Religious ceremony held in Armenian church in Turkey's east after 95 years

Religious ceremony held in Armenian church in Turkey's east after 95 years

A religious ceremony was held Sunday at a historical Armenian church located in an eastern Turkish province for the first time after 95 years, Anadolu Agency reported.
   The Armenian church located on Akdamar island in Lake Van in Turkey's Van province was opened to worshippers for a single day.
   Sunday's ritual, directed by Archbishop Aram Atesyan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, lasted 2 hours.
   Hundreds of Christians arrived at Akdamar to attend today's mass, as only 50 protocol members could be allowed in the church due to lack of space inside the historical building. Guests watched the ceremony via two giant screens built-up in the church's garden.
   High-level officials, diplomats, journalists, Armenian community members and officials from Germany, France, several other European countries and USA attended the ceremony.
   Delivering a speech at the gathering, Archbishop Aram Atesyan said the patriarchate attached great importance to the preservation of Akdamar Church and its transfer to future generations.
   "This church, which is a valuable piece of art, is a cultural monument that belongs to the whole humanity. On this occasion, we would like to express our thanks to the state and government of Republic of Turkey for restoring and protecting this building," Atesyan said.
   The island of Akdamar in Lake Van in Eastern Anatolia is famous for its Armenian church.
   The Church of Akdamar was built by Architect Bishop Manuel between 915-921 A.D. under the supervision of King Gagik I.
   The name given to the island, Aght'amar, is explained by a well known legend among local population: A nobleman who fell in love with a beautiful girl named Tamar visited the island every night to see her. As he was crossing the lake one stormy night, his boat capsized and fighting the waves, he drowned uttering the words "Ach Tamar". Tamar, awaiting the arrival of her loved one, grieved deeply upon hearing the news of his death and died soon after. Hence, the island was called "Ach Tamar" (Aght'amar/Akdamar) ever since.
   The church remained as a part of a monastic complex until the beginning of the 20th century, after which it was abandoned during World War I due to the fights along the Russian border and it was left in a bad condition for many years.
   Turkish authorities restored the church between 2005-2007 and opened it as a museum.
   Upon a proposal by the Governor's Office of Van and approval of the Turkish Culture & Tourism Ministry, Akdamar Church will host a religious worship once a year from now on.

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