Together with Aszot, we set off to the West from Erwania in his rickety merecedes. After two hours, we reached to the border with Turkey. – I must show something to you – said Aszot. – Or you will not understand Armenians.
After some time, stony landscapes of the uplands, through which we travelled, became more and more deserted. We arrived in wilderness until we stopped at an abyss. Under us, a river was flowing in a wide ravine. – This is Achurian, a border river between Armenia and Turkey – explained Aszot.
On the other side of the ravine there were ruins of the ancient city. It was just legendary Ani, about which I had heard for the first time years before in an Armenian cathedral in Lvov. At that time I found out that all Armenian churches in the world, including the Lvov ones, are based just on the example of the cathedral of Our Lady from Ani.
In the opinion of some art historians, this three-nave basilica became the source of inspirations for the Gothic architecture. Many elements of the style which appeared in Armenia in X and XI centuries, was later – thanks to Armenian architects who had escaped from the Muslims to our continent – used in the European Gothic style.
Ani was called a city of 1001 churches or forty gates. The capital city of Armenia was under the reigns of the Bagratyd dynasty in the year 961 at the times of splendor. It was also the headquarter of Catholicos of the Great House of Cilican, that is, a spiritual supervisor of the Armenian Church. It was inhabited by about 200 thousand people. It was competing with Constantinopole, Bagdad and Cairo about the name of the most powerful city. At that time Armenia had the three seas: the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Today it has no access to any of them.
In 1064 the city was seized by Seljuk Turks. An Arabian historian described that at that time there was a big bloodshed of inhabitants: ‘There were so many dead bodies that they blocked streets, it was impossible to walk without trampling upon them. (…) I was determined to enter the city and see the destructions with my eyes. I was trying to find a street in which I would not have to trample upon dead bodies, but it turned out that it was impossible’.
Later the city was conquered much more times, among the others, by the Kurds, Mongols, Persians and Ottomans, and its inhabitants often became victims of cruel persecutions. Finally, in XVIII century, the Kurds murdered most Armenians, and the rest of those who were alive, ran away from the city. Ani got deserted. It was the city of ghosts. The destructions were complemented by earthquakes taking place here, which were in 1319, 1832 and 1988.
Aszot gives me binoculars. Thanks to it I can recognize ruins of walls and towers, remnants of gates, towers stumps, and, first of all, the remnants of churches.
– The sight which you see is a metaphor of our history – said Aszot. – Relationships with Turkey are strained, the border is closed. We cannot enter Ararat, we cannot sail on the Wan lake, we cannot visit Ani. The only thing which we can do is looking at the city from the other side of the border. Contemplation of long past glory.