Turks To Return Makaravank Monastery In Cyprus To Armenians

Turks To Return Makaravank Monastery In Cyprus To Armenians

VirtualAni
VirtualAni

February 14th, 2006, 9:42 pm #1

TURKS TO RETURN MAKARAVANK MONASTERY IN CYPRUS TO ARMENIANS
By Hakob Chakrian

AZG Armenian Daily #026
14/02/2006

Istanbul-base Armenian weekly Agos informs that the Turks are
going to return Makaravank monastery in occupied northern Cyprus to
Armenians. The monastery founded in 5th century was leased for 49
years by Turkish businessman Dervish Ulus Syonmezler in 1997.

Agos weekly had a phone conversation with the Turkish businessman
to check out the information. "The Department of Historic Monuments
and Museums of Northern Cyprus has annulled the agreement. I think
Makaravank was included in the list of mansions awaiting return
to southern Cyprus. For that reason the authorities of the Turkish
sector annulled the agreement signed for 49 years. I certainly will
sue them. But even if I win, I doubt they will hand the mansion over to
me. Apparently the Turkish authorities of Northern Cyprus have decided
to return the mansion to its true owners - the Cypriot Armenians."
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VirtualAni
VirtualAni

February 26th, 2006, 3:10 am #2

Cyprus Mail, Cyprus
Feb 24 2006

Turks deny plan to return Armenian monastery
By Simon Bahceli

RUMOURS the Turkish Cypriot authorities are about to return the Sourp
Magar monastery in the north to its Armenian owners were refuted
yesterday by Turkish Cypriot `foreign ministry' advisor Kudret Akay.

`We have contacts with the Armenian community in Cyprus and are
considering allowing them to use the monastery on religious days,'
Akay told the Cyprus Mail. He denied that the building would be
handed over to the Armenian community, but said they would likely be
consulted over repairs due to take place on the building on the
northern sloped of the Pentadaktylos mountains.

Rumours of the handover first appeared in Istanbul-based Armenian
weekly Agos, which reported earlier this week that Turkish
businessman Ulus Sonmezler was planning to sue the Turkish Cypriot
authorities because it had annulled a 49-year lease he signed on the
building in 1997.

Sonmezler said he believed his contract was annulled because the
Sourp Magar monastery was included in a list of historical buildings
the north was planning to hand over to the Republic of Cyprus. Akay,
however, denied the existence of such a list.
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VirtualAni
VirtualAni

May 19th, 2006, 12:43 am #4

Azad-Hye, Dubai, 13 May 2006

In 2001 a British journalist named Ben West
visited Sourp Magar Monastery in the northern part of Cyprus (now occupied)
and wrote in the travel section of the "Guardian": "Sadly, Sourp Magar has
been comprehensively vandalised, but it is still a beautiful spot with an
unbelievable silence and the heady scent of pine trees".

In May 2005, Armenian news agencies reported that the Monastery was turned
into a cafe with the intention also to build a hotel or a recreation center
on the site. After actions by the Cypriot Government, international bodies
expressed concern on this matter, notably the Vatican, which issued a severe
response. The hotel "licence" was temporarily halted.

In April 2006 Easter time, Sebouh Armenagian, a Cypriot Armenian based in
Sharjah (UAE), visited Sourp Magar Monastery with the spiritual leaders of
the community. Here are his notes:

It was Armenian Easter. We met Hayr Paren in the Armenian Apostolic Church
in Limassol (Saint Kevork). His face was familiar. He has stayed in Dubai
(UAE )for a couple of months in the past. After the Holy Mass we had a chat
with him and remembered the old days in Dubai and Sharjah.

We were informed that he and Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian (Catholicosal
Vicar) are planning to go to visit Sourp Magar Monastery in the occupied
areas after the Easter. He invited us to join the group.

The next day we headed to the Prelacy in Nicosia. The weather was better
than the day before and there was less risk for rains.

