Europe

Turkish nationalists rally in Armenian holy site at Ani

  • 1 October 2010
  • From the section Europe

Turkish nationalists have said Muslim prayers inside the ruins of a historic Christian cathedral in a move likely to cause friction with Armenians.

Hundreds of nationalists travelled to the ruins of the 11th Century cathedral at Ani in eastern Turkey to commemorate a Muslim victory there.

The action is being seen as a response to the reopening of another historic Armenian church last month in Turkey.

Armenians from across the world came to hear Mass at the church in Lake Van.

Ani, an uninhabited archaeological site, was once the capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom in the province of Kars.

Devlet Bahceli, head of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), led the crowd saying prayers at the site.

The party said it was following the example of Turkish ruler Alp Arslan, who removed the cathedral's cross and prayed there following his capture of Ani in 1064.

Turkish nationalists say Muslim prayers inside the cathedral
The nationalists said they were imitating one of their historic heroes

On 19 September, Armenian worshippers held a service at the island church in Lake Van for the first time in nearly 100 years.

The church, on an island in the lake, was damaged during the mass killing of Armenians during World War I.

It was restored by the Turkish government in 2007 and turned into a museum.

Turkey allowed the Mass to take place in the hope it would be seen as a gesture of reconciliation but some denounced the move as a publicity stunt.

Some Christians did not attend the service, complaining that the Turkish authorities had refused to place a cross on the roof of the building.

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