Van, in far eastern Turkey, is only a few miles from the Iranian border and the Armenian border, too. The lake here is the largest in Turkey. In 915, the Vaspurakan King, Gagik I, ordered that a cathedral be built on Akdamar Island, a few hundred yards from the shore of Lake Van. The church became a monastery in 1131, and has held a central position in Armenian Christianity ever since.
Like the Hagia Sofia, the Akdamar cathedral was converted into a museum. But in 2010, the government allowed Armenians to worship here on a church holy day, the second Sunday of September. Though the border between Armenia and Turkey is officially closed, a host of pilgrims came. Reports said there was no place to stand on the entire island. Some participated in the ceremony from boats anchored offshore.
On the path up to the pinnacle
Saint, antelope, grapes
The sculpture is carved on the stone, a flush level rests inside and fits perfectly with the flat wall.
Domestic life on the island
Frieze over the main entrance
Inside the church: Christ entering Jerusalem
Three killer saints
Lion eating a deer. Is this allegory?
Sly and hungry bear
St. Thomas kissed by an acrobatic lion
George and his dragon
Adam and Eve
Domestic woes: bears eating your wine grapes
David and Goliath
David with his sling
The bell tower
Jonah, about to be ingested
Jonah, resting after escaping the whale
The rock climb to get these shots is pretty steep
And from around the bend
Yet a further view
It’s a four leaf clover shape
Yes, I know I’ve included several telephoto shots.
Also thriving on the island
Armenian grave marker