The contrast of majesty and isolation of the Armenian city of Ani, which has been on the territory of modern Turkey since 1920, is the subject of a new article by Turkish newspapers.
The thrill of finding an undiscovered ancient site has no match. Visiting Ani, the long forgotten capital of the ancient Armenian Kingdom, offers the same feeling as the site has been unoccupied for centuries
If you were paying attention to the news this week, you may have seen the discovery of a new sunken castle in Lake Van. A team of divers in tandem with Yüzüncü Yıl University found the site, more than a square kilometer of ruins. It’s not clear how large the fortress would have been, as they’d have to excavate the site, but about 3 meters of stone wall just above the lake floor. Archaeologists figure the ruins are from about 3,000 years ago, when the water level would have been much lower – not much point to building a castle underwater, after all. As part of the project, the diving team shot some eerie, beautiful footage when they found the fortress – flashlight beams filter through gentle blue water, alighting on proud blocks of stone in the deep.
It’s easy to get jealous. Few people get to feel that rush of discovery, when you know that you’re the first people in a long time to set foot (or in this case, flipper) on an ancient site. If the only people who get to discover lost cities have to wear scuba gear to do it, what hope do the rest of us have? El Dorado’s been eaten by jungle, Atlantis has sunk; Shangri-La’s just some Buddhist monk’s made-up story. Even Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, a wholly accessible lost city choked by vines, is also so choked by tourists that seeing it feels less like a discovery and more like a chaperoned trip to an outdoor museum.
However, you can get a taste of that feeling if you’re willing to head far, far to the east in Turkey. Take a flight out to Kars, and then a two-hour drive out to Ocaklı village near the Armenian border, and then walk up the hill. That’s where you’ll find a lost city to discover.
Ani used to be a capital city of an Armenian kingdom in the 11th century. Its wealth and architecture rivaled Byzantine’s Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). With a population of more than 200,000 at its peak, it was larger than both London and Paris at the time. It had a huge castle, battlements, a defensive wall, a thousand churches, 40 gates, and a thriving economy, and now, all that’s left are its abandoned ruins on a high plateau. A stone bridge down in the gorge across a river, half collapsed. A guttered cone atop a brick church. The domes and arches of a sanctuary, fallen-in and exposed to the air. A cathedral with sturdy walls, covered with still-visible Armenian inscriptions, but with exposed, broken masonry. Walls and a gate no longer protecting anything. Emptiness.
The contrast strikes you immediately: This must have been a magnificent city in its day, and yet today, this is the middle of nowhere and nobody lives here. Ani still has a lot of things standing, including some half-crumbled churches, towers, and a wall. It’s wonderful to see such amazing stone architecture of a forgotten empire, and even better is that almost nobody goes there. On a really busy day, there might be eight other tourists.
You wouldn’t be the only one to observe the contrast of majesty and isolation. In researching this article, I found numerous accounts of travelers from the 1800s up through the turn of the century who describe the same impression when they saw Ani for the first time.
Here’s a sample:
“On the other bank we saw basilicas, tiled Armenian domes and a complete absence of human beings. It was the ruins of the ancient Armenian capital, Ani – one of the real wonders of the world […] What is Ani like? There are things beyond description, no matter how hard you try,” Konstantin Paustovski, Russian author, in 1923″We admire these buildings in much the same state and condition as when they delighted the eyes of Armenian monarchs nine centuries ago. Such a site would in Western lands be at least occupied by a small town or village; the solitude of Ani is not shared by creations of a culture that has disappeared,” HFB Lynch, British author of “Armenia: Travels and Studies,” in 1901
“In the western extremity of this great town, in which no living beings except ourselves seemed breathing, we saw the palace, once of the kings of Armenia; and it is a building worthy the fame of this old capital […] The farther I went, and the closer I examined the remains of this vast capital, the greater was my admiration of its firm and finished masonry. In short, the masterly workmanship of the capitals of pillars, the nice carvings of the intricate ornaments, and arabesque friezes, surpassed anything of the kind I had ever seen, whether abroad, or in the most celebrated cathedrals of England,” English diplomat Sir Robert Ker Porter in 1817
“Before us lay extended a rocky plain about 5 miles in length, and at its further extremity was a mighty city, surrounded by walls with towers, churches and palaces – a noble pile, but devoid of animation […] and so intense was the impression occasioned by this solitude amongst ruins, that, even later on at Babylon and at Palmyra, I did not experience so acute a sensation,” Baron Max von Thielmann, German writer, in his 1872 book “Journey in the Caucasus, Persia, and Turkey in Asia.”
