Akdamar Church, located on Akdamar Island within the borders of Gevaş district of Van province, is located in the southeast of the island. Built between 915 and 921 by the order of Vaspurakan King Gagik I, the church is thought to represent the Holy Cross. The church, which was built by the Monk Manuel, is among the most popular structures today, as it was in the past. The church is completed in stages until it takes its final form. First, the chapel in the northeast of the church was built between 1296 and 1336, and then the Jamaton in the west was built in 1763. The latest addition to the church is the bell tower in the south, which was built in the 18th century.
History and Decorations of Akdamar Church
Although Akdamar Church initially served the palace, it was later converted into a monastery church. The building, which continues to stand due to the wear and tear of the years, was restored in 2007 in order not to collapse. The most striking part of the church, which accepts visitors as a “Monumental Museum” today, is the decorations on its surface. The building, which has a magnificent architecture, fascinates those who see it with its figured stone plastic on its exterior.
In terms of plan, it is seen that it has a cross plan with a central dome and a four-leaf clover. While a high rimmed structure is preferred in the middle space, its dome is on the inside and is surrounded by a pyramidal cone from the outside. It is thought that the reason for keeping the dome so high is to catch the vertical angle in the church. Visitors who want to enter the church must use the entrance doors located in the south and west parts. Since the figures used on the surface of the church have a great variety, it is understood that they have extremely rich architectural techniques. At the same time, various sections taken from the Bible and the Torah crown this richness and provide a more spiritual appearance.
Among the historical scenes on the walls of the church; Hz. Adam and Hz. Eve’s expulsion from heaven, Hz. Yunus being thrown into the sea, Hz. Into the lap of Mary The giving of Jesus, the Philistine Duo of Samson, the finding of Daniel in the Lion’s lair, and the burning of three Hebrew youths in the fire. These scenes, drawn with the architecture and painting techniques of the period, play an active role in the church’s gaining a more spiritual and aesthetic appearance. When looking at the western façade of the church, the first thing that catches the eye is the scene of King Gagik presenting a model of the church.
The Legend of Akdamar Church
Witnessing an important and long period of history, Akdamar Church also has a legend that has been spoken from past to present. The story of this church, located in the southeast of Lake Van, is known especially by the locals and is told to local or foreign tourists who come to visit.
Legend has it that a monk who lived in Van in the past had a beautiful daughter named Tamara. The monk’s daughter was so beautiful that she fascinated everyone who saw her with her beauty and fell in love with her. Even though almost all young people from Van are in love with this beautiful Tamara, her heart beats for another valiant. The love of the two young people, who had been secretly involved for a long time, was heard by the people of Van and it was heard by the monk who was his father. Although her father tried to separate his daughter from this young man, he could not succeed. His last resort was to get his daughter Tamara away from Van.
He thought about this, moved and had a church built on Akdamar Island in Lake Van for both his daughter and himself. Although his father thought that with this idea, he would separate his daughter and the young man, he was very wrong. At night, Tamara revealed her location to the young man she loved with a flashlight in her hand. After learning of Tamara’s location, the young man swam to the island every night and met with his beloved. After a short time, his father realized the situation and decided to prepare a trap for the young man. He moved the beacon without the knowledge of Tamara and the boy. When the young man in love tried to swim to the island at night as usual, his father pushed the lantern further away, causing the young man to be caught in the raging waves and crashed into the rocks. As the youth took his last breath, he sank into the waters shouting “Oh Tamara, Ah Tamara”. Hearing this, Tamara lost herself in the lake, leaving herself to the raging waters after her loved one. Later, two young lovers met in the deep waters of Lake Van. The cries of “Ah Tamara” have come to this day as “Akdamar”.
How to Provide Transportation to Akdamar Church?
Akdamar Church, which has a history of 1100 years, is located on Akdamar Island on Lake Van. The building, which attracts great attention and is visited by thousands of foreign tourists every year, defies time. This church, which is worth seeing in terms of location and architecture, continues to maintain its importance both in the past and today as it hosted many different sovereigns in its time.
You must first reach Van by bus or plane journey. After arriving in Van, you can easily reach the town of Gevaş, which is about 12 km away. You can go to Akdamar Island, which is located on Lake Van in Gevaş district, by boat tours at certain times during the day at very reasonable prices. After arriving on the island, you should definitely take pictures with the lake view and snowy mountains and immortalize this moment. Akdamar Church, Van’s historically fragrant architectural structure, will make you feel unforgettable throughout your life.