Thoughts on Aghtamar’s Re-opening

dscn0033.jpgThe Turkish government has re-opened the Armenian church of Aghtamar on Lake Van with much fanfare and gaudy nationalism, though thankfully some Turkish writers are speaking out against the misguided policy (here).

The Turkish government jettisoned its original idea of opening the Aghtamar on April 24th (the international day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide)–which would’ve been a cruel joke.

All this started me thinking about the monument that has languished in disrepair for so long:

  • It is one the most important architectural jewels of the medieval period–more unique and insightful (but not influential, because of its remote location) than almost any other building of the 10th C.
  • It is a wildly fantastical monument that combines a love of linear abstraction, narrative ingenuity, and seems to have a deeply intimate approach to religious doctrine.
  • The rich iconography on this building does not exist anywhere else in the world and should be an integral landmark in any study of medieval visual culture (incl. exterior nude representations of Adam & Eve–unfortunately vandalized over the centuries).
  • It is a flawless blending of disparate cultural currents that were rarely harmonized in the history of art.

akhtamarcarvings.jpgHrant Dink foretold the recent Aghtamar tragi-comedy in an article published in Agos on the day of his assassination. He wrote,

“The opening of the restored Surp Haç Armenian Church of Ahtamar Island has turned into a comedy..[it is] impossible-to-hide hidden motive could not be more revealing. A real comedy… A real tragedy…The government hasn’t still been able to formulate a correct approach to the ‘Armenian question.’ Its real aim is not to solve the problem, but to gain points like a wrestler in a contest. How and when it will make the right move and defeat its opponent…It restores an Armenian church in the Southeast, but only thinks, ‘How can I use this for political gains in the world, how can I sell it.'”

Coincidentally, if anyone hasn’t seen the PBS Frontline segment on Hrant Dink’s murder, I recommend going here to view it online.


2 responses to “Thoughts on Aghtamar’s Re-opening

  1. Is this the church whose floorplan you have tattooed on your ankle? Seems like a very special place. Can’t we take it down and move it to the Met? (Just kidding. Sort of.)

  2. No, that’s Etchmiadzin, this is a smaller princely church in the middle of Lake Van (Eastern Turkey), the other is located in the Republic of Armenia.

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