Searching for Lost Armenian Churches and Schools in Turkey

Armenian Churches in Turkey before 1915

From The Armenian Weekly

On July 21, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee overwhelmingly adopted the Berman-Cicilline Amendment based upon the Return of Churches resolution spearheaded by Representatives Ed Royce and Howard Berman, with a vote of 43 to 1, calling on Turkey to return stolen Armenian and other Christian churches, and to end the repression of its Christian minorities.

Where are these lost or stolen Armenian churches in Turkey? How many were there before 1915, the turning point in the Armenians’ world, when they were uprooted and wiped out from their homeland of more than 3,000 years? How many churches are there now? Considering that every Armenian community invariably strove to build a school beside its church, how many Armenian schools were there in Turkey before 1915, and how many are there now? How many Armenian churches and schools are left standing now in Turkey is the easier part of the issue: There are only 34 churches and 18 schools left in Turkey today, mostly in Istanbul, with about less than 3,000 students in these schools. The challenging and frustrating issue is how many were there in the past.

Recent research pegs the number of Armenian churches in Turkey before 1915 at around 2,300. The number of schools before 1915 is estimated at nearly 700, with 82,000 students. These numbers are only for churches and schools under the jurisdiction of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate and the Apostolic Church, and therefore do not include the numerous churches and schools belonging to the Protestant and Catholic Armenian parishes. The American colleges and missionary schools, mostly attended by Armenian youth, are also excluded from these numbers. The number of Armenian students attending Turkish schools or small schools at homes in the villages are unknown and not included. Finally, these numbers do not include the churches and schools in Kars and Ardahan provinces, which were not part of Turkey until 1920, and were part of Russia since 1878.

The two maps show the wide distribution of Armenian churches and schools in Turkey before 1915. The two lists for the Armenian churches and schools are by no means complete, but should be regarded as a preliminary study that can serve as foundation for further research. The place names are based on the old Ottoman administrative system, instead of that of modern Turkey. They are ably assembled by Zakarya Mildanoglu, from various sources such as the Ottoman Armenian National Council Annual reports, Echmiadzin Journal, Vienna Mkhitarists, and studies by Teotig, Kevorkian, and Nishanyan.

Lost Churches
Center and villages, Yureghir, Ceyhan, Tarsus, Silifke, Yumurtalik, Dortyol, Iskenderun, 25 churches

Amasya: Vezirkopru, Mecitozu, Merzifon, Havza, Gumushacikoy, Ladik, 15 churches

Ankara: Center, Haymana, Sincan, 5 churches

Antakya: Center, Samandagh, 7 churches

Antep: Center, Nizip, Halfeti, 4 churches

Arapkir (Malatya): Arapkir and Kemaliye villages, 19 churches

Arganimadeni (Elazig): Erganis, Siverek, Bulanik, Kahta, 10 churches

Armash (Akmeshe): 2 churches

Artvin: Center and villages, 11 churches

Balikesir: Balikesir, Mustafakemalpasha, Biga, Bandirma, 6 churches

Bayburt: Bayburt center and villages, 34 churches

Beshiri (Diyarbakir): Beshiri and villages, 14 churches

Bilecik (Bursa): Golpazar, 4 churches

Bingol (Genc): Center and villages, 11 churches

Bitlis: Center and villages, 30 churches

Bitlis: Tatvan, Ahlat, Mutki, Hizan, 66 churches

Bolu: Duzce, Akyazi, 5 churches

Bursa: Center, Orhangazi, 11 churches

Charsancak ( Tunceli): Mazgirt, pertek, Pulumur, Hozat, and villages, 93 churches

Chemishgezek (Tunceli): 20 churches

Chungush (Diyarbakir): Chungush center and villages, 2 churches

Dersim: Hozat, Pertek, 28 churches

Divrigi (Sivas): Center and villages, 25 churches

Diyadin (Erzurum): Diyadin and villages, 4 churches

Diyarbakir: Center and villages, 11 churches

Edirne: Center and villages, 4 churches

Egin (Erzincan): Kemaliye, Ilic, and villages, 17 churches

Egin: 3 churches

Eleshkirt (Erzurum): Eleshkirt and villages, 6 churches

Ergani: Ergani and villages, 11 churches

Erzincan: Erzincan center and villages, 52 churches

Erzurum: Center, Aziziye, Yakutiye, Ashkale, Narman, Ispir, Oltu, Shenkaya, Horasan, Pazaryolu, and villages, 65 churches

