Ani (Armenian: Անի; Greek: Ἄνιον, Ánion; Latin:
Abnicum; Georgian: ანი, Ani, or ანისი, Anisi;
Turkish: Ani) is a ruined medieval Armenian city now situated in
Turkey's province of Kars, next to the closed border with Armenia.
Between 961 and 1045, it was the capital of the Bagratid Armenian
kingdom that covered much of present-day
Armenia and eastern Turkey.
Called the "City of 1001 Churches",
Ani stood on various
trade routes and its many religious buildings, palaces, and
fortifications were amongst the most technically and artistically
advanced structures in the world. At its height, the
Ani probably was on the order of 100,000.
Long ago renowned for its splendor and magnificence,
Ani was sacked by
the Mongols in 1236 and devastated in a 1319 earthquake, after which
it was reduced to a village and gradually abandoned and largely
forgotten by the seventeenth century.
Ani is a widely
recognized cultural, religious, and national heritage symbol for
Armenians. According to Razmik Panossian,
Ani is one of the most
visible and ‘tangible’ symbols of past Armenian greatness and
hence a source of pride.
3.1 Early history
3.2 Bagratuni capital
3.3 Cultural and economic center
3.4 Gradual decline and abandonment
3.5 Modern times
4 Current state
5 Monuments at Ani
5.1 The Cathedral
5.2 Surp Stephanos Church
5.3 The church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents
5.4 The church of the Holy Redeemer
5.5 The church of St Gregory of the Abughamrents
5.6 King Gagik's church of St Gregory
5.7 The church of the Holy Apostles
5.8 The mosque of Manuchihr
5.9 The citadel
5.10 The city walls
5.11 Other monuments
5.12 Cave Village
7 In culture
8 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
The city took its name from the Armenian fortress-city and pagan
center of Ani-Kamakh located in the region of Daranaghi in Upper
Ani was also previously known as
Khnamk (Խնամք), although historians are uncertain as to why it
was called so.[clarification needed] Johann Heinrich Hübschmann,
a German philologist and linguist who studied the Armenian language,
suggested that the word may have come from the Armenian word "khnamel"
(խնամել), an infinitive which means "to take care of". Ani
was also the diminutive name of ancient Armenian goddess
was seen as the mother-protector of Armenia.
The city is located on a triangular site, visually dramatic and
naturally defensive, protected on its eastern side by the ravine of
Akhurian River and on its western side by the Bostanlar or
Tzaghkotzadzor valley. The Akhurian is a branch of the Araks
River and forms part of the currently closed border between Turkey
and Armenia. The site is at an elevation of around 4,390 feet
Armenian chroniclers such as
Ghazar Parpetsi first
Ani in the 5th century. They described it as a strong
fortress built on a hilltop and a possession of the Armenian
The Bagratuni Kingdom of Armenia, c. 1000
By the early 9th century, the former territories of the Kamsarakans in
Arsharunik and Shirak (including Ani) had been incorporated into the
territories of the Armenian Bagratuni dynasty. Their leader, Ashot
Msaker (Ashot the Meateater) (806–827) was given the title of
ishkhan (prince) of
Armenia by the
Caliphate in 804. The
Bagratunis had their first capital at Bagaran, some 40 km south
of Ani, before moving it to Shirakavan, some 25 km northeast of
Ani, and then transferring it to
Kars in the year 929. In 961, king
Ashot III (953–77) transferred the capital from
Kars to Ani. Ani
expanded rapidly during the reign of King
Smbat II (977–89). In 992
the Armenian Catholicosate moved its seat to Ani. In the 10th century
the population was perhaps 50,000–100,000. By the start of the
eleventh century the population of
Ani was well over 100,000,[citation
needed] and its renown was such that it was known as the "city of
forty gates" and the "city of a thousand and one churches."
became the site of the royal mausoleum of Bagratuni kings.
