Ruled by a dizzying array of kingdoms and empires over the
centuries, the former regional power of Ani is now an eerie, abandoned
city of ghosts


**An abandoned city of ghosts


Ruled by a dizzying array of kingdoms and empires over the centuries –
from the Byzantines to the Ottomans – the city of Ani once housed many
thousands of people, becoming a cultural hub and regional power under
the medieval Bagratid Armenian dynasty. Today, it’s an eerie,
abandoned city of ghosts that stands alone on a plateau in the remote
highlands of northeast Turkey, 45km away from the Turkish border city
of Kars. As you walk among the many ruins, left to deteriorate for
over 90 years, the only sound is the wind howling through a ravine
that marks the border between Turkey and Armenia.


**The toll of many rulers


Visitors who pass through Ani’s city walls are greeted with a
panoramic view of ruins that span three centuries and five empires –
including the Bagratid Armenians, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, Georgians
and Ottomans. The Ani plateau was ceded to Russia once the Ottoman
Empire was defeated in the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish War. After the
outbreak of World War I, the Ottomans fought to take back northeast
Anatolia, and although they recaptured Ani and the surrounding area,
the region was given to the newly formed Republic of Armenia. The site
changed hands for the last time after the nascent Turkish Republic
captured it during the 1920 eastern offensive in the Turkish War of


**A hotly contested territory


The ruins of an ancient bridge over the Akhurian River, which winds
its way at the bottom of the ravine to create a natural border, are
fitting given the vexed state of Turkish-Armenian relations. The two
countries have long disagreed over the mass killings of Armenians that
took place under the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and Turkey
officially closed its land border with Armenia in 1993 in response to
a territorial conflict between Armenia and Turkey’s ally


**A bid to save the ruins


Although the focus on Turkish-Armenian tension preoccupies most
discussion of Ani, there’s an ongoing effort by archaeologists and
activists to save the ruins, which have been abandoned in favour of
more accessible and less historically contested sites from classical
antiquity. Historians have long argued for Ani’s importance as a
forgotten medieval nexus, and as a result, Ani is now on a tentative
list for recognition as aUnesco World Heritage
With some luck and careful restoration work, which has begun in 2011,
they may be able to forestall the hands of time.


尽管如此对土耳其-亚美吉亚紧张关系的关切引起了对Ani的热议, 考古学家和

**‘The City of 1,001 Churches’


At its height during the 11th Century, scholars estimate that Ani’s
population reached as high as 100,000 people. Artistic renderings
based on the site’s archaeological findings show a bustling medieval
centre crowded with myriad homes, artisanal workshops and impressive
churches scattered throughout.

Known as “The City of 1,001 Churches”, Ani’s Armenian rulers and city
merchants funded an extraordinary number of places of worship, all
designed by the greatest architectural and artistic minds in their
milieu. Although the nickname was hyperbole, archaeologists have
discovered evidence of at least 40 churches, chapels and mausoleums to



**An imposing cathedral


A rust-coloured brick redoubt, the Cathedral of Ani looms over the
now-abandoned city. Although its dome collapsed in an earthquake in
1319 – and, centuries later, another earthquake destroyed its
northwest corner – it is still imposing in scale. It was completed in
1001 under the reign of Armenian King Gagik I, when the wealth and
population of Ani was at its peak. Trdat, the renowned Armenian
architect who designed it, also served the Byzantines by helping them
repair the dome of theHagia


**Half of a church


Only one half of the Church of the Redeemer remains – a monument to
both the artistic prowess of the Armenian Bagratid Dynasty and the
inevitability of time. Propped up by extensive scaffolding now, the
church was an impressive architectural feat when it was built. It
featured 19 archways and a dome, all made from local reddish-brown
volcanic basalt.



**A church fit for a prince


Built sometime in the late 10th Century, the Church of St Gregory of
the Abughamrentsis a stoic-looking, 12-sided chapel that has a dome
carved with blind arcades: arches that are purely for embellishment
instead of leading to a portal. In the early 1900s, a mausoleum was
discovered buried under the church’s north side, likely containing the
remains of the church’s patron, Prince Grigor Pahlavuni of the
Bagratid Armenians, and his kin. Unfortunately, like many of the sites
at Ani, the prince’s sepulchre was looted in the 1990s.

St 格雷戈里(Gregory) of the
Pahlavuni of the

**The remnants of an underground city


Opposite the Church of St Gregory of the Abughamrentsare a series of
caves dug out of the rock, which some historians speculate may predate
Ani. The caves are sometimes described as Ani’s “underground city” and
signs point to their use as tombs and churches. In the early 20th
Century, some of these caves were still used as dwellings.

在St 格雷戈里(Gregory) of the

Frescoes cover the walls


The Church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents is one of Ani’s best
preserved buildings, adorned with remnants of paintings depicting
scenes from the life of Christ and St Gregory the Illuminator.
Detailed fresco cycles did not ordinarily appear in Armenian art of
the era, leading scholars to believe the artists were most likely

St 格雷戈里 of

**Frescoes cover the walls


The Church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents is one of Ani’s best
preserved buildings, adorned with remnants of paintings depicting
scenes from the life of Christ and St Gregory the Illuminator.
Detailed fresco cycles did not ordinarily appear in Armenian art of
the era, leading scholars to believe the artists were most likely

St 格雷戈里(Gregory) of Tigran

**An Islamic minaret still stands


The Seljuk Empire – a Turkish state in Anatolia that drove out the
Byzantines and eventually gave way to the Ottoman Empire – controlled
the greater area of what is today northeast Turkey and Armenia
beginning in the mid-1000s. However, in 1072, the Seljuks granted
control of Ani to an Islamic dynasty of Kurdish origin, the
Shaddadids. The Shaddadids, in turn, left their mark on Ani with
buildings like the mosque of Manuchihr, which is perched precariously
on the edge of the cliff. Its minaret is still standing from when the
mosque was constructed in the late 1000s; the rest of the mosque is
most likely an addition from the 12th or 13th Centuries.


**Origins up for debate


The original purpose of the mosque of Manuchihr is debated on both the
Turkish and Armenian sides. Some contend that the building once served
as a palace for the Armenian Bagratid dynasty and was only later
converted into a mosque. Others argue that the structure was built as
a mosque from the ground up, and thus was the first Turkish mosque in
Anatolia. From 1906 to 1918, the mosque served as a museum of findings
from Ani’s excavation by the Russian archaeologist Nicholas Marr.
Regardless of the building’s origins, the mosque’s four elegant
windows display spectacular views of the river and the other side of
the gorge.


**Once formidable city walls


Ani’s city walls may seem ready to crumble, but when they were
constructed in the 10th Century, they made for a formidable defence.
The Bagratid family of kings built them in order to fortify their new
capital and, over the centuries, they protected the city’s occupants
against siege after siege by various armies. These ramparts, along
with Ani’s inhabitants, witnessed bloody conflicts between the
Bagratids and the Byzantines, and the Byzantines and the Seljuks.

Despite Ani’s history as a field of warfare, the ruins also represent
many periods throughout history where the city saw a remarkable
interchange of cultures, religions and artistic motifs.




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