We noticed that both Archbishop Varoujan and Rev. Father Paren were wearing
civil clothes. They told that though it was not forbidden to go to the
occupied part with formal wearing, but it is better to keep low profile and
not to provoke any reaction there.

Our driver was the Bell-ringer (jamgotch) Vache Megdessian. Although he has
been there before, he did not remember the exact route that we needed to
follow. Archbishop Varoujan called Dr. Antranik Ashdjian and asked him for
directions.

At the borders (the so called Green Line) we had a bad feeling when we read
a big banner stating: "I am happy that I am a Turk". You could see churches
transformed to mosques, houses of Greek Cypriots inhabited by Turks, etc.

We followed Dr. Antranik Ashdjian's instructions and took the Famagusta
Highway. At some point you will notice the sign leading to Kyrenia. If you
watch carefully you will encounter a small signboard for Sourp Magar.

After the signboard we took a narrow road, where only one vehicle could
pass. We were thinking what will happen if another car appears from the
opposite direction. Vache managed to reach to a point where "Armenian
Monastery" was written.

The Monastery was closed. We went to a nearby governmental office, where we
communicated with the Turks using English and some Turkish. We asked for the
key. A wrong key was given first and then we received the correct one.

We had to walk for some 2 kilometers. We reached there and saw the Monastery
transformed into a restaurant.

Archbishop Varoujan remembered that he had held a baptism ceremony in the
same place in 1973, one year before the invasion. He gave us some
explanations.

We noticed that the most part of the church has been destroyed. In the
baptism basin we could see only the letters HA (the first letters of havadk
= faith). The complete saying is faith, hope and baptism.

Various parts of the Monastery were extensively dug up by the Turks in the
hope of finding gold.

On the way back we had a stop at the Sourp Asdvadzadzin Apostolic Church,
located in the occupied Armenian quarter of Nicosia. There is also the old
Prelacy buildings and the Melikian-Ouzounian Primary School. Everything is
destroyed.

At 5 pm we were back in the Prelacy, thinking what unforgettable day we had
just experienced.

END OF SEBOUH ARMENAGIAN'S NOTES

Additional reading

Sourp Magar Monastery (Magaravank)

The monastery of Sourp Magar is situated at a height of 510 meters above sea
level, on the northern slopes of the Kyrenia mountain range.

Sourp Magar means "Saint Makarios the Blessed". It was first established in
about 1000 AD as a Coptic monastery, and was dedicated to Saint Makarios of
Alexandria (309-404 AD) whose Coptic monastery still exists in Egypt.

Its location being at the edge of the cliff and the beginning of a deep
ravine is very picturesque.

The monastery came into the hands of Armenians at a later stage (15th
century). The exact date and the circumstances of this transfer are unclear.

Close relations exist between the Coptic and Armenian churches since the
Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

Sourp Magar has been a religious centre for Armenians for centuries.
Although under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, it has had
close ties with St. James' Monastery in Jerusalem and with the Catholicosate
of Etchmiadzin in Armenia. The quiet surroundings have for centuries
provided a haven for clergymen and laymen alike.

The monastery was also used as a summer resort by the Armenian Church and
became a favorite pilgrimage spot for Armenians on their way to and from the
Holy Land.

The upheavals in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century
resulted in the arrival of thousands of Armenian refugees on the island. The
monastery opened its doors to orphans and to those in need. It also
developed farming to help feed the hungry.

Right until the Turkish invasion of 1974, the monastery was a favorite place
for Armenian families and schools to visit, as its grounds were particularly
pleasant, especially in the hot summer months. The feast day is 1st May.

All manuscripts and other relics kept in the Monastery were plundered and
sold and only the intervention of the Republic of Cyprus, the Armenian
Church and international organizations prevented further destruction of the
monastery.

