Letter: Raise the Ship Cilicia!

Dear Editor,

By the time you read this letter, the Cilicia ship of Armenia could be a thing of the past, a history. It’s falling apart and is in need of emergency repairs that would cost some $30,000.

Cilicia is an exclusive Armenian ship that was built by the AYAS Nautical Research Club, the only specialists in navigation on middle-age ships in the world. It’s the exact replica of a 13th-century merchant sailing-ship of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. AYAS began its construction 18 years ago based on ancient manuscripts kept in the Matenadaran of the capital of Armenia. The club takes its name from “Ayas,” the name of the port city of ancient Cilicia where the original ship was built by Armenians in the 13th century. The Turks changed port Ayas’ name to Yumurtalik.

From 2004-06, the captain, Karen Balayan, with 14 crew members, sailed by medieval trade sea routes around Europe, via the Black, Mediterranean, North, and Baltic Seas and the Atlantic Ocean, covering a distance of more than 1,500 miles and visiting 62 ports in 25 countries. It gave much publicity to Armenia.

In September 2006, they came back with the ship to Yerevan. There were 12 ancient Armenian historical banners flying on the ship in addition to the present tricolor flag. They’ve displayed the ship from time to time to the public, but nothing serious has been done about it and the ship is now decaying slowly. Soon it will be used as winter fire-wood for lack of funds.

With financial help the ship can survive in one of following ways.

First, it can be moved to a special pier on Lake Sevan, near the Sevanavank peninsula, a popular summer recreation destination for tourists and locals alike. The ship can be a working museum on Lake Sevan, and people will be able to correspond with the history of Armenia and that of the ship. Sailing trips aboard the ship, over the lake (one of the largest freshwater alpine lakes in the world, located some 2,000 meters high above sea level), can be organized for one, two, or three hours. Up to 50 people can come aboard as visitors. The ship has a good speed of six knots and the ability to sail under the wind. It is equipped with six spare sails. Apart from the beautiful scenery of Lake Sevan, the visitors can see firsthand how our ancestors had sailed and operated these kinds of vessels. The sailors onboard would replicate for them the methods of navigation of Armenians during the 13th century.

Second, a special museum building can be constructed to house the ship in Yerevan. It can serve as an excellent educational tool for students from all over Armenia, giving them a glimpse into the period of the Armenian Renaissance in Cilicia, especially if we take into consideration that “the ship was reconstructed in strict accordance with the information found in the medieval manuscripts and miniatures by using the techniques and technologies available in the 13th century. It was equipped with all accessories traditional to the 13th century,” as AYAS claims, and that “the ship was made from two types of wood: marine oak (skeleton) and pine (planking); [and] five tons of copper nails…”

I can now reveal another secret of Cilicia’s construction: A piece of wood that was found at the top of Mt. Ararat, believed to have been a part of Noah’s Ark, was incorporated into the ship’s frame. (The exact location cannot be told, as the sacred relic could be stolen.) Furthermore, a nail was found on that piece of Noah’s Ark which was also incorporated in the building of the ship. (The exact location again cannot be disclosed.)

This winter, during the bitter cold, you can let the sacred Cilicia be used as firewood. Or you can save the ship now, along with its two sacred relics, by doing something about it.

 Email ayas@freenet.am, call +37410 578510 or +37491 430382.
Jack Manuelian
Paramus, N.J.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.


  1. I would love to help, and have asked the facebook group ‘for salvation of Cilicia’ for a safe and secure way for people to donate money to save this ship and nobody has been helpful. I had hoped this article would provide a website where a secure donation could be made but the website listed at the end of the article goes to a relatively empty Russian-language site which seems to be a web-developer based in Tartarstan region of Russia, did anyone bother to check the link before posting it in the article??? It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the ship or the story. Kind of sad. And I don’t really feel comfortable calling a random phone number in Yerevan to send my money… sorry, wish I could help but nobody makes it possible, let alone easy to do so. Amot e, shat gheghetsik er mer Kilikia nav…

  2. It is sad to read about the faith of AYAS and her voyages and 62 port calls.  I believe that Goverment of Armenia should take over salvage operation of the vessel and use it in international  events and regattas , as a good representative of Armenia’s seafaring heritage.  Definitly in such events there would be businesses who would love the ocasion of sponsoring the journey for their  advertisings.
    Particularly Ministries of Transport  or Tourism should inherit and sponsor and maintain the vessel . 
    To enslave AYAS in Sevan for the sake of handful of tourists is a bad idea and a mere short cut . 

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