Ani – The Ruined City of 1001 Churches

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On the eastern borders of Turkey in the province of Kars lies the ruined Armenian city of Ani.

Renowned as a cultural and commercial centre on the Silk Road, Ani grew to become a bustling metropolis of over 100,000 inhabitants at its height.

Ani was first mentioned in Armenian chronicles in the 5th century that described a fortress settlement of the nobles of the Kamsarakan dynasty.

Founded on a naturally defensive triangular plateau, the city was a hub for several major trade routes and merchant caravans.

Between the years 961 and 1045, Ani was proclaimed the capital of the Bagratid Armenian Kingdom during the “Armenian Golden Age” by King Ashot III. The city expanded rapidly to become the chief political, cultural and economic centre.

Chapel in the Monastery of the Hripsimian Virgins – Image Credit: Ggia

Shops, markets, workshops, inns were established by the city’s merchants and populace while the nakharar elite went on to sponsor the building of magnificent churches, mansions and palaces.

King Ashot’s own philanthropy led to the sponsorship of large construction projects such as the “Ashotashen” walls that would later earn him the nickname of “Voghormats”, or “the Merciful.”

By the start of the 11th century, Ani had peaked with a population over 100,000 and became known as the “city of forty gates” and the “city of a thousand and one churches.”

The church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents – Image Credit : Marko Anastasov


Ani’s decline began in 1064, when a large Seljuk army sacked the city and slaughtered many of its population. Over the next two centuries, Ani would be invaded and change hands several times between the Shaddadus, a Muslim Kurdish dynasty and the Christian Kingdom of Georgia.

Up until the late 16th century, Ani would change hands between invading Mongels, local Turkish dynasties and Persian Safavids until eventually it was incorporated into the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1579. By 1735, the last vestiges of Ani’s populace and worshipping monks abandoned the city and was left to ruin.

Cathedral of Ani – Image Credit : Mustapilvi

Turkey’s surrender at the end of World War I led to the restoration of Ani to Armenian control, but a resumed offensive against the Armenian Republic in 1920 resulted in Turkey’s recapture of Ani. In 1921 the signing of the Treaty of Kars formalised the incorporation of the territory containing Ani into the Republic of Turkey

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Header Image: The church of St. Gregory of the Abughamrents in Ani – Image Credit : Ego

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