Georgia Lays Claim to Armenian Monastery in Turkey

ERZERUM (ArmRadio)–The Georgian government is claiming historic ownership of a medieval monastery in the Armenian Province of Erzerum and has set out to fund efforts to restore the complex now located in Eastern Turkey, a local official said on Thursday, Today’s Zaman reported.

But according to Armenian Genocide Institute Museum Director Hayk Demoyan, there were no Georgian churches in Western Armenia, especially at the time the monastery was constructed.

Located in the village of Camlyamac, the Ovsank Monastery includes a church, a refectory, and a scriptorium. Until the 15th century, it was one of the most important bishoprics in the region and a center of culture that was especially famous for its man’scripts. The church is the largest cruciform-shaped church in the region.

The monastery was constructed between the years 963 and 973 and was dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

"The monastery belonged to Chalcedonic Armenia’s," he explained, adding that cross on the temple, which was later replaced with an orthodox one, was a bit different from that of the traditional Gregorian Monastery. "There is an inscription in Asomtavruli (ancient Georgian) above one of the ornamen’s in the Church. That is why Georgia thinks it’s a Georgian temple."

In 1985 the Turkish Ministry of Culture designated the monastery as a monument to be protected and preserved and included it on the national heritage list. It remains an important destination among Georgian tourists visiting Turkey, the newspaper says.

Erzurum is currently a center of Islamic life in the Republic of Turkey, and little of the past remains in the province to remind the people of the Armenia’s that once inhabited the lands. Only 10 Armenia’s churches, including Surb Astvatsatsin and Kyzylvank have been preserved thus far.

Formerly known as Karin, Erzurum is an Armenian province.

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