August 16, 2022

The article first appeared on our partner site, independent turkish

The Armenian Church of Saint Geragos in Diyarbakir opened its doors after seven years. The historic church just held its first Sunday mass in nearly a decade. The Armenian community, both inside and outside Turkey, has gathered in Diyarbakir in anticipation of the reopening.

The Armenian Church of Saint Geragos in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir was severely damaged during the war in 2015/2016, due to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

Mar Geragos Church, Diyarbakir

(Ilyas Akıncın / The Independent Turkish)

Church of Saint Geragos

The Church of St. Geragos, known as the Church of Sorp Geragos in the Armenian language, was damaged by the conflict. In 2016, the government began restoration.

The church is the largest in the region of the Armenian community, and was built in the sixteenth century, according to some sources. It was destroyed in a fire in 1881 and rebuilt in 1883.

German forces used the church as their headquarters in World War I. The church’s old bell tower was destroyed in 1913 by a lightning strike. It was replaced by a large tower built for 2,000 gold coins in 1914. The state demolished it in 1916 because it was taller than the minaret near the church.

Until 1960, the church was used for various purposes. It was a military warehouse and fabric store for Sumerbank. She was eventually returned to the Armenian community in Diyarbakir.

“We’ll ask a clergyman.”

Ohannes Gafur Ohanyan, a board member of the church foundation, said people are happy with the reopening.

“The project was completed with funding from the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. We are pleased to be involved in the project. [church] again,” he said.

“The church is beautiful”

Guyana Giburtian traveled to Diyarbakir from Van to attend a mass at the church.

“I was the first Armenian to settle in Van after 1915 and have a house there. This is my first time in Diyarbakir. I’ve never seen any place like it. The church is beautiful. Thank God for Diyarbakir. I feel heaven in this church. This is the first time in which I see such a beautiful church.”

Mar Geragos Church, Diyarbakir

(Ilyas Akıncın / The Independent Turkish)

“I spent my childhood here”

Bulent Memcu left Diyarbakir in 1963 and moved to Istanbul. He visited for mass and to meet relatives and acquaintances whom he had not seen in years.

“I spent my childhood here, our homes were near the church, and there are painful and beautiful memories. But this place is so beautiful, we no longer have any reason to return to Diyarbakir, and we are not thinking of returning.”

“No trace of old urban life in Tyre”

Bakrat Askutian, who came from Istanbul, said he made a trip to see the church after it was restored.

He said: “Of course I am happy to reopen the church. But what bothers me is the destruction of the area. The Tire neighborhood is on the list of world cultural heritage. There is no trace of the old fabric now, and I feel its absence, when I came here in 2012, there were completely different images.”

However, we are seeing new buildings being built now. It was an old traditional neighborhood. The area known as Gavur Mahallesi (Non-Muslim Quarter) or Xançepek was a protectorate. There is no trace of this design now. We also feel sorry for that.”

Mar Geragos Church, Diyarbakir

(Ilyas Akıncın / The Independent Turkish)

Traveling from Germany to attend the party

Armenian citizen Amarson Miros said he came from Germany to attend the opening.

Referring to the challenges the Armenian community has faced in the past years, Miros said: “We live as Armenians in Germany. My children are learning German. Unfortunately, I do not speak Armenian. I am happy to be in Diyarbakir and witness this beautiful moment.”

“There are no Javors in Jafur neighborhood”

Gabris Caprillion, who was born in the Silvan district of Diyarbakir but was forced to settle in Istanbul, said it was a pleasure to reopen the church for worship.

“We have suffered a lot here in the past. The area we are in is now known as Gavur Mahallesi (Non-Muslim Quarter), but there are no Gavurs left here. The restoration of the church is good, but it looks far from its original form,” said Mr. Caprillion.

The church was restored after years of conflict

(Ilyas Akıncın / The Independent Turkish)

Translated by Karim Celik. Edited by Meriç Şenyüz.

Review: Esra Turk, Toba Ali and Celine Assaf

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