that he is a pacifist, compassionate and art-loving ruler, he tells about the great wealth of the kingdom during his reign. Again, according to Ardzuni, Gagik’s favourite buildings were the church, the palace, the monastery, the town, the marketplace and the port in Akdamar Island and they were all designed by Gagik himself. Vaspurakan Kingdom, which was centred in Vostan, built many works ofart around Lake Van in this period. The construction of the Akdamar Church of the Holy Cross began in year 915, seven years after Gagik started to reign and was completed in year 921.

The Kingdom of Vaspurakan started to weaken after Gagik’s death in 937. It ceased to be a kingdom with an agreement between the Byzantine King Basil II and King Senekerim in 1021 and became one of the eastern provinces of the ByzantineEmpire.

You can virtually visit Akhtamar  ( Akdamar) Holy Cross Church here


The website is prepared and launched by The Directorate of Communications under the Presidency of the Turkish Republic  ( https://www.iletisim.gov.tr/english )

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