But British army officer Maj. Gen. Charles Gordon in his letter described it best in 1857: “I feel myself unable to describe this extraordinary place as it ought to be done.”
So what happened? The city’s Armenian rulers made their living off of Silk Road trade – Ani wasn’t a natural stop on the road, but its merchant-kings were so effective that it managed to pull travelers from the trade routes between Trebizond (Trabzon) on the Black Sea and Persia in the east. First it was little more than a castle on a hill. The Bagratid kings purchased the castle and moved their capital there from Kars in the 900s. After a century of prosperity, the city’s power and reputation grew, and they hired architects and masons to expand the city’s influence. It was said they had more than a thousand churches. In those days, fancy churches were the pet projects of rich merchants who had the largess to fund it – even a hundred churches would have indicated a wealthy population.
But the city was too valuable. Over the next two centuries, the city changed hands a lot. After a fight with a Byzantine army, their king Gagik II went to Constantinople to negotiate, and was promptly throw in jail. In exchange for giving the city up, he was given a palace in Kayseri as compensation. The city was then captured by an army of Seljuk Turks, who had no idea what to do with the place and sold it to the Kurdish Shaddadid dynasty. The citizens appealed to the Christian Georgians for help, and over the next few years Queen Tamar captured it and installed a government. Then it got overrun by the Kara Koyunlu Mongols in the 1300s, who moved the Armenian capital to Yerevan. Residents had had enough by that point, and began to emigrate elsewhere. The city became a town, and the town a village, inhabited by shepherds and farmers, until nomadic bandits sapped what life was left in the place. By the mid-1800s nobody was left.
But the buildings definitely remain. Visitors to Ani should hit a few key spots. The Cathedral is a massive rust-colored temple, built when the city was thriving. Its architect Trdat was so well-known that he was called upon by the Byzantines rebuilt the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople when its dome collapsed. The Cathedral of Ani’s dome has now collapsed too, but most of the structure still stands. Inside, visitors can see sculpted columns, arches, and gates – this Cathedral had separate doors for the king, the Armenian Patriarch, and the laity, so it’s fun to gape at the sky shining through and guess where each door would have been. Just nearby is the minaret of the Manuhcer Mosque, a reminder of the Seljuk occupiers. It’s an odd hybrid, as the Turks employed Armenian architects to build a Muslim house of worship. Notable for its octagonal minaret, it’s also the earliest mosque we know of built in Anatolia. You should also see the Church of St. Gregory, as the frescos inside haven’t completely faded yet. It’s in better condition than most of the other structures and visitors can get a cartoony Cliffs Notes of St. Gregory’s deeds. The dome of the Church of the Holy Redeemer pokes above the random piles of rubble, but if you look at the other side, you’ll be looking at a cutaway view. Only half the church still stands propped up by scaffolds. The other half fell down long ago. Down below in the river gorge, you can see the ruins of an ancient bridge, but don’t get too close – the river is the border between Armenia and Turkey. Not that you could walk across anyways, as only a few supports now stand on either bank.
For a more comprehensive guide to the area, I highly recommend you check out virtualani.org, where they have more than 1,000 photos and 300 separate pages full of detailed information on Ani’s history, architecture, and other ancient Armenian sites nearby. But that breaks the immersion that you’ve discovered the place for the first time, doesn’t it? Perhaps, but then again, so did reading this article. Let’s agree on this: Just because something has been discovered by a bunch of 19th century Europeans, that doesn’t mean it’s been discovered by you. Ani’s still waiting for you to discover it, too.
On Monday, February 27, the Armenian National Institute (ANI) launched a Turkish-language version of its popular website documenting the facts and acknowledgments of the Armenian Genocide available at www.turkish.armenian-genocide.org.
The ANI site is visited over four million times a year and the number of people accessing from Turkey is substantial. As Turkey regularly censors foreign and domestic websites and the ANI English site has been hacked by denialists, the new ANI Turkish site was designed to give access to broader Turkish-language audiences, both in the Republic of Turkey and outside. The Turkish-language site will parallel many of the most commonly used features of the ANI site. For its first phase, the Turkish site features translations of official documents from countries around the world that formally recognize the Armenian Genocide.
