Hidden Gem of the Medieval Age in Ani
Located in modern-day eastern Turkey, Surp Amenap’rkitch, or the Church of the Holy Redeemer, 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, the Church of the Holy Redeemer 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.
Conservation and Public Awareness toward the World Heritage Site
The conservation state of Ani started to come 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 The Church of the Holy Redeemer. 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. The conservation work began in the summer of 2012 and will continue in three phases. The Phase I site work, including stone documentation, construction of scaffolding and excavating around the base of the church, was completed in 2015. In the summer of 2017, the masonry capitals were carved in Armenia and moved to Turkey, and the fallen inscription was re-installed. The goal of the current Phase II work is to stabilize and conserve the monument, which was completed in 2018. The last phase will stabilize the structure with the recovery of carved stone to replace the temporary timber buttress, which is scheduled to be completed by late 2020.
After continuous efforts for two decades, The World Heritage Committee inscribed the Archaeological Site of Ani on the World Heritage List in 2016. The final phase of the planned program will include driving public awareness for the site and improving conditions in the archaeological zone for visitors.