DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News)—One of Diyarbakır’s (Dikranagerd) most famous churches, the Armenian church of Surp Giragos, is set to become a city museum hosting artwork and artifacts depicting the Armenian history in the city.
Earlier, the Hürriyet Daily News reported that Diyarbakir Metropolitan Mayor Osman Baydemir and Surp Giragos Armenian Foundation President Ergün Ayik had signed a protocol to turn the church, which was recently restored and opened to prayer, into a museum.
According to the protocol, the church’s Hidir Ilyas section will be given to the municipality and converted into a museum featuring belongings and ethnographic artifacts.
Ayik said the church was the largest church in the Middle East but was in ruins until it was restored and reopened to worship three years ago.
Noting that the church was surrounded by many famous buildings and artifacts in the city, Ayik said, “The representatives are evaluating the buildings around the church.”
The Diyarbakir City Museum will display Armenian heritage and Armenian art. “We are currently meeting with the municipality and we have signed a protocol to open this part,” Ayik said.
“We will first collect artifacts before decorating the museum. The decorations and the curation will be made according to the artifacts,” said Ayik, noting that there would be information about the family, social and cultural life of Armenians.
Letters from Lice
Very few artifacts have survived over the past 100 years, but Ayik said they were able to collect letters from 1913 from a family who lived in the province’s Lice district, as well as kitchen appliances, musical instruments and other examples of writings from elsewhere.
During the last 100 years, many artifacts that belonged to Armenian families have been lost, he said. “We are currently collecting artifacts to display in the museum. This is the first time that something like this has happened in Turkey, and many people are approaching this with suspicion.”
The written documents are very valuable because they reflect the lifestyle of Armenians at the time, he said. “We have collected these documents from Turkey and also from foreign countries. We have succeeded in collecting these artifacts.”
Noting that there were also many financial documents, Ayik said these revealed the debts and the trade that Armenians had in history.
Artifacts in Istanbul
The artifacts that have been collected have been sent to Istanbul to be analyzed and researched.
Collecting the data and the artifacts has taken a long time, he said, adding that the job was an important task that only professionals could do.
After analyzing the works, the artifact will be sent to the museum for display.
Surp Giragos, which boasts seven altars, originally had an earthen roof, although a new roof of wood was subsequently erected over the restored church. It was closed in 1915-1916 before being returned to the local Armenian community in 1960.
A new bell that was made for the reopened church was made in Russia especially for the place of worship.