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CHURCH OF THE HOLY SAVIOR
Located in modern-day eastern Turkey, Surp Amenap’rkitch, or the Church of the Holy Savior, is one of the few structures still standing at Ani from the prosperous Armenian Bagratid period in the tenth and eleventh centuries A.D. Situated at the heart of the archaeological zone of Ani, Surp Amenap’rkitch was completed in 1035 by Prince Abulgharib Pahlavuni in order to be a reliquary for a piece of the True Cross. It is considered especially important by historians of architecture and religion and is often cited as a particularly noteworthy example of the origins of ecclesiastical architecture in Armenia.
The architecture of the church is geometrically sophisticated, innovative, and well executed. Many of the exterior panels were decorative and surviving sections contain Armenian script that reveals details of the history of the church and the Ani settlement.
Archaeological work was conducted in Ani by the Imperial Academy of Science in Saint Petersburg during the occupation of the region by the Russian Empire at the end of the nineteenth century. Preceding World War I, the Imperial Academy repaired a large vertical crack in the church, most likely caused by seismic events. However, due to the war, research and further work were abandoned. In 1930 lightning hit the church, splitting it in half, with one side collapsing and the other left standing.
Since the church is currently split in half, it is inherently unstable. It stands today in an extremely fragile and compromised state and could be lost to total collapse in the very near future. Vandalism has also occurred through the removal of stones from the lower portions of the structure, which contributes to the weakened state of the church.
HOW WE HELPED
The conservation state of Ani came to international attention in 1996 when the archaeological zone of Ani was placed on WMF’s inaugural Watch list. Ani was on the Watch again in 1998, 2000, and 2002. Field missions to Ani were conducted in 1996 and 1998, leading to documentation and analytic work in subsequent years. In 2009, renewed interest in undertaking considerable conservation work at Ani led to an agreement with the Turkish authorities to begin preliminary planning for fuller stabilization and protection of Ani Cathedral and Surp Amenap’rkitch. The goal of the proposed preservation activity is to conserve, consolidate, and strengthen the remains of the church as a monument for the study and enjoyment of future generations. Strengthening will be necessary due to the high incidence of seismic activity in the region and the weakened state of the monument.
The long term plan is to replace vandalized stone elements; conserve for reinstallation or display the collapsed yet extant elements of the structure; strengthen the remaining walls and dome; and protection of the dome and wall construction with a waterproof membrane. Phase I site work began in the summer of 2012. Work included the construction of scaffolding and excavating around the base of the church. Stones collected are being documented and scanned. Work will continue in three phases over the next several years. The final phase of the program will involve promoting public awareness of and improving conditions in the archaeological zone for visitors.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Church of the Holy Savior is a premier example of Armenian medieval architecture and a central monument of the Ani archaeological zone. The conservation measures will ensure the structure can withstand future seismic activity in the region and that the remaining decorative elements on the interior and exterior will be preserved. Once these initial conservation measures are undertaken, the promotion of the site will ensure that visitors understand its historical and cultural significance within its cultural landscape.
Conservation at Ani Cathedral and the Church of the Holy Savior
Ani, a dramatic, windswept archaeological site in eastern Turkey, was once a thriving medieval city on the trade route through Central Asia. At its height, Ani had a population of well over 100,000, and was the rival of Constantinople, Baghdad, and Cairo. Once renowned for its splendor and magnificence, Ani has been abandoned and largely forgotten for centuries.
Its remaining architecture, built primarily in the tenth century, is historically significant as it anticipates features that became the defining characteristics of the Byzantine and later Gothic styles. World Monuments Fund’s current scope of work is focusing on the ruins of two great religious structures there: Ani Cathedral and The Church of the Holy Savior.