28 March 2007
On March 29, 2007 the official inauguration of the renovated Armenian Church of Surb Khach (St. Cross) will take place on the island of Akhtamar.
The church of St. Cross is one of the grand masterpieces of medieval Armenian architecture in the Vaspurakan region. Built in 10th century by Architect Manuel, the church had been a part of the medieval Royal Premises, also functioning as the Holy See of the Akhtamar Catholicosate since 1113A.D., and continued its existence as such until 1895.
The monument has suffered great damaged throughout its long history. In 1915, as a result of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire, the Van Lake region was “ethnically cleansed” of Armenians, thousands of churches, schools and other official buildings were demolished, converted into mosques or used for other purposes. Modern day Turkey is home to ancient Armenian cities and towns that have had their names systematically erased and/or changed; Akhtamar was changed into Akdamar.
This initiative of the Turkish government is apparently intended to influence the world public opinion by propaganda and aims at neutralizing the worldwide campaign for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The same Turkish government that restored this 10th century Armenian church, in 2002 converted the Arakelots (St. Apostles’) church in Kars into a mosque which remains closed for the Armenian believers and pilgrims.
During the last 90 years the Armenian Christian cultural heritage, in contrary to the stipulations of the Lausanne Treaty and other international commitments assumed by Turkey, has been systematically destroyed or appropriated by Turkish authorities.
Sadly enough, we speak in past tense of such masterpieces of Armenian medieval architecture such as the Tekor Temple (5th century), Varagavank (10th century), the Churches of Surb Arakelots (11th century) and Surb Karapet (4-12th cc.) of Mush, Khtzkonk (10-13th cc.), Narekavank (10th century) and others, which are currently in complete destruction.
We do hope that the Turkish government from now on will pay more serious attention to the Armenian cultural heritage on the territories depopulated of Armenians as a consequence of genocide. We also hope that this event is not a single event but is a part of the new policies by the Turkish government towards the Armenian cultural monuments suffered as a result of the genocide.