St. Giragos Armenian Church




The Church of St. Giragos (St. Cyriacus) is an Armenian Apostolic church in Diyarbakır, Turkey, which was confiscated by the Turkish government in 2016. In the 2000s, it had been renovated in part as a sign of reconciliation with the Christian community. It was reopened on 23 October 2011 as "Turkey’s first church to be revived as a permanent place of worship". It was heavily damaged during armed clashes between the Kurdistan Workers' Party and the Turkish Armed Forces in February 2016, along with the rest of the historic district of Sur, Diyarbakır.
It was seen as one of the largest and most important Armenian churches in the Middle East, with seven altars. It was closed during the Armenian Genocide in 1915–1916, and was returned to the local Armenian community in 1960, although due to emigration in the 1970s and 1980s the local Armenian community was much diminished. According to some art historians, the church is the largest in the Middle East. The complex sprawls over 3,200 square meters and includes priests' houses, chapels and a school. The church was seized by the Imperial German Army in 1913 and served as their local headquarters during World War I until 1918, when it was converted into a fabric warehouse.Ayık also said St. Giragos had several unique architectural features. "Churches normally have one altar but St. Giragos has seven altars. Its original roof was covered with the earth from around the region. We will do it again. The earth has been stripped of seeds to prevent the growth of plants. It should also be vented regularly, every year. The chairman, whose family is originally from the southeastern province, said the church was handed over to the foundation by the General Directorate of Foundations in the 1950s and continued providing church services until the early 1990s." After the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, it was used as a state warehouse for canvas and fabrics, and then, despite sporadic efforts by the dwindling Armenian community in Diyarbakır, it had been left to deteriorate and decay until 2009, when a few Armenians born in Diyarbakır but living in Istanbul, formed a Foundation Board under the auspices of the Armenian Istanbul Patriarchate, with the goal of reconstructing the church, as well as to start a legal process to reclaim title to the significant land holdings originally belonging to the church.
The church attracts hundreds of people per day; according to Gafur Turkay of the Surp Giragos Foundation, "Many of them are Islamised Armenians like me."On 26 March 2016 the Turkish government confiscated St. Giragos, under Article 27 of the Expropriation Law. Neighbouring Syriac, Chaldean and Protestant churches were also expropriated as part of the same decision, which comprised the expropriation of some 6,300 plots of land in Diyarbakir's Sur (walled town) district, about 80% of the property in that district. The Diyarbakir Bar Association released a statement saying "this decision violates the property right and is also against Turkish Constitutional Law, Expropriation Law, and European Convention on Human Rights".


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