Dr. Christina Maranci, Arthur H. Dadian and Ara T. Oztemel Associate Professor of Armenian Art at Tufts University, has issued the following call to save a remarkable church of Western Armenia, now in Turkish territory.
The cathedral of Mren is now in danger of collapse. Constructed in c. 638, Mren is a masterpiece of world art and a product of the “Golden Age” of Armenian architecture. Bearing an inscription naming the Roman emperor Heraclius, and a unique sculpted relief image of Heraclius returning the True Cross to Jerusalem, Mren preserves precious material evidence for one of the most dramatic and yet poorly-documented moments in history. It is also the largest domed basilica surviving from the region, and a key example of the architectural achievements of the seventh century.
But Mren may not be standing for much longer. Photographs from the 1990s to the first decade of the twenty-first century show the progressive collapse of the south façade. Now the entire south aisle is in rubble on the ground, severely compromising the domed superstructure of the monument and opening the interior and its wall painting to the elements. The prospect of stabilizing what is left is at present doubtful, however, because of Mren’s position within a military zone in eastern Turkey (Kars province) next to the closed Armenian-Turkish border. Visiting the site is forbidden.
Please raise awareness of the precarious condition of this precious monument. Mren has stood for over a millennium, bearing world history on its walls. Its collapse would represent a tragic loss to human knowledge.