Ani attained the peak of its power during the long reign of King Gagik
I (989–1020). After his death his two sons quarreled over the
succession. The eldest son,
Hovhannes-Smbat (1020–41), gained
Ani while his younger brother, Ashot IV (1020–40),
controlled other parts of the Bagratuni kingdom. Hovhannes-Smbat,
fearing that the
Byzantine Empire would attack his now-weakened
kingdom, made the Byzantine Emperor
Basil II his heir. When
Hovhannes-Smbat died in 1041, Emperor Michael IV the Paphlagonian,
claimed sovereignty over Ani. The new king of Ani, Gagik II
(1042–45), opposed this and several Byzantine armies sent to capture
Ani were repulsed. However, in 1046
Ani surrendered to the
Byzantines, after Gagik was invited to Constantinople and detained
there, and at the instigation of pro-Byzantine elements among its
population. A Byzantine governor was installed in the city.
Cultural and economic center
Plan of the city
Ani did not lie along any previously important trade routes, but
because of its size, power, and wealth it became an important trading
hub. Its primary trading partners were the Byzantine Empire, the
Persian Empire, the Arabs, as well as smaller nations in southern
Russia and Central Asia.
Gradual decline and abandonment
In 1064, a large Seljuk army under
Alp Arslan attacked Ani; after a
siege of 25 days, they captured the city and slaughtered its
population. An account of the sack and massacres in
Ani is given by
the Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, who quotes an eyewitness saying:
The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and
burned it, leaving it in ruins and taking prisoner all those who
remained alive...The dead bodies were so many that they blocked the
streets; one could not go anywhere without stepping over them. And the
number of prisoners was not less than 50,000 souls. I was determined
to enter city and see the destruction with my own eyes. I tried to
find a street in which I would not have to walk over the corpses; but
that was impossible.
In 1072, the Seljuks sold
Ani to the Shaddadids, a Muslim Kurdish
dynasty. The Shaddadids generally pursued a conciliatory policy
towards the city’s overwhelmingly Armenian and Christian population
and actually married several members of the Bagratid nobility.
Shaddadid governance became too intolerant, however, the
population would appeal to the Christian
Kingdom of Georgia
Kingdom of Georgia for help.
The Georgians captured
Ani five times between 1124 and 1209: in
1124, 1161, 1174, 1199, and 1209. The first three
times, it was recaptured by the Shaddadids. In the year 1199,
Georgia's Queen Tamar captured
Ani and gave the governorship of the
city to the generals Zakare and Ivane. They were succeeded by
Zakare's son Shahanshah. Zakare's new dynasty—the
Zakarids—considered themselves to be the successors to the
Bagratids. Prosperity quickly returned to Ani; its defences were
strengthened and many new churches were constructed.
The Mongols unsuccessfully besieged
Ani in 1226, but in 1236 they
captured and sacked the city, massacring large numbers of its
Ani had fallen when
Shahanshah was absent. On his return
Zakarids continued to rule Ani, only now as vassals of the Mongols
rather than the Georgians.
By the 14th century, the city was ruled by a succession of local
Turkish dynasties, including the Jalayrids and the
Kara Koyunlu (Black
Sheep clan) who made
Ani their capital. It was ruined by an earthquake
in 1319. Tamerlane captured
Ani in the 1380s. On his death the
Kara Koyunlu regained control but transferred their capital to
Yerevan. In 1441 the Armenian Catholicosate did the same. The Persian
Safavids then ruled
Ani until it became part of the Turkish Ottoman
Empire in 1579. A small town remained within its walls at least until
the middle of the seventeenth century, but the site was entirely
abandoned by 1735 when the last monks left the monastery in the
Virgin's Fortress or Kizkale.
"Of true Armenian architecture the finest and most characteristic
specimens are to be found in the ruined city of Ani..."
—James Bryce, 1876
In 1905–06, archaeological excavations of the church of Saint
Gregory of King Gagik were undertaken, headed by Nikolai Marr.
In the first half of the 19th century, European travelers discovered
Ani for the outside world, publishing their descriptions in academic
journals and travel accounts. The private buildings were little more
than heaps of stones but grand public buildings and the city's double
wall were preserved and reckoned to present "many points of great
Ohannes Kurkdjian produced stereoscopic
Ani in the 2nd half of the 19th century.
