The $2.5 million reconstruction of the St. Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir (Dikranagerd), Turkey is nearly complete. Restored by the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul, St. Giragos is the largest Armenian church in the Middle East and one of the most important works of Armenian architecture.
Seriously damaged and in ruins for decades, the first church at this site was built in 1515-1518. It was then repaired in 1722 by Armenian Patriarch Bedros Vartabed. In 1729, it was rebuilt with an expanded plan by three Armenian architects Shahin, Sarukhan and Yarem.
It was completely burnt down during the great fire of 1881 and reconstructed again in 1883 to its present plan, with seven ‘khorans’ and a huge footprint of more than 15,000 square feet, to serve a large Armenian population in the region. Its 100 feet high bell tower, with a bell molded by the famed Zildjians and a large golden cross at the top, was bombarded and toppled by German/Ottoman cannon fire in 1915 because it was deemed to be higher than the mosque minarets in the region.
After the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, it was used as a state warehouse for canvas and fabrics, and then, despite sporadic efforts by the dwindling Armenian community in Diyarbakir, it had been left to deteriorate and decay until 2009, when a few Armenians born in Diyarbakir but living in Istanbul, formed a Foundation Board under the auspices of the Armenian Istanbul Patriarchate, with the goal of reconstructing the church, as well as to start a legal process to reclaim title to the significant land holdings originally belonging to the church.