ISTANBUL — Photography exhibition of Armenian Holy Cross Church of Akhtamar Island has opened in Istanbul under the patronage Turkish Presidency Directorate of Communications.

During the opening of the exhibition, held at  the Saint Irene Church in the Topkapi Palace Museum, the organizers read the message of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where he says that the Holy Cross Church of Akhtamar is an important religious center for the Christian world and particularly the Armenian people. ”This and similar historical-cultural monuments are the richness of our country”, reads the president’s message.

Istanbul’s Armenian patriarchal locum tenens Bishop Sahak Mashalian was also present at the opening ceremony. Speaking about the history of the Armenian Church and its uniqueness he noted that this event is more than just an exhibition, which is part of a larger program.

“The Holy Cross Armenian Church of Akhtamar Island dates back to 1100 years. The restoration of this church, which began in 2005, has turned it into a monumental church. Every time we go, we see that the historical place is organized and developed with more care and meticulous work. Beyond being a photography exhibition, this event is organized as part of a wider project that envisions an international promotion. The world needs to get acquainted with the richness of culture and civilization in our country. History began in these lands, and the roots of our people are buried in these lands. If beauty will save the world, let us exhibit the beauties of our country to the world”. Bishop Mashalian stated.

Within the scope of the project, a book containing detailed information about the church, architectural drawings and photographs was published, and it was gathered under a web page of digital works about the church. The website , which was prepared in two different languages, Turkish and English, published 360-degree photos from 14 different locations.

The architect of the 10th century church was Bishop Manuel and built between 915 and 921 under the direction of King Gagik I Artsruni  of Vaspurakan. The church is considered one of the most important monuments of Armenian architecture and sculpture. On the exterior of the church, many important scenes from the Old and New Testaments are represented by reliefs. The church was opened on 29 March 2007 as a memorial museum with the contribution of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. Although the church was described as a “museum” by the ministry, the Armenian Patriarch of the time, Mesrob Mutafyan, took the religious character of the place into consideration and tried to carry out a ritual there. With these efforts, the church of the Holy Cross began to perform a ritual once a year, and the church’s cross was placed on top of the dome. After 2015, rituals that were not allowed for security reasons resumed last year.

A website has been launched at www.akdamarkilisesi.gov.tr, which presents the history of the island and the church in two languages –  Turkish and English.

The exhibition will be open for 20 days.

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