A millennium-old Armenian monastery located in the area of Cyprus occupied by Turkey is being ruined by the government, as well as citizens of Turkey.
You need to first of all be aware of the existence of the Armenian monastery of Sourb Magar (also known as Magaravank). This is quite important because if you merely examine local maps like the Turkish TRNC or ask the locals, you are most likely to leave disappointed.
The monastery’s existence is also important because this sacred place of pilgrimage is to be turned into crushed stone due to the efforts of vandals who “converted” this 1000 years old treasure into a dustbin.
Located in the Plataniotis forest in a 10-minute drive from Pentadaktylos (the Kyrenia Mountains), the monastery is considered a Coptic structure erected by Christians in commemoration of Saint Macarius of Alexandria in ca. 1000 AD.
By 1425, the monastery has been transferred to the Armenian Church’s ownership, becoming a popular site of pilgrimage for those traveling to the Holy Land. By the time the Ottomans arrived, the monastery has been named Blue Monastery due to the color of its wooden shutters.
“A large number of beautiful and invaluable manuscripts (dated 1202-1740) and vestments were housed there. Fortunately, some of them have been saved as they were transferred to the Catholicosate of Cilicia in 1947”- Alexander – Michael Hadjil’a.
The monastery has been operational up until 1800, after which it would be used for a variety of purposes: it would serve as a school, a shelter for Armenian refugees fleeing from the mass killings of the 1890s, a summer camp, and eventually, a mess for invading Turkish officers and refuge for settlers after the 1974 invasion.
If ancient Armenians were to trip towards the monastery, they would be horrified by what the Turks had done with it.
The locals tried to convert the monastery into a hotel in 1998, 1999, and 2006. This idea has been met with severe critique and pressure from Armenia, the Republic of Cyprus, Cilician and Armenian Catholicosates, Vatican, as well as the European Council. Today, the monastery is in ruins and is being damaged by vandals.
There are some traces of the commercial efforts of the locals present in the territory of the monastery: an ugly bench for picnic, a basic kitchen in one of the rooms, and an absurd satellite dish. The sign “out of order” hanging on a broken toilet door and the trash that is shamelessly dumped outside the main entrance are the only signs that Magaravank has been recently visited.
Where once monastery monks would stroll, now only weeds grow. The stone pathways are unstable, the walls are covered with cracks and are at the verge of breakdown. Passing under the gothic-style arches, one would unconsciously hold their breath in hopes that the ancient walls wouldn’t collapse.
One would need to be especially careful when entering the dilapidated chapel on the north end of the site. Miraculously, its ornate-tile floors are still in good condition, though the room is bare, and the whitewashed walls are filled with Turkish (and curiously PKK) graffiti. The vestibule’s roof is long gone, having given way to creeping plants and weeds.
Apart from the church, two features confirm that this monastery has once belonged to the Armenians. Those are two placards written in Armenian. One of them dated 1933 is intact probably because it is put high up and out of the reach of vandals. Its tragically hopeful inscription reads:
“Hail to you hill, temple of nature, allow your heap obelisk to be a reminiscence that preserves your novice name from century to century, long live the radiant great Mekhitar.”
In order to restore the monastery, the local officials demanded investments from the Cypriot Christian patriarchies. While it is unknown on which stage those negotiations are, given the character of Turks and those who draw the PKK graffiti, we won’t see any restorations works in the near future.
In spite of all issues and difficulties, Armenian continue to make pilgrimages towards the monastery even today.