Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Type / Christian religious centre

Aprank or Saint David's Monastery

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Aprank or Saint David's Monastery

About the site

Corridor: Diagonal Road
Country: Turkey, Tercan, Erzincan
Type: Christian religious centre
Epoch: Middle Ages
World Heritage:
Middle AgesChristian religious centre

The extensive ruins of the monastery of Aprank stand near the summit of a hill, about 15 kilometres to the south-west of the small town of Tercan (formerly called Mamahatun), roughly midway between Erzincan and Erzurum. During the nineteenth century it was called the Monastery of Saint David.
The early history of the monastery is unknown, but during the nineteenth century it was the episcopal centre of the Tercan district (which contained 34 Armenian villages) and most of the surviving buildings seem to date from that century. The monastery was probably abandoned during 1915, certainly abandoned by 1917.
The main part of the monastery lies within a circuit of tall walls. These walls were built more for effect and status rather than serious defence: they have no towers, or a parapet, and the enclosure is overlooked by higher ground. There is a gate in the west end of the north wall of this enclosure, and there may have been another entrance in the middle of the west wall (most of this section has been looted for its masonry).
Against the west wall is a terrace planted with mulberry trees. A little below the northern end of this terrace, and outside the enclosure wall, are the remains of a structure with a large pointed vault that is open to the west - it was probably a fountain.
The northern half of the walled enclosure was filled with buildings built against the wall. In the middle of the southern half of the enclosure was the monastery's principal church, called Surp Hovhannes (church of Saint John).
Surp Hovhanness Church was designed with four free-standing columns supporting a cupola with a low drum. This design type is common in Armenian churches built from the mid 17th century onwards, and was heavily influenced by post-Byzantine Greek churches. It a single entrance, on its west side. The tympanum above this doorway had an inscribed stone panel decorated with crosses and bearing two inscriptions, one with the date 1854. This panel was destroyed in the early 1990s.
The Chapel of Saint David is a church that stands on a ridge to the south of the main enclosure. It is a rectangular, single nave chapel that has a barrel vault internally, a saddle roof externally. The church is built of re-used masonry, and there are old sculptural and inscriptional fragments built into its walls.
The area to the east of the chapel is enclosed within a partially ruined wall. At the north-west corner of this wall is a large khatchk'ar monument. There are fragments of other khatchk'ars scattered around, and the land both within the enclosure and around the chapel seems to have been a graveyard.

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