The decay of the Saint Bartholomew Monastery in Van

The Armenian Saint Bartholomew's Monastery in Van has been abandoned to final decay; a restoration announced in 2011 has still not taken place. The environmental activist Ali Kalçık sees this as a continuation of the genocide against the Armenians.

The Saint Bartholomew Monastery in Başkale district of Van is doomed to final decay. In 2011, the governor's office announced the restoration of the Armenian monastery, but this decision has not been implemented in the past ten years.

The monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church was built in the 13th century in the then Greater Armenian province of Vaspurakan and abandoned during the genocide of the Armenians from 1915. The ruins of the monastery are located 23 kilometres from the district of Başkale on a hill at an altitude of about 2000 metres. According to tradition, the monastery was built on the site of the martyrdom of Bartholomew. He is said to have been one of the apostles who brought Christianity to Armenia in the 1st century. Together with Saint Thaddeus, Saint Bartholomew is considered the patron saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church. A monastery building is first recorded in inscriptions in 1398. The buildings were rebuilt or restored in 1755 and 1878. The monastery complex could date back to the 13th century or early Christian times.

During the Armenian Genocide, the monastery came under the control of the Turkish military from 1915 to 1916 and has since been located within the grounds of an army base, which has been used as a base for a special military unit since the 1990s. The monastery complex was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1966. The dome of the church was intact until the 1960s, but the entire structure has since been badly ruined and the dome has now disappeared. After the military base was moved to another location, the site has been handed over to the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

"The values of Mesopotamia are being destroyed"

The chairman of the Van Environmental Association, Ali Kalçık, sees the decay as a continuation of the genocide according to the mindset: "In the past we destroyed the Armenians, now we have to erase their history as well". As the association's president told ANF, he has lobbied the authorities several times in vain to preserve the monastery: "We have written several reports on this issue, but as a non-governmental organisation our efforts are not enough. In Van, the entire history is being destroyed. Looters and the people from the villages in the area have accelerated the deterioration of the church by digging. The announced restoration has not taken place and meanwhile only one wall of the historic church is left standing. All social groups should work for the preservation of the historical heritage in the region. According to the official ideology, there are always treasures buried under crosses of Christianity. This way of thinking leads to devastating consequences. The values of Mesopotamia are destroyed as a result."