The Ancient Ghost City Of Ani “The City Of A Thousand And One Churches.”

Ani is a Turkish Medieval Armenian city on the banks of the Akhurian River. It was established circa 3000 BC and was listed by UNESCO as a global cultural heritage site in 2016.

The historic settlement is located in a natural gorge that serves as the boundary between Turkey and Armenia, making it a perfect spot to defend and one of the most significant Silk Road hubs.

Church of Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents. Martin Lopatka – CC BY 2.0

During the Han Dynasty in China, from around 207BC to 220AD, trading along this route connected the eastern and western sections of Asia, and subsequently Europe.

Ani has been designated a First Degree Archaeological Conservation Site, putting it under the protection of Turkey’s National Law No. 2863 for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties. It also requires clearance from the Kars Regional Council for the Protection of Cultural Assets.

The medieval walls of Ani. Marko Anastasov – CC BY 2.0

The huge architectural projects performed throughout the years by both Muslim and Christian kings, as well as the amazing number of churches, distinguished Ani.

According to, the city was known as “The City of 1,001 Churches” during the era when Armenian monarchs dominated it. While there were not many churches, at least forty houses of worship have been discovered thus far.

King Gagik’s church of St Gregory, a structure built between 1001 and 1005. Scott Dexter – CC BY 2.0

Ani was at its pinnacle in the 10th and 11th centuries, when it was ruled by the Bagratuni Armenian royal line, but it was destroyed shortly after by the Seljuk Turks and the Byzantine Empire. According to, the population in the early 11th century was estimated to be over 100,000 people.

Massive – some of the ruins, an interior shot of the Ani Cathedral. Scott Dexter – CC BY 2.0
Frescoes inside the Church of Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents. Teo Romera – CC BY 2.0
he Citadel (left) and Mosque of Minuchihir (right). Jean & Nathalie – CC BY 2.0
A Military warning sign with the Citadel behind. Adam Jones CC BY 2.0

Arme Mongol assaults in the 13th century and a devastating earthquake in 1319 accelerated the city’s collapse until trade routes changed and the city was abandoned.

There are three architectural zones, according to The first is the citadel, which contains the ruins of the Karamadin church, the Church of the Six Apses, the Castle church, the Kamsaragan palace, the Midjnaberd church, and the Sushan Pahlavuni church.

Ani cathedral with Armenia’s Little Ararat in the background. SaraYeomans – CC BY 2.0
The Virgin’s Castle, visible at center, on cliffs above the Akhurian River
Ghost bridge below Ani. Armenia is on the right, Turkey on the left. Martin Lopatka – CC BY 2.0
A gorgeous inscription on an exterior wall of the cathedral. Scott Dexter – CC BY 2.0

The outer citadel contains, among other things, the Fire Temple, the Ramparts of Smbat II, the Seljuk Palace, the Emir Ebu’l Muammeran Complex, and the Silk Road Bridge. The Bostanlar Creek and rock-carved structures on the slope of a neighboring valley comprise the third zone outside the city’s walls.

There are remnants of religious statues from the Muslim, Christian, and Zoroastrian faiths. Architectural and artistic relics from the Byzantine, Medieval Armenian, Seljuk , and Georgian civilizations may be found.

Construction of the structure began in 989, completed in either 1001 or 1010. Teo Romera – CC BY 2.0

Numerous new art and architectural styles emerged as a result of cultural mixing from the 7th to the 13th century AD, as seen by the many distinct forms of architecture utilized in the construction of churches, military facilities, government buildings, meeting places, and dwellings.

The Virgin’s Castle, atop cliffs along the Akhurian River. Teo Romera CC BY 2.0
Ani, as viewed from across the border, in Armenia.
The Virgin’s Castle, visible at center, on cliffs above the Akhurian River. Scott Dexter – CC BY 2.0
Scott Dexter – CC BY 2.0
A gorge below Ani, showing numerous caves dug into cliffs, as well as fortifications. Adam Jones – CC BY 2.0

Unfortunately, previous restoration crews tampered with the original construction materials. At the time, the teams excavating the site are more concerned with fixing past teams’ mistakes than with discovering new structures.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which administers finances and is in charge of the site’s conservation, has prepared several plans over the years and is continually upgrading what is required.

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