In 1878, the Ottoman Empire's
Kars region—including Ani—was
incorporated into the Russian Empire's Transcaucasian region. In
1892 the first archaeological excavations were conducted at Ani,
sponsored by the
St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences
St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and supervised by
the Georgian archaeologist and orientalist Nicholas Marr
(1864–1934). Marr's excavations at
Ani resumed in 1904 and continued
yearly until 1917. Large sectors of the city were professionally
excavated, numerous buildings were uncovered and measured, the finds
were studied and published in academic journals, guidebooks for the
monuments and the museum were written, and the whole site was surveyed
for the first time. Emergency repairs were also undertaken on
those buildings that were most at risk of collapse. A museum was
established to house the tens of thousands of items found during the
excavations. This museum was housed in two buildings: the Minuchihr
mosque, and a purpose-built stone building.
neighboring villages and towns also began to visit the city on a
regular basis, and there was even talk by Marr's team of building
a school for educating the local Armenian children, building parks,
and planting trees to beautify the site.
In 1918, during the latter stages of World War I, the armies of the
Ottoman Empire were fighting their way across the territory of the
newly declared Republic of Armenia, capturing
Kars in April 1918. At
Ani, attempts were made to evacuate the artifacts contained in the
museum as Turkish soldiers were approaching the site. About 6000 of
the most portable items were removed by archaeologist Ashkharbek
Kalantar, a participant of Marr's excavation campaigns. At the behest
of Joseph Orbeli, the saved items were consolidated into a museum
collection; they are currently part of the collection of Yerevan's
State Museum of Armenian History. Everything that was left behind
was later looted or destroyed. Turkey's surrender at the end of
World War I
World War I led to the restoration of
Ani to Armenian control, but a
resumed offensive against the Armenian Republic in 1920 resulted in
Turkey's recapture of Ani. In 1921 the signing of the Treaty of Kars
formalized the incorporation of the territory containing
Ani into the
Republic of Turkey.
In May 1921, the government minister
Rıza Nur ordered the commander
of the Eastern Front, Kazım Karabekir, for the monuments of
"be wiped off the face of the earth." Karabekir records in his
memoirs that he has vigorously rejected this command and it has never
been carried out, but the wiping-out of all traces of Marr's
excavations and building repairs suggests that the command was
partially carried out.
Today, according to
Lonely Planet and
Frommer's travel guides to
Official permission to visit
Ani is no longer needed. Just go to Ani
and buy a ticket. If you don't have your own car, haggle with a taxi
or minibus driver in
Kars for the round-trip to Ani, perhaps sharing
the cost with other travelers. If you have trouble, the Tourist Office
may help. Plan to spend at least a half-day at Ani. It's not a bad
idea to bring a picnic lunch and a water bottle.
According to The Economist,
Armenians have "accused the Turks of
neglecting the place in a spirit of chauvinism. The Turks retort that
Ani's remains have been shaken by blasts from a quarry on the Armenian
side of the border.
Another commentator said:
Ani is now a ghost city, uninhabited for
over three centuries and marooned inside a Turkish military zone on
Turkey's decaying closed border with the modern Republic of Armenia.
Ani's recent history has been one of continuous and always increasing
destruction. Neglect, earthquakes, cultural cleansing, vandalism,
quarrying, amateurish restorations and excavations – all these and
more have taken a heavy toll on Ani's monuments.
In the estimation of the
Landmarks Foundation (a non-profit
organization established for the protection of sacred sites) this
ancient city "needs to be protected regardless of whose jurisdiction
it falls under. Earthquakes in 1319, 1832, and 1988, Army Target
practice and general neglect all have had devastating effects on the
architecture of the city. The city of
Ani is a sacred place which
needs ongoing protection."
Turkey's authorities now say they will do their best to conserve and
develop the site and the culture ministry has listed
Ani among the
sites it is keenest to conserve. In the words of Mehmet Ufuk Erden,
the local governor: "By restoring Ani, we'll make a contribution to
humanity...We will start with one church and one mosque, and over time
we will include every single monument."
In an October 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage, Global
Heritage Fund identified
Ani as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the
Verge" of irreparable loss and destruction, citing insufficient
management and looting as primary causes.
