The Church Of The Holy Cross On Aghtamar Island
A 9th century Armenian Monastery
Considered one of the "Seven Wonders" of Armenian architecture, the Church of the Holy Cross is situated on the Island of Aghtamar, in the southeastern waters of Lake Van.
This exquisitely refined sanctuary was constructed from A.D. 915 to 921, under the patronage of King Gagik and Queen Mike Arzruni, the great royal family of Armenia's Vaspurakan region.
Its most distinctive-and astonishing-feature is the set of carved reliefs covering the exterior walls of the church. The figure of King Gagik himself can be seen on the western facade, grasping a model of the church, while his mother, the Lady Sophie, and Queen Mlke stand close by.
During the height of the Arzruni Kingdom of Vaspurakan the island complex became a great spiritual center, giving rise to its own patriarchate, the Holy See of Aghtamar (12th to 19th centuries) and serving as the repository for the right-hand relic of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
Today, though it lies in ruins behind a foreign border, this magnificent, picturesque structure continues to attract tourists.