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Full text of "Journeys In Persia And Kurdistan ( Vol.Ii)."

LETTER xxxii     THE ROCK OP AKHTAMAR                   343

Though the state of things among the Christians is
not nearly so bad as in some of the Syrian valleys,
the shadow of the Kurd is over this paradise. The
Armenians complain of robbery with violence as being
of constant occurrence, and that they have been plundered
till they are unable to pay the taxes, and it is obvious
that travellers, unless in large companies, are not safe
without a Government escort." In each village the common
sheepfold is guarded from sunset to sunrise by a number
of men—a heavy burden on villagers whose taxation
should ensure them sufficient protection from marauders.

In one of the fairest bays on this south side of the
lake is the island rock of Akhtamar, crowned with a
church and monastery built of red sandstone. The
convent boat, which plies daily to the mainland for
supplies, is available for travellers. Eleven monks with
their pupils inhabit the rock. It is a very ancient
foundation, dating from A.D. 633, and the church is
attributed to the Armenian King Kakhik, who reigned in
the tenth century. It is a cruciform building, with a
hexagonal tower and a conical terminal at the inter-
section of the cross. The simple interior is decorated
with some very rude pictures, and a gilded throne for the
Patriarch stands at the east end. This Patriarchate of
Akhtamar, the occupant of which has at times claimed
the title of Catlwlicos, was founded in 1113 by an arch-
bishop of Akhtamar who declared himself independent of
the CatJwlicos of the Armenian Church who resides in
Echmiadzin, but at the present time he has only a few
adherents in the immediate neighbourhood of Van, and
has the reputation of extreme ignorance, and of being
more of a fanner than an ecclesiastic. He was at
Haikavank, at the fine farm on the mainland possessed
by the convent, but we Kad not time to call.

Plain as is the interior of the  Church of Akhtamar,