The Ruined Churches of Ani

Up on a plateau in the remote highlands of northeast Turkey, 45 km away from the Turkish border city of Kars, lies the crumbling ruins of some forty-odd churches, chapels and mausoleums. This area was once a glorious walled city called Ani belonging to the Armenian Kamsarakan Dynasty, who established base here in the 5th century. As the city grew in size, power and wealth, it became an important trading hub, and by the 11th century, the city boasted more than 100,000 citizens. During its heydays, it was known as “the City of Forty Gates” and sometimes “the City of a Thousand And One Churches.”

Ani’s golden age of wealth, peace and prosperity came to an end with the death of the Armenia ruler King Gagik I, after which the city gave way to a string of invaders starting with the Byzantines, followed by a ruthless massacre by the Turks, the Kurds, the Georgians, and then the Mongols who left the city devastated in 1236. Although Ani continued to exist for another six centuries it was little more than a small town. By the time the Europeans discovered Ani, it lay abandoned for nearly a century with great heaps of stones for former buildings. Ani’s most visible monuments today are the dozens of half standing churches.

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The Church of the Redeemer, completed shortly after the year 1035. It had a unique design: 19-sided externally, 8-apsed internally, with a huge central dome set upon a tall drum. The church was largely intact until 1955, when the entire eastern half collapsed during a storm.

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The Cathedral of Ani, built in 989.

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The Church of the Redeemer.

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The walls of Ani.

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The walls of Ani.

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The Monastery of the Hripsimian Virgins, by the Akhurian River.

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The walls of Ani.

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