“The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it, leaving it in ruins and taking prisoner all those who remained alive…The dead bodies were so many that they blocked the streets; one could not go anywhere without stepping over them.”
-Arab historian Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, c. 1064
Sacked, abandoned and forgotten, the magnificent medieval city of Ani was once home to as many as 200,000 people, but has stood empty and in ruins for centuries.
Called by some the “City of 1001 Churches,” and by others the “City of Forty Gates,” Ani is situated in disputed territory within the Turkish province of Kars, near the border with Armenia. The city was originally Armenian, but the territory on which it stands is still argued over between modern day Turkey and Armenia.
Once a contemporary rival of Constantinople, Baghdad and Cairo, Ani fell to a succession of invaders . Both contributing to the ruin’s slow demise and as a result of its deterioration, earthquakes, war, and vandalism have all take their toll. However, sentiment is emerging that the city needs to be protected no matter whose jurisdiction it falls under.
The city’s many remaining churches are extraordinarily beautiful, even in their ruined state. The minaret Menüçehr Mosque, newer than many of the churches but still nearly a thousand years old, still stands as a testament to the city’s long history and diverse cultural influences.
International heritage organizations have long been concerned with Ani’s fate. In 1996, 1998 and 2000 ,Ani was included in the World Monument Fund’s Watch Lists of 100 Most Endangered Sites.
Official permission was needed to visit or photograph the site until 2004, but as notions of conservation and historical intrigue have sparked more of an interest in the area, regulations like these are no longer needed and it has become much easier to visit Ani today.
Despite recent improvements, in 2010 Ani was identified by the Global Monument Fund as part of their report on endangered world heritage sites. In 2011 the World Monument Fund announced the beginning of official restoration work in partnership with the Turkish Ministry of Culture.