Church of the Holy Cross (Akdamar)


Akdamar Kilesi or the Church of the Holy Cross is a ruined Armenian Church in Eastern Anatolia. On a small island in the beautiful mountain setting of Lake Van, the Akdamar church dates from the 10th century and is famed for its wonderfully carved exterior.


What to See


On a cruciform plan and topped with a conical roof, the Akdamar church is just 49 x 39 feet (15 x 12 m) in size. It is made of red tufa stone brought to the island from distant quarries. Inside the church are faded but still-impressive frescoes.

The justly famous exterior features bas-relief carvings and friezes of biblical scenes, including Adam and Eve, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, St. George slaying a dragon, a Christ Pantocrator, and a Madonna and Child. On the back is an image of King Gagik presenting his church to Christ (a theme that can also be seen in the Hagia Sophia and most other great religious buildings). A richly carved "populated vine" (vine with animals) runs around the entire church.

Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey and has a very high salt level, making it pleasant for swimming. It incorporates a number of small islands with interesting ruins to explore. [More Info]