From 1974 to 2005, the monastery has been inaccessible to Armenians or Greek
Cypriots. Lately it was allowed to conduct daytime visits to the occupied
part of Cyprus.

http://www.azad-hye.net/news/viewnews.a ... d=734ahg67
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VirtualAni
VirtualAni

May 13th, 2007, 5:39 pm #5

Cyprus Armenians return to occupied monastery after 33 years

http://www.financialmirror.com/more_new ... 53&type=st
06/05/2007

Two hundred Armenians returned to the abandoned medieaval monastery of
Saint Magar in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus Sunday
where prayers were said for the first time in 33 years.

The pilgrims, most of whom used to spend holidays at the monastery up
until the Turkish invasion in 1974, traveled in a convoy of five buses
escorted by a United Nations patrol and Turkish Cypriot police.

But despite the anticipation of return, the enthusiasm of many was
dashed by the poor state of the church and the destruction of all
inscriptions by prospective developers who had earlier set their
sights on transforming the monastery to a casino.

The looting of the site since the war that divided the island, had
also taken its toll on the buildings, many of which had no roof and
could fall within a few years, some bystanders said.

Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian led those present in a prayer of grace,
`Hayr Mer' in Armenian, while some had brought candles with them to
mark the holy day of the monastery's saint, a Coptic recluse named
Makarius, who had lived in the caves below the present site of the
monastery in the twelfth century.

`I held service and performed my last christening here in 1973,' added
Hergelian, who had traveled in civilian clothes so as not to incite
any reaction from Islamists or Turkish nationalists living in nearby
villages.

`It is in a tragic condition,' he said, adding that the baptismal was
totally defaced from his last visit to the derelict monastery three
years ago.

But the issue of reconstruction of the monastery dating back to 1642
is highly unlikely as the U.N. must ask the Turkish forces for
permission since the buildings and the 9,000-acre estate of olive,
citrus and carob trees that leads down to the northern sea shore, lies
within a military zone and near a Turkish Army camp near Halefka in
the Kyrenia mountain range.

`We only managed to halt the plans for development by the intervention
of the Vatican,' said the Armenian deputy in the House of
Representatives, Vartkes Mahdessian, who had organised the trip.

Previous members of the Cypriot parliament had sought the intervention
of the Council of Europe when Turkish Cypriot developers allegedly won
the privatisation license for the land and advertised plans for a
casino, hotel and leisure cafeterias.

`I remember coming here with the scouts from the Armenian AYMA club
and we used to meet scouts from the Melkonian school,' Mahdessian
said, adding that other youth groups also camped at the monastery
during weekends and summer holidays, often accompanied by the then
pastor of the community, Father Vazken Sandrouni.

`I will try to organise a similar pilgrimage next year as well as we
must r emind ourselves of our heritage before the older generations
start to disappear,' the member of parliament said.

Among the crowd was Stephan Bahdjejian, a veteran who served in the
French Army during the second World War but remained tearful from
seeing the destruction of the monastery he visited every month before
the Turkish invasion.

`Only animals would cause this destruction,' he said.
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VirtualAni
VirtualAni

May 13th, 2007, 8:39 pm #6

ARMENIAN PILGRIMAGE TO RUINED MONASTERY IN NORTH
By Leo Leonidou

Cyprus Mail
8 May 2007

TWO hundred Armenians on Sunday returned to the abandoned mediaeval
monastery of Saint Magar in the north, where prayers were said for
the first time in 33 years.

"It was a great success and a very moving experience, which brought
back many, pleasant, old memories," said Vartkes Mahdessian, the
Armenian deputy in the House of Representatives.

Many of the pilgrims used to spend a great deal of time at the
monastery until the Turkish invasion in 1974, and they were escorted
to the site by a United Nations patrol and Turkish Cypriot police.

The trip took place following an initiative from Mahdessian, "with
the help of the Armenian Metropolis and the UN."

"Many young people came along with us and our trip raised awareness,
not only among our youth but also with Greek Cypriots," he explained.

The pilgrimage was in homage to the pre-invasion days, when people
used to attend religious services there on the first Sunday of May.

