Cathedral of Kars
Kümbet Mosque in 2014
|Type||Armenian cathedral (mid-900s–1065)
Russian cathedral (1877–1918)
Armenian church (1919–20)
Kars Museum (1964–78)
|Beginning date||930 or 931–2|
|Completion date||937, 943 or 967|
|Dedicated to||Twelve Apostles|
The Cathedral of Kars, also known as the Holy Apostles Church (Armenian: Կարսի Սուրբ Առաքելոց եկեղեցի, Karsi Surb Arakelots' yekeghets'i; Turkish: 12 Havariler Kilisesi or Aziz Havariler Kilisesi) is a former Armenian church in Kars, eastern Turkey. Built in the mid-10th century by the Armenian Bagratid King Abas I (r. 928–953), it was converted into a mosque in 1579. In the 19th and early 20th century it was converted into a Russian Orthodox and later Armenian cathedral. In 1993 it was again converted into a mosque and is called Kümbet Mosque (Turkish: Kümbet Camii, literally "domed mosque"). It is part of the larger Evliya Mosque, the biggest mosque in Kars.
It is a central planned domed tetraconch, and imitates the seventh-century Church of Saint John, Mastara. The main entrance of the church is on the western side also has two more gates on the south and north sides. "Its interior plan is reflected in the exterior volumes. Four apses radiate from a central square bay, over which rises a circular dome. Externally, the right angles of the square between the conchs protrude about three meters beyond the sides of the apses; inside they are represented by four dihedral angles each surmounted with a squinch."
"On the spandrels between the twelve arches on the drum there are twelve figural reliefs in standing position. These are executed in a very primitive style. According to J.M. Thierry, these figures represent the twelve apostles, whose cult was brought from Byzantium in the 10th-11th centuries."
The church does not not have building inscriptions and the exact dates of its foundation are unknown. The inscriptions were possibly removed in the later centuries by Muslims. Due to the presence of contemporary sources it is certain that the cathedral was built during the reign of King Abas, who ruled Bagratid Armenia between 928 and 958. Kars served as Armenia's capital during this period. The 10th century historian Stepanos Asoghik wrote that king Abas "built the holy cathedral of the city of Kars with blocks of stone, with sandstone blocks that were polished with steel: [the church] was surmounted by a circular dome whose ornamentation resembled the vault of heaven." Stepanos Asoghik wrote that the cathedral was already completed at the time of Catholicos Ananias I (Anania of Mokk)'s tenure [943-967]. Chronicles Samuel of Ani (12th century) Mxit'ar of Ayrivank (13th century) give 931-932 as the beginning of the construction of the church.
Abandonment and conversion into as a mosque
Following the conquest of large parts of Armenia, including Kars, by the Ottman Empire in the 16th century the church was converted into a mosque in 1579 by Mustafa Pasha. The Suleyman Efendi mosque mentioned by the 17th century Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi is assumed to be the Kars cathedral.
19th & early 20th century
After the Russian capture of Kars in 1877 it was converted to a Russian Orthodox church. "Porticos were built in front of the west, north and south portals, whose original structure was destroyed. A sacristy was erected on the east side which covered the entire façade, and inside an iconostasis was built."
During the later stages of World War I's Caucasus Campaign, following the October Revolution and the civil war, the Russian troops abandoned the Caucasus en masse. In April 1918 the Turks captured Kars and the church was again converted into a mosque. According to the Armistice of Mudros, the Turks were required to withdraw to the pre-war frontier. The Republic of Armenia gained control of the city in 1919 and the church was converted back to an Armenian church.
In 1920 Kars again fell to Turkey during the Turkish–Armenian War. The cathedral ceased to function as a church and briefly operated as a mosque "but soon thereafter the Kemalist government put it up for sale. The municipality of Kars bought it and planned to demolish it to build a school on its site, but the plan was never carried out. In the 1950s the municipality used it for a depot for petroleum."