Giresun: Tirebolu, 1 church

Gumushane: Center, 4 churches

Gurun (Sivas): Center and villages, 5 churches

Harput (Elazig): Harput center and villages, Karakochan, Palu, Keban, 67 churches

Hinis (Erzurum): Hinis and villages, 19 churches

Hoshap: Hoshap and villages, 14 churches

Istanbul: European/Trachean region, 36 churches; Asian/Anatolian region, 8 churches; total 44 churches

Izmir: Center and villages, Manisa, Turgutlu, Akhisar, Bergama, Nazilli, Odemish, 23 churches

Izmit: Gebze, Kocaeli, Sakarya, Kandira, Geyve, Karamursel, 50 churches

Kastamonu: Tashkopru, Boyabat, Inebolu, 7 churches

Kayseri: Center and villages, Nigde, Aksaray, Bor, Nevshehir, Tomarza, Develi, Bunyan, Talas, 57 churches

Kemah (Erzincan): Kemah and villages, 14 churches

Kighi (Bingol): Kighi and villages, 58 churches

Konya: Center, Bor, Burdur, Nevshehir, 7 churches

Kutahya: Center, Tavshanli, 7 churches

Lice: Lice and villages, 19 churches

Mardin: Center and villages, 3 churches

Mush: Center and villages, Batman, Malazgirt, Bulanik, Varto, Hizan, 148 churches

Ordu: Karaduz, Ulubey, 3 churches

Palu (Elazig): Palu center, Kovancilar, Karakochan, and villages, 44 churches

Pasinler (Erzurum): Pasinler and villages, 4 churches

Pulumur (Tunceli): Pulumur and villages, 6 churches

Rize: Yolusti: 1 church

Samsun (Canik): Center and villages, 43 churches

Samsun: Ordu, 1 church

Shebin Karahisar: Shebinkaya center, Giresun, and part of Sivas, 32 churches

Silvan (Diyarbakir): Silvan and villages, 34 churches

Sivas: Center and villages, Hafik, Zara, Ulash, Yildizeli, Sariz, Bunyan/Ekrek, Gemerek, 110 churches

Tercan (Erzincan): Erzincan and Tercan villages, 33 churches

Tokat: Center and villages, 32 churches

Trabzon: Center and villages, Of, Machka, Surmene, Akchaabat, Fatsa, Yorma, Arakli, 89 churches

Urfa: Center and villages, Birecik, Siverek, Suruch, Hikvan, Harran, Bozova, Halfeti, 17 churches

Van: Center and villages, Edremit, Gurpinar, Edremit, ozalp, Ercish, Timar, muradiye, Tatvan, Bashkale, Gevash, Bahchesaray, Chatak 322 churches

Yozgat: Center and villages, Bogazliyan, Sarikaya, Cayiralan, Sorgun, Shefaatli, and villages, 51 churches

Yusufeli (Artvin): Center and villages 4 churches

Zeytun (Marash): Center and villages 14 churches

Armenian Schools before 1915

Lost Schools
25 schools, 1,947 boys, 808 girls, 2755 students, 40 male, 29 female, 69 teachers

Akhtamar: 32 schools, 1,106 boys, 132 girls, 1238 students, 36 male teachers

Amasya-Merzifon: 9 schools, 1,524 boys, 814 girls, 2,338 students, 54 teachers

Ankara: 7 schools, 895 boys,  395 girls, 1,290 students, 20 male, 9 female, 29 teachers

Antakya: 10 schools, 440 boys, 47 girls, 487 students, 10 male teachers

Antep: 9 schools, 898 boys, 798 girls, 1606 students, 31 male, 27 female, 58 teachers

Arapkir: 18 schools, 713 boys, 223 girls, 936 students, 23 male, 2 female, 25 teachers

Armash: 2 schools, 190 boys, 110 girls, 300 students, 5 male, 1 female, 6 teachers

Bandirma: 8 schools, 700 boys, 644 girls, 1,344 students, 22 male, 13 female, 35 teachers

Bayburt: 9 schools, 645 boys, 199 girls, 844 students, 27 male, 5 female, 32 teachers

Beyazit: 6 schools, 338 boys, 54 girls, 392 students, 11 male, 2 female, 13 teachers

Bilecik: 10 schools, 1,120 boys, 143 girls, 1,263 students, 18 male, 3 female, 21 teachers

Bitlis: 12 schools, 571 boys, 63 girls, 634 students, 20 male teachers

Bursa: 16 schools, 1345 boys, 733 girls, 2078 students, 34 male, 20 female, 54 teachers

