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Church of the Holy Cross, Turkey
Idea About: place
1,100 year-old Armenian Church of the Holy Cross or Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross is located on Akdamar Island (also known as Akhtamar). The island is the second in size of four islands on Lake Van in the south of Eastern Anatolia Region, Turkey. It is about 0.27 sq miles in size (0.7 sq km) and is located about 1.9 miles (3 km) from the shoreline. A limestone cliff rises 262 feet (80 m) above the lake level (6,273 feet or 1,912 meters above the sea level) at the western end of the island. From the cliff to inland the terrain gently declines into a level site with a spring.The Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross was built in 915 - 921 AD, and was the seat of Armenian Catholicos from 1116 to 1895. The architecture of the church reflects the style developed in Armenia many centuries ago. Medieval Armenian architecture and Armenian churches have several distinctive features. The most known among them are pointed cones, (reminiscent of the volcanic cone of Mount Ararat) as well as segmented domes (also called cupola) mounted above a cylindric drum. The Church of the Holy Cross incorporates all these classical features including a dome with a conical roof, red tuff (type of volcanic rock) walls heavily covered with frescoes and carvings.
What Makes It Special
It is the only survived medieval Armenian church in which most of the wall paintings are still intact. The importance of the Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross is in its unique Armenian architecture and splendid display of bas-relief carvings of biblical scenes that make external walls so beautiful.
Directions To Destination
If city of Van is your destination here is how you can get there:
Van Airport (VAN) has a daily nonstop flight to and from Istanbul, and two flights daily to and from Ankara. Besides you can get to Van by plane from major cities in Europe. The airport is located about 15 minutes drive from the city center. Outside the airport there are taxis and dolmuses ((a minibus).
There is weekly train from Istanbul to Teheran which stops at the city of Van, called the 'Trans-Asia Express'. It goes from Istanbul to Tatvan, then by ferry across Lake Van to city Van. Only one baggage car is taken across Lake Van on the ferry. The train has air-conditioning and a restaurant.
There is a ferry between two towns on the opposite shores of the lake Van - Tatvan and Van. It takes about four hours to cross the lake and reach the city of Van.
From Talvan and Van to the Akdamar Island:
Take a two-mile (three kilometers) boat trip from the small town of Gevas. It is located 56 miles (90 km) from Tatvan (a city on Lake Van in eastern Turkey) and 27 miles (44 km) from Van (the latter is located on the southeastern bank of Lake Van about 3 miles (5 km) from the lake shore). It usually takes 20 minutes to get to the island by boat.
Best Time To Go
Summer and early fall. Spring may be beautiful because of the bloom but cold.
Where To Stay
We recommend to stay in Van in:
Hiking, swimming. There is a tiny beach on the island where one can bathe in very pleasant waters of the lake
Useful Visitor Information and Tips
The best starting point for exploring lake Van, the island and The Church of the Holy Cross is the city of Van. Boats to the Island depart from Gevas when there are not less than 10 people ready to go. A trip on a boat costs 5 TRY, Turkey Lira (1 TRY = 0.7 USD). When you land, there will be a uniformed Turkey Tourism official and you will have to pay 10 TRY for a combined Island and Church ticket. There is also a cafe and toilets on the island, and you can stay as long as you like. To get back to Van you will have to either take a taxi or wait for a Dolmus (a minibus that serves the coastal area of Turkey). They probably stop at Gevas, but from there it is easy to find a Dolmus back to Van. It is better to gat back before 4 PM otherwise the Dolmuses will be overcrowded.
Tags: Akdamar Island; Akhtamar Island; Anatolia Region; Armenian; bas-relief (2); biblical scenes; carvings (2); Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross; Catholicos; Church of the Holy Cross; Dolmus; Gevas; Lake Van (2); pointed cone; red tuff; segmented dome; Tatvan; Turkey (3); Van (2)