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A domed basilica of fine ashlar construction, resplendent with relief sculpture, İşhan ranks a close second (to Ösk Vank) as the grandest of the churches of Turkey’s northeast. It is slightly later, completed c1032. The builders have delighted in variety (writes Robert Ousterhout, Gorgeous Georgian, Cornucopia 42). And I mean variety – I dare you to find anything symmetrical in the building or its decoration. The western nave, still walled off, once functioned as a mosque, while to the east the dome preserves a painted Exaltation of the Cross, dramatically set against a background of lapis lazuli. The church, village and phenomenal location was featured in Cornucopia’s first Black Sea issue, No 12.

ishan church turkey

Unfortunately, a visit to the church in 2016 found it sloppily rebuilt as part of a large-scale restoration project. Visitors are barred from entering, which leaves you wondering what exactly was done to the interior.

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Issue 59, June 2019 Behind Closed Doors
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