World Monuments Fund
World Monuments Fund (WMF) placed
Ani on its 1996, 1998, and 2000
Watch Lists of 100 Most Endangered Sites. In May 2011, WMF announced
it was beginning conservation work on the cathedral and Church of the
Holy Redeemer in partnership with the Turkish Ministry of Culture.
In March 2015, it was reported that
Turkey will nominate
Ani to be
listed as a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site in 2016. The archaeological
Ani was inscribed as a
World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site on July 15,
2016. According to art historian Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh the
addition "would secure significant benefits in protection, research
expertise, and funding."
Monuments at Ani
All the structures at
Ani are constructed using the local volcanic
basalt, a sort of tufa stone. It is easily carved and comes in a
variety of vibrant colors, from creamy yellow, to rose-red, to jet
black. The most important surviving monuments are as follows.
Cathedral of Ani
Main article: Cathedral of Ani
Also known as Surp Asdvadzadzin (the Church of the Holy Mother of
God), its construction was started in the year 989, under King Smbat
II. Work was halted after his death, and was only finished in 1001 (or
in 1010 under another reading of its building inscription). The design
of the cathedral was the work of Trdat, the most celebrated architect
of medieval Armenia. The cathedral is a domed basilica (the dome
collapsed in 1319). The interior contains several progressive features
(such as the use of pointed arches and clustered piers) that give to
it the appearance of
Gothic architecture (a style which the Ani
cathedral predates by several centuries).
Surp Stephanos Church
There is no inscription giving the date of its construction, but an
edict in Georgian is dated 1218. The church was referred to as
"Georgian". During this period "Georgian" did not simply mean an
ethnic Georgian, it had a denominational meaning and would have
designated all those in
Ani who professed the
mostly Armenians. Although the Georgian Church controlled this church,
its congregation would have mostly been Armenians.
The church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents
This church, finished in 1215, is the best-preserved monument at Ani.
It was built during the rule of the
Zakarids and was commissioned by
the wealthy Armenian merchant Tigran Honents. Its plan is of a
type called a domed hall. In front of its entrance are the ruins of a
narthex and a small chapel that are from a slightly later period. The
exterior of the church is spectacularly decorated. Ornate stone
carvings of real and imaginary animals fill the spandrels between
blind arcade that runs around all four sides of the church. The
interior contains an important and unique series of frescoes cycles
that depict two main themes. In the eastern third of the church is
depicted the Life of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, in the middle
third of the church is depicted the Life of Christ. Such extensive
fresco cycles are rare features in Armenian architecture – it is
believed that these ones were executed by Georgian artists, and the
cycle also includes scenes from the life of St. Nino, who converted
the Georgians to Christianity. In the narthex and its chapel survive
fragmentary frescoes that are more Byzantine in style.
The church of the Holy Redeemer
The Church of the Redeemer (Surb Prkich).
This church was completed shortly after the year 1035. It had a unique
design: 19-sided externally, 8-apsed internally, with a huge central
dome set upon a tall drum. It was built by Prince Ablgharib Pahlavid
to house a fragment of the True Cross. The church was largely intact
until 1955, when the entire eastern half collapsed during a storm.
The church of St Gregory of the Abughamrents
This small building probably dates from the late 10th century. It was
built as a private chapel for the Pahlavuni family. Their mausoleum,
built in 1040 and now reduced to its foundations, was constructed
against the northern side of the church. The church has a centralised
plan, with a dome over a drum, and the interior has six exedera.
King Gagik's church of St Gregory
Also known as the Gagikashen, this church was constructed between the
years 1001 and 1005 and intended to be a recreation of the celebrated
cathedral of Zvartnots at Vagharshapat.
Nikolai Marr uncovered the
foundations of this remarkable building in 1905 and 1906. Before that,
all that was visible on the site was a huge earthen mound. The
designer of the church was the architect Trdat. The church is known to
have collapsed a relatively short time after its construction and
houses were later constructed on top of its ruins. Trdat's design
closely follows that of Zvartnotz in its size and in its plan (a
quatrefoil core surrounded by a circular ambulatory).
