Monday, April 28, 2014

Ancient Ani, City of a 1000 Churches

Photos by Jack Waldron
Like many ancient pagan locations, which were appreciated for aesthetic qualities that allowed a glimpse beyond the self, here, on the site of a pagan temple, situated at the extreme end of the plateau that is home to ancient Ani, sits a chapel known as the Kiz Kilise (about three stories high, to put it in perspective).  Beyond the Arpa Cayi river, Armenia.  Both the chapel (pictured) and the citadel (located to my back in this photo), are believed to anti-date the Bagratid dynasty.  Use the map below to locate the Kiz Kilise chapel site (bottom/south), and then, the entrance to Ani (top/north), and follow the photographs from there, along the east side of the site. 

Above, pictured from outside the city, the great double wall with massive towers stretches from the Alaca Cay river ravine in the north west (right side) to the Arpa Cayi river ravine in the south east (left side), as Ani occupies a triangular plateau with natural protection beyond the great wall.  Below, the  main entrance to Ani, known as the Arslan Kapisi "Lions Gate".

Above, one of a number of gates into the city along the great wall (pictured below from the inside).

As one walks east along the great wall, you come to what remains of the 11C Holy Redeemer, which according to an inscription within, once housed a fragment of the True Cross brought from Constantinople.  The interior is decorated with frescoes from the period.

This church (above and below), was dedicated to St. Gregory the Illuminator, and is spectacularly perched on the edge of precipice above the Arpa Cayi.  According to inscription, the church was founded by a merchant called Tigran Honents, who hoped that it would bring good fortune to his family and the rulers of Ani.  Pictured below are the deteriorating frescoes that depict the Ascension of Christ on the dome, the life of Christ and the Blessed Virgin, and various violent acts carried out in one name or another, depicting beheadings and being hung from ones feet until death.

Outside decorations on the church . . . 

Above, looking out to the tips of the plateau, where the two ravines meet.  Which the church of Tigran Honents  to my back, the great wall to my right (not pictured), there in the right of the picture sits the 10C Church of the Holy Apostles, also known as the "Great Cathedral".  Pictured center right is the 11C Ulu Cami (Amenian council chamber), converted to a Mosque in 1072, and also played the role of checkpoint along the silk road.  Finally, in the distant left, sits the citadel, surrounded and protected by the deep ravines (on the extreme point of which, sits the Kiz Kilise).
Pictured above and below, the 10C Church of the Holy Apostles, founded by the Pahlavuni family, and the possible seat of the Archbishop of Ani.  Begun in 989AD, and completed in 1001AD, the "Great Cathedral" was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.

Above, some of the cathedral decoration, below, the columns and missing dome.

Above, the south side facade of the "Great Cathedral".  Below, more decoration.
Looking back from where I came, pictured in the foreground, the Ulu Cami, and behind it, the "Great Cathedral".  Below, the inside of the Ulu Cami (Amenian council chamber), converted to a Mosque in 1072, and also played the role of checkpoint along the silk road.

Above, the outside of the ULU Cami, showing the intricate stone work and design, and the sizable minaret (both covered with modern protective roofs).  Below, with Armenia on the right side of the river (east), and Turkey (Ani) on the left (west), deep in the ravine, on either side of the Arpa Cayi river, the mounts of the ancient silk road bridge, that once connected the far east with the east.  Pictured left, the Ulu Cami, left center, the "Great Cathdral", and far center, the Church of the Holy Redeemer.

In the foreground sits the lowly Church of the Shepard, with the Kiz Kilise pictured far out on the point of the triangle shaped plateau, top left.  Below, the protective wall of the citadel, with the Alaca Cay river below.

The Kiz Kilise pictured through a ruin with no name . . . 
The trail to Kiz Kilise . . . 

Above, ancient cliff dwelling above the Alaca Cay river valley, with the city wall running behind.
Though in ruin, the inside of this 13C Georgian church (later converted into a mosque) displays magnificent stone design and decoration.
The entrance (below) also displays finely detailed ornamentation, while the east side has a number of inscriptions in ancient Georgian, now vanished.

Above and below, the well preserved 9C Church of St. Gregory of the Abumarents family, situated just above the cliff dwellings along the Alaca Cay river.  Ancient Armenian script adorns the entrance.

Pictured above and below, what remains of the grand Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator (one of three churches at Ani, which were dedicated to him).  

*All photos and content property of Jack Waldron (photos may not be used without written permission)

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