It wasn't all good news though, as the visitors found the church to
be in a derelict state, with many inscriptions destroyed.

The perpetrators are thought to be prospective developers who had
set their sights on transforming the monastery into a casino.

Eyewitnesses reported that many buildings had no roofs and are in
danger of collapsing.

"It was all very upsetting to see," said Mahdessian.

Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian led those present in a prayer of grace,
Hayr Mer in Armenian, while some had brought candles with them to
mark the holy day of the monastery's saint, a Coptic recluse who had
lived in the caves below the present site of the monastery in the
12th century.

The 9,000-acre estate of olive, citrus and carob trees leads down to
the northern seashore, which lies within a military zone and near a
Turkish Army camp in the Kyrenia mountain range.

"My intention is to organise a similar pilgrimage every year on the
first Sunday of May," the deputy said. "We must remind ourselves of
our heritage before the older generations start to disappear."
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VirtualAni
VirtualAni

May 17th, 2007, 10:51 pm #7

SOURP MAGAR GREETS 200 GIBRAHAYER PILGRIMS AFTER 33 YEARS IN CAPTIVITY

Gibrahayer - Nicosia May 9, 2007

The pilgrimage to the Turkish occupied
Armenian Monastery of Sourp Magar, organised by the Armenian MP Vartkes
Mahdessian's office and The Armenian Prelature of Cyprus took place last Sunday 6th
of May, 2007 with the participation of more than 200 community members -
most of whom were visiting the Armenian Monastery for the first time in 33
years.
Going through memory lane participants remembered similar days, decades ago
when the community would gather for the annual Harissa, when Sundays would
turn to a community happening and when the land of Cilicia would be visible by
the naked eye especially during winter, when snow would cover the Taurus
mountain on the opposite shore only 40 miles away.
Sourp Magar Monastery is a very different place now.
Destroyed and abandoned, it greeted the 200 pilgrims with its empty walls,
empty floors and empty ceilings.
The warmest welcome perhaps came from the current administrator of the
Monastery - Ahmed and his father - who run the canteen and have been granted a
"lease" for the monastery for 49 years.
"We were against the decision of turning the Monastery to a hotel, but we
would like the Monastery to be restored somehow. We respect Christians and we
would like to see the cross on Sourp Magar some day", young Ahmed said in
perfect English.
The pilgrims explored every corner of what once was a very lively place
while its abandoned and destroyed walls, evoked emotions and images of the past.
Ahmed and his family hope to see the Monastery restored. Community members
were quick to suggest that any renovation, alteration or restoration by
UNESCO, or any other international body, should be done with the approval of the
owner of the Monastery, who is the Armenian Church of Cyprus.
One thing is apparent however, that whether we have a political solution to
the Cyprus problem or not, and whether the borders are eventually opened or
not, we quickly need to address the initial vandalism and eventual destruction
by natural causes through neglect, of the Armenian Monastery of Sourp Magar.
As one of the pilgrims architect John Guevherian was heard evaluating, it is
only a matter of time that the already existing structures and walls will be
unable to sustain another blow of extreme weather. Who knows when this will
be? Most likely it will be before the political settlement of the Cyprus
problem.
That is why we all need to address the restoration of Magaravank, in a
carefully thought-out process that will not upset the delicate political balances
and restore a religious site with immense historical and architectural value,
belonging to the Armenian Church of Cyprus.
Perhaps the restoration of Apostolos Andreas Monastery in the Karpass
peninsula and the Aghtamar Church in Van in historic Armenia, should serve as
examples of how we should engineer the campaign for the restoration of Sourp Magar.

Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/simon.ayned ... iligrimage
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Sumitra Spencer
Sumitra Spencer

February 12th, 2009, 3:12 pm #8

Azad-Hye, Dubai, 13 May 2006

In 2001 a British journalist named Ben West
visited Sourp Magar Monastery in the northern part of Cyprus (now occupied)
and wrote in the travel section of the "Guardian": "Sadly, Sourp Magar has
been comprehensively vandalised, but it is still a beautiful spot with an
unbelievable silence and the heady scent of pine trees".