Charsancak: 12 schools, 617 boys, 189 girls, 806 students, 16 male, 2 female, 18 teachers

Chemishgezek: 12 schools, 456 boys, 272 girls, 728 students, 14 male, 1 female, 15 teachers

Cyprus: 3 schools, 63 boys, 37 girls, 100 students, 8 male, 1 female, 9 teachers

Darende: 2 schools, 260 boys, 70 girls, 330 students, 4 male, 1 female, 5 teachers

Divrigi: 10 schools, 757 boys, 100 girls, 857 students, 18 male, 2 female, 20 teachers

Diyarbakir: 4 schools, 660 boys, 324 girls, 1014 students, 18 male, 9 female, 27 teachers

Egin: 4 schools, 541 boys, 215 girls, 756 students, 13 male, 9 female, 22 teachers

Erzincan: 22 schools, 1389 boys, 475 girls, 1864 students, 54 male, 9 female, 63 teachers

Erzurum: 12 schools, 485 boys, 10 girls, 495 students, 12 male teachers

Erzurum: 27 schools, 1,956 boys, 1,178 girls, 3134 students, 44 male, 41 female, 85 teachers

Gurun: 12 schools, 736 boys, 78 girls, 814 students, 18 male, 2 female, 20 teachers

Harput: 27 schools, 2,058 boys, 496 girls, 2,554 students, 49 male, 9 female, 58 teachers

Hinis: 8 schools, 352 boys, 15 girls, 367 students, 11 male, 1 female, 12 teachers

Ispir (Artvin): 3 schools, 80 boys, 3 male teachers

Istanbul: 40 schools, 3,316 boys, 2,327 girls, 5,643 students.

Izmir: 27 schools, 1,640 boys, 1,295 girls, 2,935 students, 55 male, 54 female, 109 teachers

Izmit: 38 schools, 5,900 boys, 3,385 girls, 9,285 students, 142 male, 82 female, 224 teachers

Kastamonu: 3 schools, 110 boys, 50 girls, 160 students, 2 male teachers

Kayseri: 42 schools, 3,795 boys, 1140 girls, 4,935 students, 107 male, 18 female, 125 teachers

Kemah: 13 schools, 646 boys, 28 girls, 674 students, 16 male teachers

Kighi: 9 schools, 645 boys, 199 girls, 844 students, 27 male, 5 female, 32 teachers

Konya: 3 schools, 213 boys, 137 girls, 350 students, 6 male, 6 female, 12 teachers

Kutahya: 5 schools, 825 boys, 349 girls, 1174 students, 16 male, 7 female, 23 teaches

Lim and Gduts Islands, Van: 3 schools, 203 boys, 56 girls, 259 students, 5 male, 1 female 6 teachers

Malatya: 9 schools, 872 boys, 230 girls, 1,137 students, 16 male, 3 female, 19 teachers

Marash: 23 schools, 1,261 boys, 378 girls, 1,669 students, 34 male, 10 female, 44 teachers

Mush: 23 schools, 1,034 boys, 284 girls, 1318 students, 31 male, 4 female, 35 teachers

Palu: 8 schools, 505 boys, 50 girls, 555 students, 14 male, 1 female, 15 teachers

Pasen: 7 schools, 315 boys, 7 male teachers

Samsun (Canik): 27 schools, 1,361 boys, 344 girls, 1,705 students, 44 male, 15 female, 59 teachers

Shebinkarahisar: 27 schools, 2,040 boys,  105 girls, 2,145 students, 38 male, 4 female, 42 teachers

Siirt: 3 schools, 163 boys, 84 girls, 247 students, 9 male, 2 female, 11 teachers

Sis/Cilicia: 7 schools, 476 boys, 165 girls, 641 students, 15 male, 4 female, 19 teachers

Sivas: 46 schools, 4,072 boys, 459 girls, 4,531 students, 62 male, 11 female, 73 teachers

Tokat: 11 schools, 1,408 boys, 558 girls, 1,966 students, 37 male, 13 female, 50 teachers

Trabzon: 47 schools, 2,184 boys, 718 girls, 2,902 students, 72 male, 13 female, 85 teachers

Urfa: 8 schools, 1,091 boys, 571 girls, 1,662 students, 19 male, 7 female, 26 teachers

Van: 21 schools, 1,323 boys, 554 girls, 1,877 students, 47 male, 12 female, 59 teachers

Yozgat: 12 schools, 1,179 boys, 557 girls, 1,736 students, 30 male, 13 female, 43 teachers

Zeytun: 10 schools, 605 boys, 85 girls, 690 students, 14 male, 1 female, 15 teachers

