The Ruins of Ani
East of the Turkish city of Kars, lies a complex of Octagonal towers, medieval churches, crumbling walls, and fallen columns scattered across vast grasslands. The gorge that drops away to the Akhuryan River (now forming the border between modern Armenia and Turkey) is an ancient bridge, broken in the middle.
Ani was chosen to be Armenia’s capital in the 10th century and became home to over 100,000 people. Because the city was richly endowed with sacred buildings, it became known as the city of 1,001 churches.
The Rise & Fall of the City of 1,001 Churches
The city’s rapid expansion began when the capital was moved to Ani in 961. Known today as the “City of 1,001 Churches,” it also used to be referred to as the “City of 40 Gates.” Ani became the site of the royal mausoleum of the Bagratuni kings of Armenia.
Its strategic position played a huge role in the city’s growth. However, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea’s trade routes made it an attractive possession, condemning it to centuries of invasion.
In 1046, Ani surrendered to the Byzantines (after opposing several armies before), and a Byzantine governor was installed in the city, which decimated its population. In 1072, the city was sold to the Shaddadids, a Muslim Kurdish dynasty.
Between 1124 and 1209, the city moved back and forth between the Georgians and the Shaddadids until, in 1236, the Mongols captured the city and massacred much of the population. By the 14th century, the city became part of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1319, an earthquake devastated the site, and by 1735 the site was abandoned entirely when the last monks left the monastery.
Today, archaeologists have found around 40 churches, mausoleums, and chapels.
Even though the Cathedral of Ani has a collapsed dome and destroyed corner, it remains imposing in scale, rising above the city of the 1001 churches. A fun fact about the cathedral is that it was completed in 1001 by the Armenian King Gagik I.