In May 2005, Armenian news agencies reported that the Monastery was turned
into a cafe with the intention also to build a hotel or a recreation center
on the site. After actions by the Cypriot Government, international bodies
expressed concern on this matter, notably the Vatican, which issued a severe
response. The hotel "licence" was temporarily halted.

In April 2006 Easter time, Sebouh Armenagian, a Cypriot Armenian based in
Sharjah (UAE), visited Sourp Magar Monastery with the spiritual leaders of
the community. Here are his notes:

It was Armenian Easter. We met Hayr Paren in the Armenian Apostolic Church
in Limassol (Saint Kevork). His face was familiar. He has stayed in Dubai
(UAE )for a couple of months in the past. After the Holy Mass we had a chat
with him and remembered the old days in Dubai and Sharjah.

We were informed that he and Archbishop Varoujan Hergelian (Catholicosal
Vicar) are planning to go to visit Sourp Magar Monastery in the occupied
areas after the Easter. He invited us to join the group.

The next day we headed to the Prelacy in Nicosia. The weather was better
than the day before and there was less risk for rains.

We noticed that both Archbishop Varoujan and Rev. Father Paren were wearing
civil clothes. They told that though it was not forbidden to go to the
occupied part with formal wearing, but it is better to keep low profile and
not to provoke any reaction there.

Our driver was the Bell-ringer (jamgotch) Vache Megdessian. Although he has
been there before, he did not remember the exact route that we needed to
follow. Archbishop Varoujan called Dr. Antranik Ashdjian and asked him for
directions.

At the borders (the so called Green Line) we had a bad feeling when we read
a big banner stating: "I am happy that I am a Turk". You could see churches
transformed to mosques, houses of Greek Cypriots inhabited by Turks, etc.

We followed Dr. Antranik Ashdjian's instructions and took the Famagusta
Highway. At some point you will notice the sign leading to Kyrenia. If you
watch carefully you will encounter a small signboard for Sourp Magar.

After the signboard we took a narrow road, where only one vehicle could
pass. We were thinking what will happen if another car appears from the
opposite direction. Vache managed to reach to a point where "Armenian
Monastery" was written.

The Monastery was closed. We went to a nearby governmental office, where we
communicated with the Turks using English and some Turkish. We asked for the
key. A wrong key was given first and then we received the correct one.

We had to walk for some 2 kilometers. We reached there and saw the Monastery
transformed into a restaurant.

Archbishop Varoujan remembered that he had held a baptism ceremony in the
same place in 1973, one year before the invasion. He gave us some
explanations.

We noticed that the most part of the church has been destroyed. In the
baptism basin we could see only the letters HA (the first letters of havadk
= faith). The complete saying is faith, hope and baptism.

Various parts of the Monastery were extensively dug up by the Turks in the
hope of finding gold.

On the way back we had a stop at the Sourp Asdvadzadzin Apostolic Church,
located in the occupied Armenian quarter of Nicosia. There is also the old
Prelacy buildings and the Melikian-Ouzounian Primary School. Everything is
destroyed.

At 5 pm we were back in the Prelacy, thinking what unforgettable day we had
just experienced.

END OF SEBOUH ARMENAGIAN'S NOTES

Additional reading

Sourp Magar Monastery (Magaravank)

The monastery of Sourp Magar is situated at a height of 510 meters above sea
level, on the northern slopes of the Kyrenia mountain range.

Sourp Magar means "Saint Makarios the Blessed". It was first established in
about 1000 AD as a Coptic monastery, and was dedicated to Saint Makarios of
Alexandria (309-404 AD) whose Coptic monastery still exists in Egypt.

Its location being at the edge of the cliff and the beginning of a deep
ravine is very picturesque.

