Article first appeared on our partner website, Independent Turkish
The Armenian Church of St. Gilagos in Diyarbakir reopens after seven years. The historic church just held its first Sunday service in nearly a decade. Armenian communities inside and outside Turkey gather in Diyarbakir in anticipation of reopening.
The Armenian Church of St. Gilagos in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir was severely damaged during the 2015/16 war as a result of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.
St Gilagos Church
St. Giragos Church, known in Armenian as Surp Giragos Church, was damaged during the conflict. In 2016, the government began to recover.
According to some sources, the church is believed to be the largest Armenian community in the region and was built in the 16th century. Destroyed by fire in 1881, it was rebuilt in 1883.
German troops used the church as their headquarters in World War I. In 1913, the old bell tower of the church was damaged by lightning strikes. It was replaced by a magnificent tower, built in 1914 for 2000 gold coins. It was demolished by the state in 1916 because it was taller than the spire near the church.
Until 1960, the church was used for various purposes. This is a military warehouse and a fabric warehouse in Sümerbank. It was eventually returned to the Armenian community in Diyarbakir.
“We will ask the priest”
Ohannes Gafur Ohanyan, board member of the Church Foundation, said people were happy with the reopening.
“The project was completed with funding from the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization. We are delighted. We are delighted to be part of it [church] Active again,” he said.
“Church is beautiful”
Gayana Gebortiyan traveled from Van to Diyarbakir to attend church mass.
“I am the first Armenian to settle in Van after 1915 and have a house there. This is my first time in Diyarbakir. I have never seen a place like this. The church is beautiful. Thank God Bestowed on Diyarbakir. I was very moved and felt that heaven is in this church, the first time I saw such a beautiful church.”
“I spent my childhood here”
Bülent Mumcu left Diyarbakir in 1963 and moved to Istanbul. He went to Mass and met relatives and acquaintances he hadn’t seen in years.
“I spent my childhood here. Our house is right next to the church. There are painful and good memories. However, the place is still beautiful. We no longer have any reason to go back to Diyarbakir. We do not consider move back.”
“No trace of old town life in Sur”
Pakrat Eskutyan from Istanbul said he visited after the church was restored.
He said: “Of course I am happy with the reopening of the church. But what disturbs me is the destruction of the area. The Sur district is on the World Heritage List and there is no trace of the old fabric now, and I feel its absence. When I came here in 2012, it was a completely different Sur.
“However, we see new buildings being built now. It used to be a traditional, old neighborhood. The area known as Gavur Mahallesi (non-Muslim area) or Xancepek used to be protected. There is no trace of that design anymore. . . We are also saddened by that.”
Came from Germany for the ceremony
Armenian citizen Amarson Miros said he had come from Germany to attend the opening ceremony.
Referring to the challenges the Armenian community has faced over the past few years, Miros said: “We live as Armenians in Germany. My children are learning German. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Armenian. It’s a pleasure to be here. Diyarbakir and witness this beautiful moment.”
“No Gavur in Gavur District”
Gabris Kabrillion, who was born in Diyarbakir’s Silvan district but was forced to settle in Istanbul, said it was a pleasure the reopening of churches for worship.
“We have suffered a lot here in the past. The area we are currently in is called Gavur Mahallesi (non-Muslim area), but there is no Gavur left here. The restoration of the church is good, but it looks far from its original form, ‘ said Mr Kabrillion.
Translated by Klimchelik. Proofreaded by MeriçŞenyüz.
Reviewed by Esra Turk, Tooba Ali, and Celine Assaf