The resolutions, laws, and declarations from countries that have historically recognized the Armenian Genocide can now be read in Turkish. They range from the May 24, 1915 Joint Allied Declaration that invoked crimes against humanity at the time the genocide was being committed to more recent parliamentary resolutions, including the 2016 German Parliament resolution that recognized the historic events and admitted German responsibility in the matter. Earlier this month the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany upheld the validity of the resolution.
Audiences in Turkey are also unaware of the voluminous Turkish records that confirm the facts of the Armenian Genocide. In 2004 the proceedings and legal analysis by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), commissioned by the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, was published in Turkish and several books have appeared in print since, but there is a massive gap in resources for Turkish speakers.
The ICTJ legal opinion in Turkish is available on the new website, which also includes a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section and a photographic collection. Additionally, a section for entries from the Encyclopedia of Genocide addressing several aspects of the Armenian Genocide is currently under construction.
The site will have new features that will be of particular interest to Turkish readers. The Institute is looking forward to expanding the site in the same systematic manner and by the same objective standards by which the ANI site was created.
The new site also features the ANI map keyed in Turkish, and links to other popular features, such as its digital exhibits and online museum.
Founded in 1997, the Armenian National Institute (ANI) is a 501(c)(3) educational charity based in Washington, D.C., and is dedicated to the study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
The World Heritage Committee holding its 40th session from 10 July in Istanbul (Turkey) recorded during Friday’s session afternoon five new websites: a transboundary site (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia) and sites in Spain, Greece, UK and Turkey.
Cemeteries of medieval tombs Stecci (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia) – This serial has 30 sites, located in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to the west of Serbia, Montenegro west and central and southern Croatia, which represent cemeteries and medieval tombs, or stecci specific to these regions. These cemeteries dating from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, are organized in rows, as was the custom in Europe since the Middle Ages. The Stecci are mostly carved in limestone. They have a wide variety of decorative motifs and inscriptions that testify iconographic continuities in medieval Europe and the oldest specific local traditions.
Archaeological site of Philippi (Greece) – The remains of this fortified city spread out at the foot of an acropolis located in the present region of eastern Macedonia and Thrace, on the old road that connects Europe Asia, the Via Egnatia. Founded in 356 BC by the Macedonian king Philip II, the city then develops as a “little Rome” with the creation of the Roman Empire in the decades following the battle of Philippi in 42 BC -C. the Hellenistic monuments such as the grand Theatre and the funeral heroon (temple) are then complemented by Roman buildings as the forum. The city later became a center of Christian faith after visiting the Apostle Paul in 49-50 AD. The remains of churches are an exceptional testimony of the primitive establishment of Christianity.
dolmens site of Antequera (Spain) – In the heart of Andalusia in southern Spain, the site includes three megalithic monuments: the dolmen of Menga, Viera and the dolmen of the tholos of El Romeral and two natural monuments: the Peña de los Enamorados and El Torcal which are two visual cues within the site. Edified during the Neolithic and Bronze Age with large blocks of stone, these monuments form chambers and spaces covered with lintels or false cupolas. These three graves, buried under their original tumulus, are one of the most outstanding architectural works of European prehistory and one of the most important examples of European megaliths.
Archaeological site of Ani (Turkey) – The site is located north-east of Turkey on an isolated plateau, overlooking a gorge forming a natural border with Armenia. This medieval city combines residential structures, religious and military characteristics of a medieval town built over the centuries by the Christian and Muslim dynasties. The city reached its peak in the tenth and eleventh centuries AD when it became the capital of medieval Armenian kingdom of Bagratuni and derives its wealth of mastering the trade of one of the branches of the Silk Road. Later, under the Byzantine, Seljuk and Georgian sovereignty, it remains important hub status for trade caravans. The Mongol invasion and a devastating earthquake in 1319 marked the beginning of the decline of the city. Ani offers a wide panorama of the medieval architectural development through the presence of almost all architectural types that have emerged in the region between the seventh and thirteenth century AD
All caves Gorham (United Kingdom) – The steep limestone cliffs, located in the eastern part of the rock of Gibraltar, contain four caves with archaeological and paleontological sites attest to the presence Neanderthal, for a period of more than 125 000 years. This exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions of Neanderthals is reflected in particular by traces of hunting birds and marine animals for food and the use of ornamental feathers, and the presence of rock engravings abstract. Scientific research conducted at the site have already made significant contributions to debates on the Neanderthal and human evolution.
