Akdamar Island is one of the four islands on Van Lake, Turkey's largest lake, is located 47 km from the city center, 4 km from the shore. Akdamar Island whose real name is Ahtamara, is known with the 1100-year-old historical Cross Church built by the Armenians.
The church, which was built by monk Manuel under King I. Gagik's control, was converted to a manastery in 1113, and became the center of the Armenian patriarchate on the region until 1895. On 1296-1336 the chapel in the north-east of the church, on 1793 Jamadun on its west (congregation house), and in the late 18th century bell tower on its southern was added.
History of the chapel on the north is unknown. The dome in the center of the church dedicated to the Holy Cross, is 20 meters high. Stone reliefs on the walls of the church which is located in the south-east of the island, is worth pay attention. In the reliefs of the stone, the religious stories taken from the Bible and Torah, as well as worldly matters, palace life, hunting scenes, human and animal figures are depicted. Unfortunately these frescoes are severely damaged.
Thrown of Jonah the prophet into the sea, Jesus on the lap of Mary, The expulsion of Adam and Eve from heaven, The battle of David with King Goliath, three Hebrew youngs at the fire and Daniel in the lion's den are just some of the issues mentioned. On the western facade, there is also a scene showing King Gagik presenting the church model. Also, biblical authors are portrayed on the four pediment.
The Church, which has been neglected for many years, was restored in 2005-2007 as a step towards the development of relations with Turkish Armenians and neighboring Armenia under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, by spent $ 1.5 million. The church was reopened in March 2007 as a museum with the participation of Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay and Armenian Assistant Minister of Culture. After the restoration work, a ceremony was held on 19th September 2010 in the church under the leadership of Archbishop Aram Atesyan, the Patriarch General Deputy of the Armenian Patriotic Patriarchate of Turkey. This was the first ceremony held here after 95 years.
The Akdamar Legend
Once upon a time, the Armenian chief monk who lived on the island of Akdamar had a daughter named Tamar, who was famous for her legendary beauty. A young lad who is a shepherd in a village near the island, falls in love with the monk's beautiful daughter. The young shepherd swam every night to meet Tamar. Tamar also waits on the shore with a lantern to show her place to him in the darkness of the night. In a stormy night, the father of the girl who knows about it, by descending to the shore of the island with his lantern, constantly relocated from place to place, along the coast. The young lad swam as he followed the lantern, lost his power.
The tired young shepherd drowned on the spot and before he drowns, he cries out with his last breath, "Ah Tamar!" The girl who heard this echoing bitter voice soon left herself to the waters of Van Lake. After that day the island began to be remembered with the name of Ah Tamar.