These churches and schools were the lifeblood of the Armenians in Turkey. These buildings witnessed countless Armenians’ baptisms, weddings, and funerals; they served as learning centers where eager teachers transferred knowledge to the children; and these buildings became community gathering centers for happy times and sanctuaries during troubled times, until the bitter end at 1915. As the Armenian population got wiped out of Anatolia in 1915, so did these churches and schools. Along with the hundreds of thousands of homes, shops, farms, orchards, factories, warehouses, and mines belonging to the Armenians, the church and school buildings also disappeared or were converted to other uses. If not burnt and destroyed outright in 1915 or left to deteriorate by neglect, they became converted buildings for banks, radio stations, mosques, state schools, or state monopoly warehouses for tobacco, tea, sugar, etc., or simply private houses and stables for the Turks and Kurds.

At present, out of the 34 active Armenian churches in Turkey, only 6 are left standing in Anatolia. The biggest of these buildings is Surp Giragos Church in Dikranagerd/Diyarbakir, the largest Armenian church in the Middle East, which is now being reconstructed as an Armenian church, under the jurisdiction of the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate. The process of re-claiming more than 200 deeds of lost lands and property belonging to this church has also been initiated. The project funding and construction is already two-thirds complete, with an expected church opening and first Holy Mass to be performed on Oct. 23, 2011. At present, pilgrimage tours are being organized for this historic occasion, along with visits to other historic sites in Eastern Turkey such as Akhtamar/Van and Ani/Kars, continuing to Armenia and Javakhk. There will be more announcements about these tours in the near future.

Zakarya Mildanoglu, Agos newspaper April 22, 2011, Istanbul, Turkey

Ottoman Armenian National Council, annual reports 1910-1914, Istanbul, Turkey

Echmiadzin Journal, Yerevan, Armenia 1965-1966 all journals

Dr. H. Hamazasp, Armenian Monasteries in Anatolia, 9 volumes, Vienna Mkhitarist Union, 1940, Vienna, Austria

Raymond Kevorkian and Paul Paboudjian, Les Arméniens dans l’Empire ottoman à la veille du génocide (Armenians in the Ottoman Empire before the Genocide), Paris, 1992

Teotig Lapjinjian, Hayots Koghkota (Armenian Golgotha),  1923, Istanbul, Turkey

Vijagatsuyts, Kavaragan Azkayin Varjaranats Turkiyo, Dedr A-B, Vicag 1901 Darvo (Report on Armenian Schools in Anatolia, Turkey, Booklets 1 and 2, 1901 Status) Armenian National Education Commission Central Directorate, Istanbul, Turkey

Sevan Nishanyan, Adini Unutan Ulke (The Country That Forgot Its Name), Everest Press, 2010, Istanbul, Turkey

Raffi Bedrosyan is a civil engineer as well as a concert pianist, living in Toronto, Canada. For the past several years, proceeds from his concerts and two CDs have been donated toward the construction of school, highway, water and gas distribution projects in Armenia and Karabakh, in which he also participated as a voluntary engineer. He is involved with the Surp Giragos Dikranagerd Church Reconstruction project in organizing fundraising activities in Canada, as well as promoting the significance of this historic project worldwide to Armenian communities outside Turkey, on behalf of the Church Foundation Board and the Istanbul Patriarchate.


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  1. Heghapokhagan said:

    I would suggest in regards of locating ” Armenian Catholic Churches and their Armenian Catholic schools” in “Historic Western Armenia”, to be researched into the Vatican’s archives, surely with their permission.

  2. Stephan said:

    By listing all these names, the author has done a tremendous service to our community. Bravo.

    Now our task is to raise funds to :
    1. Assist any and all parties that will start the effort of reclaiming the ownership of these churches from the current illegal owners.

    2. Make plans to restore the churches to their original condition.
    3. Execute these plans.
    4.Encourge tourism to visit the renovated areas.

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  4. ARARADE Mer ne! said:

    I’m sure there are more then iindicated above.
    My grand-parents come from a village called lapaj which had a church and small school. We have proofs (photos) of the existance of these properties.

    • Etienne said:

      Hi Ararade,
      Do you have the pictures of lapaj. My family is from there and I would like to visit the area. I’d love to know where the village is located.

      • Serouj Kaloustian said:

        Etienne!! its good to know you are trying to find lapaj village, Once you find it let me know so we go and visit where our family is from.

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  8. Camekan said:

    Does anybody know a village situated in the Nothern-West of Erzincan with name Kirmana?