Land and Culture Organization Launches 17th Century Meghri Restoration Project

Exterior of Soopr Hovannes Church
Exterior of Soopr Hovannes Church

Exterior of Soopr Hovannes Church

PASADENA – On March 11-13, 2016, the international body of the Land and Culture Organization(LCO)/Organisation Terre et Culture(OTC) held their general assembly meeting in Lyon, France to discuss current and upcoming Armenian historical restoration projects.  The most recently completed LCO/OTC project was the 7th century Tchitckhanavank monastery in the northern Lori region of Armenia.  After a culmination of five-years of work by LCO/OTC volunteers, local artisans, archeologists, and architects, the site was consecrated in August 2015 and renamed Sourp Khatch (Holy Cross).   As part of its Armenian historical preservation mission, the organization is researching and documenting Armenian national monuments and properties confiscated by the Turkish state and may be found online at www.collectif2015.org.

The Board determined to launch a new campaign in the city of Meghri, Armenia. LCO will be renovating the 17th Century Sourp Hovannes Mkritch (St. John the Baptist) basilica church in Meghri.   This historical site is in severe disrepair and has a unique Armenian style.  The ornamental motifs of the interior frescoes are influenced by Persian decorative designs, which were probably done intentionally to prevent vandalism.  Even the depicted structures were built in such a way as to resemble Persian architecture.  The walls were painted by artists from the family of Naghash Hovnatanian, a renowned artist from the period whose works are also within the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Sourp Hovannes Church Interior

Sourp Hovannes Church Interior

LCO will launch the first phase of the project during the summer campaign of 2016.  Volunteers will be clearing Sourp Hovannes Mkritch’s grounds and participate in archaeologic excavations with Armenian archaeologists.  The workday packed with physical labor is just one part of the LCO/OTC experience.  Volunteers live in a very modest home and spend non-working hours bonding with local residents, while enjoying local activities and their surroundings.  In addition, during off-hours volunteers go on excursions of Armenian historical sites.

Meghri, one of the most fascinating and remote cities in Armenia, is situated in the southernmost tip overlooking the Iranian border on the Araks River. This tranquil quaint city with a population of 4,500 is in a fertile valley where they grow Armenia’s national symbol the pomegranate, as well as figs, walnut, and persimmons.  Today, as Armenia’s southern ‘gateway’, it maintains its strategic and economic significance as a town located at the crossroads of the South Caucasus; Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh, Iran and Russia.

LCO is accepting volunteers for the Summer 2016 Campaign.  Applicants can go to our website to apply online and get more campaign details.  Visit us at www.lcousa.org.

For over 39 years, LCO/OTC has been one of the earliest volunteer groups in Armenia and Karabakh working to restore, renovate, and rejuvenate the historical monuments and sites of our nation. It has performed this mission through its summer campaigns, by volunteers of every age from the Diaspora and Armenia.  To learn more about LCO or join in our summer volunteer program, you may reach us at www.lcousa.org.

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