Now we come to the reason for my trip to Van: to draw the church on Akdamar Island. The palace-city here in the lake was thousands of years old, part of the Kingdom of Urartu. Later it was occupied by Armenian Christians. The 9th-century church is made of cinnamon-colorer stone. The outside is covered with bas-reliefs: giant figures illustrating the Bible, carved with audacity and humor in 915 CE. Armenian scholars assure me that there is nothing like this art anywhere else. Unlike so many Armenian churches and monasteries, this one was saved from destruction in the 1950s by a Turkish poet, who literally stopped the bulldozers which had destroyed the ancient city

around it. In 2005 it was preserved by the Turkish government, which cleaned off the carvings and put glass in the broken windows. It is a major tourist site and well worth a trip to Van. Once a year, the Armenian Patriarch is allowed to perform an Easter service.

Since I was only able to be on Van for two hours, I took photographs. The entire section on Akdamar was drawn from them, over the summer following my visit. We are indebted to the Eskitasçioglu Family for making my visit possible, by including me in their family party.

Armenian, Cathedral of the Holy Cross (Sourp Khatch)
Akdamar Island, Van.
10th Century, King Gagik Ardzrouni of Vaspurakan
Figures: L: John the Baptist. R: St Gregory the Illuminator. Medallion: Unknown Simplicity + Isolation = Art


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