The Ancient City of Ani, Lost and Forgotten

Founded more than 1,600 years ago, Ani was situated on the heart of several trade routes, and boomed to become a walled city of more than 100,000 residents by the 11th century.

In the centuries that followed, Ani and the surrounding region were conquered hundreds of times — Byzantine emperors, Ottoman Turks, Armenians, nomadic Kurds, Georgians, and Russians claimed and reclaimed the area. Residents were attacked and chased out repeatedly.

By the 1300s, Ani was in steep decline, and by the 1700s, it was completely abandoned. The city had its brief moment of fame when it was rediscovered and romanticized in the 19th century. But it was closed off again by World War I and the later events of the Armenian Genocide that left the region an empty, militarized no-man’s land.

After it has been totally abandoned, the ruins crumbled at the hands of many: looters, vandals, Turks who tried to eliminate Armenian history from the area, clumsy archaeological digs, well-intentioned people who made poor attempts at restoration, and Mother Nature herself.

The Monastery of the Hripsimian Virgins, in the ruins of the city of Ani, Turkey, on April 19, 2011. The monastery is thought to have been built between 1000 and 1200 AD, near the height of Ani’s importance and strength. The Akhurian River below acts as the modern border between Turkey and Armenia.
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Ruins of the Mausoleum of the Child Princes in the Citadel in Ani, on April 19, 2011. Located in the Inner Fortress on Citadel Hill, this structure is thought to have been built around 1050 AD.
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The ruin of the Church of Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents on the edge of the border with Armenia, in Ani, the now-uninhabited capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom in Kars at the Turkey-Armenia border.
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Inside the Cathedral of Ani, on June 4, 2013. Construction of the structure began in 989, completed in either 1001 or 1010. Designed as a domed cruciform church, both the dome and the drum supporting it collapsed in an earthquake in 1319.
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The Virgin’s Castle, atop cliffs along the Akhurian River, photographed on June 4, 2013.
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Ani, as viewed from across the border, in Armenia.
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The medieval walls of Ani, seen on July 30, 2008.
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The Ani Cathedral, in the Turkey-Armenia border province of Kars, Turkey.
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Inscription on an exterior wall of the cathedral.
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Damaged frescoes of the church of St Gregory of Tigran Honents, at the historical site of Ani in Kars province, on February 19, 2010.
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