The church of the Holy Apostles
The date of its construction is not known, but the earliest dated
inscription on its walls is from 1031. It was founded by the Pahlavuni
family and was used by the archbishops of
Ani (many of whom belonged
to that dynasty). It has a plan of a type called an inscribed
quatrefoil with corner chambers. Only fragments remain of the church,
but a narthex with spectacular stonework, built against the south side
of the church, is still partially intact. It dates from the early 13th
century. A number of other halls, chapels, and shrines once surrounded
Nicholas Marr excavated their foundations in 1909, but
they are now mostly destroyed.
Manuchihr Mosque west view
The mosque of Manuchihr
The mosque is named after its presumed founder, Manuchihr, the first
member of the
Shaddadid dynasty that ruled
Ani after 1072. The oldest
surviving part of the mosque is its still intact minaret. It has the
Arabic word Bismillah ("In the name of God") in
Kufic lettering high
on its northern face. The prayer hall, half of which survives, dates
from a later period (the 12th or 13th century). In 1906 the mosque was
partially repaired in order for it to house a public museum containing
objects found during Nicholas Marr's excavations.
At the southern end of
Ani is a flat-topped hill once known as
Midjnaberd (the Inner Fortress). It has its own defensive walls that
date back to the period when the
Kamsarakan dynasty ruled
Nicholas Marr excavated the citadel hill in 1908 and
1909. He uncovered the extensive ruins of the palace of the Bagratid
Ani that occupied the highest part of the hill. Also inside
the citadel are the visible ruins of three churches and several
unidentified buildings. One of the churches, the "church of the
palace" is the oldest surviving church in Ani, dating from the 6th or
7th century. Marr undertook emergency repairs to this church, but most
of it has now collapsed – probably during an earthquake in 1966.
The city walls
The walls of
Ani showing a defensive tower.
A line of walls that encircled the entire city defended Ani. The most
powerful defences were along the northern side of the city, the only
part of the site not protected by rivers or ravines. Here the city was
protected by a double line of walls, the much taller inner wall
studded by numerous large and closely spaced semicircular towers.
Contemporary chroniclers wrote that King Smbat (977–989) built these
walls. Later rulers strengthened Smbat's walls by making them
substantially higher and thicker, and by adding more towers. Armenian
inscriptions from the 12th and 13th century show that private
individuals paid for some of these newer towers. The northern walls
had three gateways, known as the Lion Gate, the
Kars Gate, and the
Dvin Gate (also known as the Chequer-Board Gate because of a panel of
red and black stone squares over its entrance).
There are many other minor monuments at Ani. These include a convent
known as the Virgins' chapel; a church used by
the remains of a single-arched bridge over the Arpa river; the ruins
of numerous oil-presses and several bath houses; the remains of a
second mosque with a collapsed minaret; a palace that probably dates
from the 13th century; the foundations of several other palaces and
smaller residences; the recently excavated remains of several streets
lined with shops; etc.
Directly outside of Ani, there was a settlement-zone carved into the
cliffs. It may have served as "urban sprawl" when
Ani grew too large
for its city walls. Today, goats and sheep take advantage of the
caves' cool interiors. One highlight of this part of
Ani is a cave
church with frescos on its surviving walls and ceiling.
1885 engraving showing the walls of Ani.
Church of St. Gregory of the Abughamrents; in the background is the
Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents, western side.
Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents, drum and dome.
Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents - frescoes on the southern wall: the
Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents - frescoes.
Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents - frescoes.
Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents - frescoes on the northern wall: the
Raising of Lazarus.
Fresco on the ceiling of a cave church (supposed tomb chapel of Tigran
Honents) outside Ani.
Panoramic view of north walls of Ani, April 2011.
Ani is one of the most popular female given names in Armenia.
Songs and poems have been written about
Ani and its past glory.
"Tesnem Anin u nor mernem" (Տեսնեմ Անին ու նոր
մեռնեմ, Let me see
Ani before I die) is a famous poem by
Hovhannes Shiraz. It was turned into a song by Turkish-Armenian
composer Cenk Taşkan. Ara Gevorgyan's 1999 album of folk
instrumental songs is titled Ani.
Ani security fence
List of kings of Ani
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