The Ahtamar Church of the Holy Cross Photo Exhibition, organized by the Turkish Presidency Communications Office as part of the project “The Hidden Monuments of Anatolia Coming to Light” and featuring the photos by İzzet Keribar, has opened in New York.
The reception, which was held at the White Space Chelsea exhibition hall in Manhattan, was attended by Turkey’s Consul General in New York Alper Aktaş, Turkish Armenian Patriarchate Governor Şahak Maşalyan, Armenian Foundations Community President Bedros Şirinoğlu, Turkish Minority Community Foundation Representative Moris Levi, Syriac Ancient Church Foundation President Sait Suşin, American Orthodox Church Archbishop Elpidophoros Lambriniadis and the representatives of Turkish and Armenian communities.
The program started with a piano performance by pianist Şahan Arzruni and continued with a film titled “The Hidden Monuments of Anatolia Coming to Light: Ahtamar,” featuring the Ahtamar Church.
Speaking at the ceremony, Turkish Armenian Patriarchate Governor Şahak Maşalyan said that his wish and the wish of many others in his community has been fulfilled with the displaying in New York of the photographs of the Ahtamar Church, which is part of the Armenian civilization and which has survived thousands of years of abrasion.
Expressing his satisfaction with the interest shown at the presidential level in the Ahtamar Church and other monumental historical structures, Maşalyan continued: “Under the leadership of the president’s vision, special attention and interest was shown in the Ahtamar Church. Since its opening, this monumental church has received warm appreciation from all over the world, including Armenia and Turkey, and has become one of Turkey’s favorite places of visit for cultural and religious tourism.”
Underlining that Turkey’s restoration and promotion of the Ahtamar Church of Armenian origin and identity should be seen as a friendly invitation for the Armenian people, Maşalyan stated: “This is a cultural initiative to overcome the difficulties of communication between the Turkish and Armenian peoples, as well as a bridge to a better future and understanding based on goodwill.”
“It is true that Ahtamar has witnessed many tragic events between the Armenian and Turkish communities, but it has also witnessed thousands of years of friendship and shared common history between the two nations. Ahtamar can be a place of peace again, since it is equipped with special features to successfully fulfill this mission,” he added.
Extending thanks to photographer Keribar who took the photos of the Ahtamar Church, Maşalyan congratulated the master artist who captured the immortal moments of Ahtamar Island and the church through his lens. “The master photographer teaches us how to look at an ancient monument in this exhibition,” he told.
Offering his thanks to the Presidential Communications Office, which pioneered the organization of the exhibition, Maşalyan noted that he considered the event to be an attempt to introduce Turkey’s cultural and civilizational wealth to the world, beyond a photography exhibition.
Armenian Foundations Community President Bedros Şirinoğlu stated that he was greatly impressed by the exhibition in New York, adding: “The Ahtamar Church was in a miserable state. It was restored by the Ministry of Culture on the instructions of the president, and now we can perform our rituals there.”
Emphasizing that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made great efforts for minority communities, Şirinoğlu said: “Our 187-year-old hospital did not have a license, and the president has helped us with hundreds of other issues such as the reinstatement of our goods. We would like to express our gratitude to him for all his help and to the Communications Office for this exhibition.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency (AA), American Orthodox Church Archbishop Elpidophoros Lambriniadis underlined the significance of the photos at the exhibition in terms of showing the importance attached to the Christian minority in Turkey, saying: “Turkey is going in the right direction and it is good to tell the whole world about this.”
The Ahtamar Church of the Holy Cross Photo Exhibition in New York, the second step of Turkey’s cultural awareness-raising efforts to blend historical heritage with geographical beauties, will promote holy sites to the entire world and restore their value. The show, featuring 88 photos, will be open to visitors until Friday.
In addition to the book that includes information, architectural drawings and photographs about the church, detailed digital data about the church is available at www.akdamarkilisesi.gov.tr. The website offers high-resolution virtual reality videos, 360-degree photos taken from 14 different points, and photos taken through Keribar’s lens.
The Ahtamar Church of the Holy Cross on the Island of Ahtamar, which was built in 915 and completed in 921 by the ruler Gagik of the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan, stands out with its rare rich reliefs, which draw on the stories of the Bible and the Torah. The church, which holds a special place in East-West Christian art, exhibits the most important decorations in the history of Armenian architecture and the most extensive wall reliefs of its era.