Akdamar Island is one of the four islands in Van Lake, Turkey’s largest lake. With its church on the Akdamar Island, Van is located 47 km from the city center, 4 km from the shore. Akdamar Island, whose real name is Ahtamara, is known by the 1100-year-old historical Cross Church built by the Armenians.
Although I lived in Van in 96-97 years, I could not go to Akdamar Island in the beginning. Kismet was 15 years later. After almost two years of traveling to Oceania and South Asia, I went through the border gate to Van (June 2012) after Middle East countries where I went as the last route. A nostalgic taste was one of the short trips to Van sightseeing in Akdamar Island.
The monastery was built by monk Manuel under the supervision of the King I. Gagik, and the monastery was converted in 1113 and until 1895 it became the center of the Armenian patriarchy on the verge. The chapel in the north-east of Kilisen was added in 1293-1336, the jamadun in the west (community house) in 1793, and the southern bell tower in the late 18th century.
The chapel to the north is unknown. The dome at the center of the church dedicated to the Holy Cross is 20 meters high. It is worth noting that the stone reliefs describing the sacred things on the walls of Kilisenin, located to the south-east of Akdamar Island. In stone reliefs, religious stories from the Bible and the Torah, as well as worldly topics, palace life, hunting scenes, human and animal figures are depicted. Unfortunately these frescoes are severely damaged.
Prophecy of the Prophet Yunus, Hz. Jesus, Jesus, Adam and Eve in his lap, Jesus Christ, The battle of David and King Goliath, the Samson Palestinian duo, the three Hebrew young people in the fire, and the Daniel stages in the Lion are some of the issues that have been committed. On the western front, there is also a scene showing King Gagik presenting the church model. Biblical authors are portrayed in the four pedestals.
The Church, which has been neglected for many years, was restored in 2005-2007 as a step towards the development of relations with Turkish Armenians and neighboring Armenia under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, spending $ 1.5 million.
The church was reopened in March 2007 as a museum with the participation of Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay and Armenian Minister of Culture. After the restoration work, a ceremony was held on 19th September 2010 in the church under the leadership of Archbishop Aram Atesyan, the Patriarch General Deputy of the Armenian Patriotic Patriarchate of Turkey. This was the first ceremony held here after 95 years.
The Akdamar legend
The Armenian chief monk who lived in Akdamar Island at the time of his time had a daughter named Tamar who was famous for his beautiful language. A young lad who shepherds in a village near Adan falls in love with the beautiful girl of the monk. The young shepherd swam every night to meet Tamar. Tamar, on the edge of the night in the darkness to see her place in the darkness.
The father of the girl, who knew about it, was constantly displaced from coast to coast, going down the coast of the island with a flashlight in a stormy night. The young lad swam in vain as he followed the lantern, lost his power.
The tired young shepherd drowns on the spot and shouts “Ah Tamar!” With his last breath before he drowns. The girl who heard this echoing bitter voice soon left herself to the waters of Van Lake. After that day the island began to be remembered with the name of Ah Tamar.
How to get to Akdamar Island
To reach the island, you need to get on the Van bus terminal from Gevas-Akdamar minibuses. Approximately 30 minutes, Gevaş Akdamar pier is reached. There is a boat waiting here to get to the island during the day. The boat is moving a lot.
The island is reached after a 20 minute boat ride in the deep blue lake water. Akdamar Island Boat fee is 7 TL including round trip. For those with a museum card, check-out to the island is free; Those who do not have a card can enter the island for 5 TL. The island has a length of 1.5 km and a width of 0.5 km, at least 1 hour is required to travel. I had almost half a day.
The cafeteria on the island serves hot cold drinks and biscuit-style food. There are guided, dinner tours for those who wish to depart from Van center.
It is advisable to visit the island, which is first on the list of places to visit in the spring, in Van. The island and sea combination of green meadows between almond and apricot flowers should be great. I would definitely recommend the swimming from the rocks on the north coast of Adan to the sea. Swimming Van Lake in its oil-rich, clean water can be an interesting experience.