What secrets are kept by the ancient Armenian ghost town of 1000 and one church, which today is located in Turkey
What secrets are kept by the ancient Armenian ghost town of 1000 and one church, which today is located in Turkey

Ani is a majestic ancient Armenian city in Turkey, located on the banks of the Akhuryan River. It was first mentioned in historical texts in the 5th century. Ani is worthy of the title of one of the wonders of the world, on a par with the Egyptian pyramids, or, say, Petra, Pompeii, because he was insanely beautiful. In the old days it was called the city of crafts and arts. Ani was famous for its magnificent beautiful palaces and stately churches. Contemporaries christened it "the city of a thousand and one churches." What is the main secret and trouble of this ancient truly heroic city?

In 2016, Ani received worldwide recognition. It was included in the list of World Cultural Heritage Sites. Unfortunately, the city is almost completely destroyed. The Turkish authorities do not pay due attention to the alien cultural heritage only located on their territory.

Church of St. Gregory Tigran Honent Frescoes inside the Church of St. Gregory Tigran Honent

An ancient fortress was built next to the gorge. Now this natural obstacle is the border between modern Armenia and Turkey. In those days, it was an ideal, perfectly protected place, which made Ani one of the most important points on the Silk Road. Trade along this route connected the west and east of Asia, Europe and China during the Han dynasty. Enemies tried to conquer the city more than once. For a long time Ani could resist, but everything comes to an end. The time has come when the city was conquered and devastated.

Medieval walls of Ani Church of St. Gregory of King Gagik, built between 1001 and 1005

Ani holds the title of an archaeological reserve of the first degree. Thanks to this, the site is protected by the Turkish national law on the protection of cultural and natural values. What makes Ani so exceptional? Majestic buildings, a huge number of beautiful churches … At different times, all this was built by different rulers.

A massive part of the ruins, an internal photograph of the Aninsky Cathedral

During the period when Ani was under the rule of the Armenian rulers, it was known as the “City of 1001 Churches”. Of course, there weren't that many churches. To date, archaeologists have found the remains of at least forty temples.

Ani's economic and cultural development peaked in the 10-11th centuries. In those days it was ruled by the Armenian royal family Bagratuni. Unfortunately, soon after, the Seljuk Turks and the Byzantine Empire destroyed what was left of the rulers of the Bagratids. At the beginning of the 11th century, the population of the city was about one hundred thousand people.

Ani Cathedral against the background of the Armenian mountains

Finally, the beautiful city was finished off by the Mongol raids in the 13th century and a strong earthquake in 1319. After that, Ani finally began to decline completely. Trade routes changed and the city was completely abandoned.

Castle of the Mother of God in the center on a rock above the Akhuryan river The ghost bridge under Ani. On the right is Armenia, on the left is Turkey Magnificent inscription on the outside wall of the cathedral

The architecture of the city is amazing. The first thing that catches your eye is the citadel, in which the remains of the Karamadin church are preserved. This is a church with six apses. Further there are the palace church together with the Kamsaragan palace, the Midjnaberd church and the Sushana Pahlavuni church.

Military warning sign with the Citadel in the background

The outer citadel includes the Temple of Fire, the Ramparts of Smbat II, the Seljuk Palace, the Emir Ebu'l Muammeran Complex and the Silk Road Bridge, among others. Outside the city walls, where the Bostanlar Stream flows, there are rock-hewn buildings on the side of a nearby valley.

Ani, when viewed from abroad, in Armenia

Ani keeps the remains of religious statues of Muslims and Christians, as well as Zoroastrians. Architectural and artistic evidence of the period of the domination of the Byzantines, medieval Armenians, Seljuks and Georgians has been preserved here.

Construction of this building began in 989 and was completed either in 1001 or 1010

Due to cultural mixing, many new trends developed in art and architecture during the 7-13th centuries AD. Evolution has demonstrated many different types of architecture used in the construction of churches, military buildings, government buildings, meeting places, and homes.

Castle of the Mother of God on the top of a cliff along the Akhuryan River Castle of the Virgin, visible in the center on the rocks above the Akhuryan River

Other memorable buildings include the Church of St. Gregory of Abugamrentsi, which was originally domed, the Church of the Redeemer with nineteen arches and a dome, the Church of St. Gregory Tigran Honent, built in 1215. The best preserved frescoes on the building of the Manuchihra mosque, which is located right on the edge of the cliff. It is still the subject of fiery controversy over whether it was originally built as a mosque or only later transformed into one.

Citadel (left) and Minuchihir Mosque (right) The gorge under Ani, showing numerous caves dug into the rocks, as well as fortifications

Unfortunately, in different periods of time, different restoration teams changed the original building materials. At the moment, people who are engaged in excavations are more concerned with correcting old mistakes of restorers than discovering new monuments. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which provides funds and is responsible for protecting the site, has developed many plans. Over the years, what is needed is constantly being modernized.

The picture shows traces of reconstruction work

The new plans include emergency measures against seismic and environmental risks, contextual excavation and research. It is necessary to determine how each building is connected with the whole city, and it is necessary to improve the conditions for visitors. The projects also include research and various educational programs.

Some experts believe that the time for great archaeological discoveries is long gone. There are others who say that we actually have the most amazing discoveries ahead of us. Read our article what the Holy Grail, found recently in an abandoned crypt in London, told about.

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