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St Bartholomew the Healer

This lonely, ruined monastery church stands on a fortified hill to the north of Başkale along the Great Zap Valley just 12 miles from the Iranian border. Dating from the 13th century, the monumental block encloses both zamatun (narthex) and sascristies. Known for his healing powers, the saint who was martyred here is said to have brought Christianity to the Armenians and is the patron saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church. His feast day is August 24 and the church was a popular place of pilgrimage. By the late 19th century there were 100 villages in the monastery’s diocese. It was damaged in 20th century conflicts, and in the 1966 earthquake. Until 2009 it was used by the military. It no longer has a roof or domes, but the low-relief figures at its entrance are a curiosity, and the graffiti of the pilgrims remain. Brian McKee snuck through a gap in the barbed wire to visit for his photographic essay in Cornucopia 54. “Abandoned houses, barracks and watchtowers were reminders of the difficult past in this part of Turkey.” he writes.

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Issue 66, December 2023 Turkey’s Centenary Issue
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