In a solitary Armenian plain spot, 45 km away from the Turkish city of Kars (28 miles), the remains of a medieval city rise like symbols of the ancient greatness that it represented, one of the most important cities of the nearby East, compared for its beauty to Byzantium, Baghdad and Cairo.

Below: the ancient fortifications of Ani, with the numerous grottos dugout of rocks underneath. The ancient city lies on the border between Armenia on the right and Turkey on the left. Picture by Adam Jones shared via Flickr – licence Creative Commons

Ani, also known as the “city of a 1000 and one churches” and the “city of 40 gates”, was founded more than 1,600 years ago in a territory inhabited since the prehistorical era. It was at its peak as a capital of the Armenian Kingdom, between the 10th and 14th century, as it was on the most important trading routes of the time, as well as it represented the reference point both in a cultural and religious way.

During these centuries of great expansion, Ani got all the way to count between 100 ans 200 thousands inhabitants within its walls, which made of it one of the most densely populated medieval city in the world. The remains of its monuments are proof of the extraordinary architectural development of the city, fusion of Western and Eastern traditions, offering an insight on the society of the time in which the fundamental importance of the commerce required an multi-ethnic and multi-cultural type of organisation.

The Manucehr Mosque with the Minaret – 11th century

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence GFDL


In the following centuries, the city and the surrounding region were conquered more times by different populations: Byzantines, Ottomans, Mongolians, Kurds, Georgians, Russians. The series of occupations led to its decline, and along with a devastating earthquake, by the end of the 13th century the city was gradually emptied out, up until the complete abandonment in 18th century.

Ani Cathedral

The city, at the time forgotten, was discovered by European travellers in the 19th century, who started describing the place in their stories of travel. After a few excavations guided by Russian archaeologists, since Ani was back then part of the Tsar Empire, at the end of the 19th century the city was one more time left to itself.

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Frescos in the church of St Gregory

Below: picture by Teo Romera shared via Flickr – licence Creative Commons

The ruins inside the Cathetral

In 1921 the Turkish government which had absorbed the city ruins and its territory to the Turkish Republic, ordered to “wipe off the Ani monuments from the earth”, trying to delete all the traces of the ancient Armenian capital and its majesty. The order was executed only partially, hence Ani is still today a tangible symbol of the past Armenian greatness.

Below: picture of Ani in medieval epoch

The ruins of the baby Prince Mausoleum

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons


Up until a few decades ago, the Ani ruins had been left in a state of advanced decay, due to natural and human causes: some attempts of restoration provoked in reality serious damage.

Ani medieval walls

From 1996 the city has become part of the list of the “World Monument Fund” as one of the most significant places in the world for its cultural importance, but in serious danger for its possible complete destruction.

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Remains of a bridge on the Akhurian river which divides Turkey from Armenia

Below: picture by Martin Lopatka shared via Flickr – licence Creative Commons

The Monastery of the Virgins of St Hripsime

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

St Gregory Church of Tigran Honents

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

Fire Temple -Zoroastrian cult

Below: picture by Fat Tire Tour shared via Flickr – licence Creative Commons

The few remains from St Gregory Church, built by King Gagik between 1001 and 1005

Below: picture by Scott Dexter shared via Flickr – licence Creative Commons

A Guard Tower in the city wall

Below: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence GNU

Vanilla Magazine - History, Culture, Mistery and Legends