Akhtamar to host annual religious service on September 6

The annual Divine Liturgy at Surb Khach (Holy Cross) Armenian Church on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van will be held on September 6, Acting Mayor of Van Mehmet Emin Bilmez has said, reports.

Participation in this year’s service will be limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Akhtamar Island and Lake Van are the cultural heritage of the world that have been entrusted to us, the people of Van. There is a historical church on Akhtamar Island. According to the protocol signed with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, a liturgy is served in the church on the second Sunday of September every year. This year, on September 6, a liturgy with less participation will be served in full compliance with anti- epidemic rules,” Mehmet Emin Bilmez said, in part.

A 25-member delegation will accompany the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archbishop Sahak Mashalyan, who will preside over the ceremony.

Religious services were resumed in the church in 2010 after a 95-year hiatus.

The church was built between 915 and 921 A.D. by architect Bishop Manuel under the sponsorship of Gagik I Artsruni of the Kingdom of Vaspurakan.

The church was abandoned after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The building’s restoration began in 2005 and opened as a museum two years later. 

Believed to have been 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 is usually open to visitors as a museum. 

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