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Akdamar Island Tour Programmes


Akdamar Kilesi (Akdamar Church) or Church of the Holy Cross) is a ruined Armenian cathedral in Eastern Anatolia. Situated on a small island in the beautiful mountain setting of Lake Van, the Akdamar church dates from the 10th century and is famed for the fascinating reliefs carved on the exterior.

Myth and Mystery

According to local legend, the island of Akdamar gets its name from a tragic love story. A man fell in love with a woman named Tamar, who lived on the island. He visited her every night until, one tragic night, he was overcome by the waves in a storm. As he sunk into the water he cried out, "Ach, Tamar!"

Local folklore also has it that Lake Van is enchanted and frequented by angels.


The Church of the Holy Cross was once an important Armenian cathedral. The seat of the Armenian Orthodox patriarch, the cathedral was founded by King Gagik between 915 and 921 as part of a royal complex that included a palace, monastery, streets, gardens and terraced parks. The church is all that remains today.

The church was designed by the Armenian architect Trdat Mendet (also known as Manuel), who also built the cathedral in nearby Ani and helped repair Hagia Sophia's dome when it collapsed after an earthquake.

The Church of the Holy Cross was the seat of an Armenian patriarch from 1116 to 1895, after which it was abandoned due to conflict between Armenia and the Ottoman Empire. The building fell into disrepair and was neglected throughout the 20th century.

The cathedral was restored by the Turkish government beginning in May 2005. The restoration cost $1.5 million and took 18 months to complete. At a ceremony on March 29, 2007, it was officially opened as a museum. The restoration project was seen as a diplomatic step by Turkey to improve relations with Armenia, which remain very tense.



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