By Tayfun Salci
LONDON (AA) - A photo exhibition depicting the Armenian Akdamar Church of the Holy Cross -- a valuable piece of Turkish cultural heritage -- opened Monday in London.
The exhibition, organized by the Turkish Directorate of Communications, was launched with a reception at the Noho Showrooms in the city’s Fitzrovia district.
Highlighting Turkey’s efforts to restore and promote medieval Christian art and architecture, the exhibition was attended by religious community leaders including the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate’s Locum Tenens, Bishop Sahak Mashalian, the chairman of the Armenian Foundations Union, Bedros Sirinoglu, and representatives of the Turkish and Armenian communities.
During the opening ceremony, the movie Hidden Masterpieces of Anatolia Revealed: Ahtamar (Akdamar) was screened in English and Turkish.
The church was photographed by Turkish artist Izzet Keribar as part of a project called Hidden Masterpieces of Anatolia Revealed.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mashalian recalled his attendance at the exhibitions in Istanbul and New York.
“The fame of Akdamar Holy Cross Church has spread to larger audiences. My and many others’ desire has become a reality after New York, and now in London."
Thanking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the interest and sensitivity he shows towards the Akdamar Church and other historical monuments, Mashalian said under the leading vision of Erdogan, the church has received a remarkable amount of attention.
The 1,100-year-old Akdamar Church, a medieval Armenian place of worship in Turkey’s eastern Van province, was built between 915-921 A.D. by architect Bishop Manuel under the direction of King Gagik I Artsruni.
The church, which has a special place in East-West Christian art, carries the most important adornments and the most comprehensive wall reliefs of its time and was accepted on the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage on April 13, 2015.
Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism has carried out extensive renovation and restoration work to bring the medieval church back to its former glory.
On Sept. 19, 2010, the Akdamar Church hosted its first service after a 95-year break. The church opened its doors for religious services every year for one day and the last service was conducted in 2015, which saw a gathering of thousands of local and international tourists in Van.
*Writing by Sena Guler