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Church of the Holy Cross, Akdamar

It cost TL15 to cross on the boat that waits until it is full, which is often only at weekends. To go over alone is around $100

Akdamar, the second largest of the lake’s islands, lies 3km from the southern shore of Lake Van and was an important Ottoman administrative centre. The Church of the Holy Cross, the most famous and best-preserved medieval monuments around the lake, was built here in AD 915–21 as the palace chapel for Gagik I Artsruni, ruler of the Armenian kingdom of Vaspurakan (“Land of Princes”). Its exterior sculpture is rich and large portions of its wall painting have recently been conserved, as can be seen in Brian McKee’s ten pages of photographs of the church in Cornucopia 54. The photographer found it was as popular with locals as it is with visiting Russians and Iranians.

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Issue 66, December 2023 Turkey’s Centenary Issue
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