It functioned as Kars Museum between 1964 to 1978. After the museum was closed the location lay derelict, until 1993 when it was converted to a mosque under the name Kümbet Mosque and handed over to the Presidency of Religious Affairs. The Economist cited its reopening as a mosque as an example of eradication of the Armenian cultural heritage in Turkey. According to S. Peter Cowe, as of 1998, "the original high Armenian bema with the tall 19th century Russian iconostasis [were] still in place."
In a 2005 interview Kars Mayor Naif Alibeyoğlu (tur) stated about plans to restore the cathedral and added that after renovation a "cultural center or museum would be much more appropriate." News.am reported in September 2010 that a Kars municipality official revealed in an interview that the city's government is ready to convert it to a church and allow Armenian pilgrims pray there once a year.
- Saymaz, İsmail (16 August 2005). "Bin yıldır paylaşılamıyor [It has not been shared for a thousand years]". Radikal (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 30 October 2014.
- "Camiye çevrilen kilisede ayine izin yok". Milliyet (in Turkish). 23 June 2008.
- "Kümbet Camii (12 Havariler Kilisesi)". kars.gov.tr (in Turkish). Archived from the original on 6 November 2014.
- "Kars'ın tarihi ve turistik yerleri". Zaman (in Turkish). 1 July 2007. Archived from the original on 6 December 2014.
- Jones, Lynn (2007). Between Islam and Byzantium: Aght'amar and the Visual Construction of Medieval Armenian Rulership. Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate. p. 98. ISBN 978-0754638520.
Between 930 and 937 Ashot II's uncle and successor, Abas I, built a cathedral at Kars, then the Bagratid capital, in imitation of th seventh-century church of St John at Mastara.
- "Kars". Armenian Studies Program California State University, Fresno. Archived from the original on 30 October 2014.
- Sağır, Güner (23–28 May 2011). "Kars İli̇ ve Çevresi̇nde Yer Alan Ortaçağ Ermeni̇ [Medieval Armenian sites in and around Kars]" (PDF) (in Turkish). Malatya: Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. General Directorate of Cultural Assets and Museums. pp. 12–14.
- Demirci, Mehmet; Kurt, Süleyman; Öylek, Yahya; Kaban, Murat (29 March 2007). "Ermeni açılımlarına Akdamar da ekleniyor". Zaman (in Turkish).
Ermenistan resmi heyeti, Van'dan önce geldikleri Kars'ta eski ismi "12 Havariler Kilisesi" olan Kümbet Camii...
- "Կարսի Առաքելոց եկեղեցին պատմության ընթացքում չորս անգամ վերածվել է մզկիթի. թուրք պաշտոնյա" (in Armenian). Armenpress. 19 January 2013.
Թուրքերն այժմ այն կոչում են «Գմբեթավոր մզկիթ»:
- Sarıaslan, Kübra Zeynep (September 2010). "Pamuk’s Kars and Its Others: An Ethnography on Identifications and Boundaries of Ethnicity, Nationalism and Secularism" (PDF). Middle East Technical University. p. 53.
Evliya Mosque is the biggest mosque in Kars, with the largest community. The mosque was newly constructed and it is located at the center of a huge religious complex that includes the Armenian Church, which was converted to a mosque in 2007.
- Khalpakhchian, Hovhannes (1979). "Կարսի Առաքելոց եկեղեցի". Soviet Armenian Encyclopedia vol. 5 (in Armenian). Yerevan: Armenian Encyclopedia. p. 344.
Մաստարայի եկեղեցու տիպի կենտրոնագմբեթ կառույց է՝ չորս աբսիդով, արլ-ից երկու ավանդատներով:
- "Turkey and Armenia: Two vast and ugly blocks of stone". The Economist. 13 January 2011.
He might have included Kars' Armenian legacy, but that is being erased. A long-abandoned tenth-century Armenian church recently reopened—as a mosque.
- Cowe, Peter (1998). "Mental Snapshots from My 1998 Journey". bvahan.com. Los Angeles.
- "Կարսի Առաքելոց եկեղեցում եւս նախատեսում են տարին մեկ անգամ պատարագ մատուցել". news.am (in Armenian). 23 September 2010. Archived from the original on 6 December 2014.
- The Cathedral of Kars at VirtualAni.org
- 50 pictures inside and outside of The Kümbet Mosque