Cultural Heritage in Turkey: neglected historical Armenian monastery target of treasure hunters

VAN, Turkey – The Van region in Turkey has a long but neglected Christian legacy. Hundreds of years old Christian, and in particular, Armenian monasteries and churches in Van, eastern Turkey, suffered from neglect, indifference or shortage of funding by state responsible agencies.

The Armenian historical monastery Surp Marinos Monastery is such a neglected heritage in Turkey. It lays in ruins and has become target of treasure hunters. Diyarbakir Armenian Member of Turkish Parliament for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Garo Paylan brought up the case of the monastery, and Christian heritage in general, in the Turkish National Assembly;

“This monastery, which has been known since the 16th century, has hosted up to 300 nuns at the time and was one of the leading educational centers in the region,” he said. “Unfortunately, the building, which is also important in terms of architecture, is now in the phase of complete destruction, with years of neglect and vandalism of treasure hunters. The historical and cultural structures in Van and its surroundings are destroyed because of treasury hunting and the indifference of the administration.” (Bianet)

Paylan asked the following questions to Minister of Tourism and Culture Mehmet Nuri Ersoy:

      • Are the person or persons who excavated to find treasures in Surp Marinos Monastery and its vicinity identified and have legal proceedings been initiated about them?
      • Why are the Surp Marinos Monastery and historical buildings belonging to Christians within the borders of Van province not protected by your ministry?
      • Will you work to restore the Surp Marinos Monastery?
      • Has an inventory of monasteries, churches and cultural structures built by Armenians in Van been prepared?
      • The elimination of cultural traces of Armenians has been carried out as a state policy until today. Are you planning to show that this policy has changed?


    Related: Chaldean church targeted by treasure hunters, Şirnak, Turkey

    In the last couple of years some little but positive steps were taken by Turkish government agencies in safeguarding Christian monasteries and heritage. The Syriac Monastery of St. Quryaqos in Batman is currently being restored. In Trabzon a former Pontic Greek seminary is up for restoration (picture below).

    Image: @cilingirtamer