The monastery came into the hands of Armenians at a later stage (15th
century). The exact date and the circumstances of this transfer are unclear.

Close relations exist between the Coptic and Armenian churches since the
Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

Sourp Magar has been a religious centre for Armenians for centuries.
Although under the jurisdiction of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, it has had
close ties with St. James' Monastery in Jerusalem and with the Catholicosate
of Etchmiadzin in Armenia. The quiet surroundings have for centuries
provided a haven for clergymen and laymen alike.

The monastery was also used as a summer resort by the Armenian Church and
became a favorite pilgrimage spot for Armenians on their way to and from the
Holy Land.

The upheavals in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century
resulted in the arrival of thousands of Armenian refugees on the island. The
monastery opened its doors to orphans and to those in need. It also
developed farming to help feed the hungry.

Right until the Turkish invasion of 1974, the monastery was a favorite place
for Armenian families and schools to visit, as its grounds were particularly
pleasant, especially in the hot summer months. The feast day is 1st May.

All manuscripts and other relics kept in the Monastery were plundered and
sold and only the intervention of the Republic of Cyprus, the Armenian
Church and international organizations prevented further destruction of the
monastery.

From 1974 to 2005, the monastery has been inaccessible to Armenians or Greek
Cypriots. Lately it was allowed to conduct daytime visits to the occupied
part of Cyprus.

http://www.azad-hye.net/news/viewnews.a ... d=734ahg67
My name is Sumitra Keghouie Spencer and I am the great grandaughter of Hagop and Martha Guzelian.
Hagop and Martha (my great grandparents) lived and looked after the monastery along with their childern Abraham,George,mary,Magar,Hegenay (my grandmother) and Lily.They were the last habitains of sourp magars monastery, before war broke out in cyprus.

My great grandfather took the job of care-taker some time in the 1930's. My grandmother Hegenay has told me so many stories of when she was a child growing up in the monastery and how beautiful and free life was.
After reading about the recent pilgrimage of the monastery, i feel deeply sadned and almost reduced to tears. This is due to the fact that i will never see the beautiful and happy place my grand mother grew up in. Instead i will find the desecration of my grandmothers fond memories and my families history.
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Louise Owen
Louise Owen

February 20th, 2010, 5:38 am #9

Hello Sumitra,

I am the youngest daughter of Mary, sister of Helen. Mum passed away on 26th January and I have heard that your grandmother also passed away this month. My condolances to you and your family. I wished I had found this site earlier as I know mum would have been extremely interested. I remember Aunty Helen well, as she came for a visit to Australia quite a few years back and spent some time with mum.

I will pass the info onto other members of the family

Regards

Louise
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maureen runge
maureen runge

January 25th, 2011, 7:35 am #10

My name is Sumitra Keghouie Spencer and I am the great grandaughter of Hagop and Martha Guzelian.
Hagop and Martha (my great grandparents) lived and looked after the monastery along with their childern Abraham,George,mary,Magar,Hegenay (my grandmother) and Lily.They were the last habitains of sourp magars monastery, before war broke out in cyprus.

My great grandfather took the job of care-taker some time in the 1930's. My grandmother Hegenay has told me so many stories of when she was a child growing up in the monastery and how beautiful and free life was.
After reading about the recent pilgrimage of the monastery, i feel deeply sadned and almost reduced to tears. This is due to the fact that i will never see the beautiful and happy place my grand mother grew up in. Instead i will find the desecration of my grandmothers fond memories and my families history.
Hello Sumitra, I am Maureen (Mariam) Mary's daughter, your grandmother Helen was my auntie. I met her when she visited Mum in Australia. A lovely lady.
My Uncle Magar (Max) still lives, he would be the last member of the Guzelian family living of that generation.
I actually found the pictures of Sourp Magar Monastery on the internet printed them and gave them to mum who then passed them onto her brother Magar. Mum told me that they named her brother Magar after the monastery. He was very emotional seeing them.

Thankyou for your information.
Regards Maureen
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