Armenian Akhtamar Church in Van set to reopen for religious service

Four years after an annual religious service was scrapped, an iconic Armenian church on an island in Lake Van will host a mass next month with participation of Christians from around the world, Daily Sabah reports.

The Saint Cross Church on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van in eastern Turkey, which is usually open to public as museum, will host its first international religious ceremony in four years.

The Armenian Patriarchate based in Istanbul will organize the event which is expected to attract hundreds of Christians from around Turkey and the world.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry and local authorities gave the green light for the event to held on Sept. 9.

According to the source, travel agencies and hotels in the Van province where the lake is located have seen a substantial increase in bookings while local businesses are counting on faith tourism dollars.

Added to the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage in 2015, the church was built between 915 and 921 A.D. by architect Bishop Manuel, under the supervision of Gagik I Artsruni, an Armenian king.

Believed to be constructed to house a piece of the “True Cross,” which was used in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the church was restored in 2005 and opened in 2007. The church has been hosting annual international religious ceremonies organized by the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul once a year since 2010.

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