Armenian Church in Mardin targeted by Europa Nostra and EIB Institute
The Armenian church of St. George in Mardin, listed as one of The 7 Most Endangered Monuments and Sites in Europe, was visited by heritage and financial experts from Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank (EIB) Institute on 24-25 October. This tangible witness of Turkey’s multicultural history, which was built in 1857, is today in an advanced state of disrepair. The delegation participated in meetings with the Governor and the Mayor of Mardin. The local authorities are in favour of the rehabilitation of the monument but their endeavours need to be backed by national and European partners.
On 24 October, the delegation of Europa Nostra, represented by its Vice-president Costa Carras and its Scientific Council Member Patrizia Valle, and the EIB Institute, represented by Richard Deeley, visited the Armenian church of St. George. On behalf of Europa Nostra Turkey, which made the nomination for ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ programme, its President Nuran Zeren Gülersoy and two members of the project, Zeynep Ahunbay and Amine Alkan; in representation of the Mardin Armenian Catholic Church Community Foundation, owner of the building, Mansur Uğurgel and Faruk Uğurgel.
Integrated in a small monastery complex located on a slope overlooking the Mesopotamian plain, the church is reached through narrow streets and only on foot. “This Christian church is probably one of the oldest dedicated to St. George. It is needed to carry out archaeological research in the site and define design criteria and measures to adopt against seismic damage, which should be included in the early stages of the works,” stated Patrizia Valle.
Richard Deeley, from the European Investment Bank Institute, was concerned that the value of restoring the church would be diminished if left surrounded by the equally dilapidated state of the rest of the monastery complex. He was convinced of the potential of the site and suggested that the project should be enlarged to include the whole of what is, in fact, a small monastery. This will make it possible to work on and improve the whole site surrounded by the enclosure walls. The proposal was well-received by all concerned and the file will be updated accordingly.
After the visit, the European delegation and its local partners attended a meeting with the Governor of Mardin. Ahmet Cengiz, who is well aware of the province’s extremely rich cultural heritage, acknowledged the urgency of the intervention. The Governor offered support to the rehabilitation project by asking for assistance from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. He also promised to help the Armenian Catholic Foundation in the relocation of the three families who are living in the small monastery complex.
During the meeting with the Mayor of Mardin, Mehmet Beşir Ayanoğlu, Europa Nostra’s Vice-president Costa Carras emphasised “the example of Cappadoccia as an area which has profited immensely from restoring Christian monuments” and suggested “the involvement of the local administration in similar projects which would revitalise the ancient city”. The Mayor stated that “the city administration is ready to provide support to the project through its municipal services”.
On 25 October, the European and local delegates visited the Mor Gabriel Monastery and the historic city of Midyat, as well as the church of St. Joseph in Mardin, and gathered with experts from other local NGO’s to evaluate the current situation of the heritage site and discuss strategies for its future development.
“The preservation of the church and its annexes would enable future generations to understand the contribution of Armenian people to Mardin’s history and identity and, at the same time, allow a wider public to appreciate their cultural expressions and artistic achievements,” the President of Europa Nostra Turkey has stated on various occasions.
The results of the rescue mission to Mardin will be presented, together with the outcomes of the six other missions, at the European Heritage Policy Conference, organised by Europa Nostra, in Brussels on 5 December.