Sourp Khatch Church of Akhtamar Gets Its Cross

VAN (A.W.)–According to Turkish sources, work began on Oct. 1 to mount the cross on top of Sourp Khatch Church on the island of Akhtamar.

Will the cross be finally mounted on the Holy Cross church?

During the mounting of the cross, the island will be off limits for the public.

Turkish sources call the placing of the cross the second biggest step in the “Armenia Opening” after the protocols.

The cross, which weighs 70 kg, is 2.5 m high and 130 cm wide.

Sourp Khatch Church has been restored and designated as a museum by Turkish authorities. On Sept. 19 the first Divine Liturgy in 95 years took place at the church. However, the failure of Turkish authorities to place the cross on the church before the service caused a high and low level boycott of the service on the part of Armenians.


Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in Political Science and English and her M.A. in Conflict Resolution from the University of Massachusetts (Boston).


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  1. I thought the Turkish authorities said the cross was too heavy for the dome to be placed atop for the September 19th one-day Mass.  What happened? The cross became lighter now…?

  2. I have read 200 (two hundred) kilo’s in earlier reportings. I guess the reporter has erred  as a metal object of 2.5 m high and 130 cm wide would have much more wieght than 70 kilo’s.

  3. So, tit – for – tat! When can we expect the Armenian government to restore at least one mosque in Armenia? That’s certainly not asking for much now, is it?

  4. Hey “Robert”, if it is your real name! There are no ruined mosques in Armenia. There was one in Jerevan, the Blue mosque, which had fallen in delapidated state during the Soviet rule, but has been renovated after independance completely and is now one of the most beautiful and the biggest mosque in the whole of Causasus. By the way, Akhtamar is still a “musuem” and only once a year by the “good offices” of the Turkish government may be prayed there.

  5. I personally do not believe in tit for tat.  Turks and others should do what is right because it is right.  This church is part of Turkish national treasure regardless of what it may mean for others.  Yes, there seems to be some political timing consideration involved in putting up the cross, but such is the world we live in and what happens in a democracy.  The very muted reaction here speaks for itself though. 

    So, can we expect you all to buy tickets to Van next year?  I highly recommend THY, best service, best value for the money, and has the only connection. 

  6. “I personally do not believe in tit for tat.  Turks and others should do what is right because it is right.”
    Murat, I hear you, and I agree. But then shouldn’t you have condemned Turkey for using this Akhtamar mass as a political publicity stunt?
    “Even before the “Holy Cross Museum” was inaugurated, a Turkish Parliamentary delegation had arrived in Washington with a bulky photo album. Mehmet Dulger, then Chairman of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission, relayed the following message to Members of the U.S. Congress: “See, the Turks, whom you accuse of genocide, have renovated an Armenian Church with taxes collected from Turks. And those photos are the evidence.” The photo album was distributed worldwide to all organizations advocating “Armenian genocide claims,” according to the Turkish newspaper Zaman. Furthermore, Turkey invited to the opening of the “Holy Cross Museum” the culture ministers of all countries that had adopted or were considering to adopt resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide.”
    Putting a cross up now seems rather insulting, in my opinion. Why? Because Armenians are not allowed to pray in the church. They were permitted to do so only one day, on September 19. All Armenians wanted to do was pray in the church which had the cross. Well, on Sept. 19 they could pray, but there was no cross, and now, there is a cross, but they cannot pray. Do you understand how this is frustrating?

  7. There stunts to be condemned and ridiculed, like that of MHP prayer session at Ani, which totally backfired on them, and then there are gestures, which may have political motivations but still achive something positive in the end.  Keep in mind, this is an elected government, and I really doubt if they have any presseure form their base to do anything about Akdamar.  MHP was under pressure on the other hand, and cowardly they gave in.

    I just hope one day that an Armenian or a Greek delegation arrives at DC with a similar bulky folder and surprise all of us with their political “stunts”.

  8. Murat, you’d never know if there’s behind-the-scene external pressure on the government. Also, the original name of the Armenian island on Lake Van is Akhtamar. Another appalling Turkish trend at changing original geographical and historical toponyms. Because deep inside you know they’re not yours, don’t you?

  9. Are we supposed to be excited by this news?  I could not care less if Turks restore a church.  It does not change my negative opinion of Turkey one bit.  One church with one cross.  Big deal.

  10. I beilive that in the near future the museum turns a church like before and i hope that Ani also restore and became a friendship city beetwen Turks and Armenians.
    It is beginning and i am really hopefull for future.
    best wishes from istanbul

  11. can’t you at least publish a recent photograph where the restoration work can be seen instead of the one you used?

  12. Hawk, it seems you are new to this website. There are original photographs from Akhtamar scattered all over the place. A good place to start is here:
    If you click on the first link, you’ll download a PDF file with 2 full pages of Akhtamar photographs taken by Mujgan Arpat. There are photographs also in several articles I read this past week, like in the coverage of the Akhtamar Mass and Ayse Gunaysu’s column. If you can’t find them, I will look for the links.

  13. Istanbul – All Armenian heritage—stolen, blown up, desecrated, or transformed to mosques and sheepcotes—must to be turned to their original purpose. One step in that direction is placing our religious sites in Armenian provinces under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople. Ani is a world Christian heritage, just as Hagia Sopjia is. It must be restored and placed under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate too. I don’t think that restored Ani could become a “friendship city” between Turks and Armenians, because our problem is much deeper than detonated and desecrated Armenian churches and monasteries. Your state MUST acknowledge the genocide committed against Armenians. Make no mistake that as a result of insignificant steps, such as two-hour Mass in Akhtamar’s Holy Cross church, Armenians can be disoriented in pursuing their demand for justice…

  14. To Paul,
    I don’t quit agree with you in rejecting what “Istanbul” has proposed as a prudent wish. A restored “city of friendship” does not mean abandoning pursuance of justice. But it is a thought in the right direction. We should hope that there are more Turks who think like him instead of those who perform namaz before the church to add salt to the wound. 

  15. Arsen – I understand. But a restored “city of friendship” does not mean I can befriend Turks short of their apology for annihilating my nation.

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