The 40th session of the World Heritage Committee will continue until July 20 under the chairmanship of Lale Ülker, Ambassador, Director General of Cultural Affairs and promotion abroad to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Stéphane © armenews.com
On the Turkish side of the Armenian-Turkish frontier lies the spectacular medieval city of Ani. The deserted city is an Armenian cultural and religious heritage symbol. Filip Warwick documented its remains.
Perched above the Akhurian River in the Turkish province of Kars, the Armenian city of Ani once stood on various East-West trade routes. Ani’s citadel, built in the seventh century, now overlooks the Turkish-Armenian border. The sign warns that entrance to the area is forbidden.
The Monastery of the Hripsimian Virgins, in the ruins of the city of Ani, Turkey, on April 19, 2011. The monastery is thought to have been built between 1000 and 1200 AD, near the height of Ani’s importance and strength. The Akhurian River below acts as the modern border between Turkey and Armenia.
Situated on the eastern border of Turkey, across the Akhurian River from Armenia, lies the empty, crumbling site of the once-great metropolis of Ani, known as “the city of a thousand and one churches.” Founded more than 1,600 years ago, Ani was situated on several trade routes, and grew to become a walled city of more than 100,000 residents by the 11th century. In the centuries that followed, Ani and the surrounding region were conquered hundreds of times — Byzantine emperors, Ottoman Turks, Armenians, nomadic Kurds, Georgians, and Russians claimed and reclaimed the area, repeatedly attacking and chasing out residents. By the 1300s, Ani was in steep decline, and it was completely abandoned by the 1700s. Rediscovered and romanticized in the 19th century, the city had a brief moment of fame, only to be closed off by World War I and the later events of the Armenian Genocide that left the region an empty, militarized no-man’s land. The ruins crumbled at the hands of many: looters, vandals, Turks who tried to eliminate Armenian history from the area, clumsy archaeological digs, well-intentioned people who made poor attempts at restoration, and Mother Nature herself. Restrictions on travel to Ani have eased in the past decade, allowing the following photos to be taken. [27 photos]
Source: the atlantic
Turkish archaeologists have just made an interesting discovery in the ruins of Ani, the Armenian capital Bagratid. With the decline in the groundwater level, archaeologists discovered under the foundations of the city while a giant network of passageways dug. At an international conference entitled “Secrets of the basement of Ani” organized by the Caucasian University of Kars, archaeologist Sezayi Yakic revealed the discovery of bridges, meditation rooms, passages and many other elements in the basement of Ani.
The network of underground passages is such that “it would be very easy to get lost,” he said. More than 823 buildings were discovered in the basement galleries of Ani. Much of these constructions are restrooms number of officials from the Armenian capital. S. Yakic says his team of archaeologists has consulted the work of Georgi Gurdjiev 1886 to make these discoveries. G. Gurdjiev, accompanied by a certain Boghossian had conducted numerous archaeological discoveries in the ruins of Ani. G. Gurdjiev who spoke and read fluent Armenian had also discovered the writings said to be esoteric.
Recall Ani, the capital of the Armenian kingdom of Bagrationi, had the eleventh century over 100 000 inhabitants. In size, it rivaled the biggest cities on the planet. This town of “Thousand and one churches” famous for its fortifications and architecture, was one of the largest business centers in the region … until its destruction by the Seljuk Turks in 1064.
Below we present an article about ancient Armenian city of Ani from Atlas Obscura, a blog on Slate about the world’s hidden wonders.
On the Turkish-Armenian border, scattered in the plains among the wildflowers, are the crumbling remains of a once mighty city. In the 11th century, Ani was home to over 100,000 people. Situated on a number of trade routes, the city became the capital of the Kingdom of Armenia, an independent state established in 884.
Ani was attacked by the Byzantines during the empire’s 1045 takeover of the Armenian Kingdom. Two decades later, Seljug Turkish invaders captured the city, murdered and enslaved its inhabitants, and sold the whole place to a Kurdish dynasty known as the Shaddadids.
The attacks continued in the 13th century, when the Mongols made two attempts — one thwarted, one successful — to capture the city. An earthquake in 1319 caused significant damage to Ani’s many 11th-century churches. The city stumbled onward, but was much smaller by the mid-17th century and completely abandoned by 1750.
Today Ani is a grand but ruined ghost town. Tensions between Turkey and Armenia have contributed to its neglect — it is an Armenian city but lies within Turkish borders, making conservation and restoration difficult. To visitors, Turkey omits all mentions of Armenia from descriptions of Ani’s history and focuses on the city’s Turkish and Muslim influences.