113-year-old Armenian Church in Turkey closed to worship due to damage in quakes

The 113-year-old Armenian Church in the Vakifli neighborhood, the only Armenian settlement in Turkey, has been closed to worship since the latest earthquakes that struck the southern province of Hatay on Feb. 20.

While thousands of buildings were destroyed in Hatay, which was heavily affected by two large earthquakes that occurred on Feb. 6 in the southern province of Marash, there was no large-scale destruction in the Vakifli neighborhood.

There were no casualties in the earthquake in the settlement with a population of 130.

However, in the latest earthquakes that occurred in Hatay on Feb. 20, many houses in the neighborhood were severely damaged, while several parts of the 113-year-old Virgin Mary Armenian Church, considered the symbol of the village, were destroyed.

The historic church, whose outer walls were partially damaged in the first earthquake, was closed to worship when it became unusable after the earthquakes on Feb. 20.

Misak Hergel, a member of the Board of the Virgin Mary Armenian Church Foundation, stated that the successive earthquakes on Feb. 20 caused a lot of damage to the village.

Stating that it’s difficult to describe the pain they are experiencing as the people of Hatay, Hergel said: “Nevertheless, we are thankful that there was no loss of life in our village or our neighborhood in this great destruction.”

“Our church was put into service in 1910. It was an iconic century-old building. In 1997, radical repair work was carried out. With this renovation, the name of our village spread, and it became the center of attention,” Hergel expressed.

“Our church was damaged very slightly on Feb. 6, but it became a ruin during the earthquakes on Feb. 20. There are two active Armenian Churches in Hatay. One is here, and the other is in Iskenderun district. Both of our churches will not be able to open to worship for a long time,” he added.

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