HALİFEOĞLU, Meral, “Restoration of Dyarbakir Surp Giragos Armenian Church”

Surp Giragos Church is a structure which is within the traditional urban area. The church which is composed of a group of structures is the biggest Armenian Gregorian Church of Turkey and The Middle East. It has an area of nearly 3000 m2. The construction date of structure is not known. Newjersey states that after the church had completely burned down in 1881 it was rebuilt again in 1883. The building had been used as Arsenal and for other purposes until 1960; it was taken over by Diyarbakır Armenian Community, and started its main function with partial restoration.

Architectural Features of the Structure
Being an Armenian Church that has reached to present day in Diyarbakır and having the largest prayer place; it is the single church that has seven arched recesses and 5 naves horizontally. The structure which had been partly used until 1990 is composed of vicarage, guesthouse, chapel and other service units apart from the Church. The church is composed of five naves (sections) surrounded with double-centered cinctures located on sixteen cylindrical columns.  The surface between two cinctures is emptied with circular sections. While the columns belonging to choir level in the west and the stairs leading to this level exist, the entire upper cover of the structure had collapsed completely. There are rooms on the north and south of arched recess wings which has turned into iwans. The place is accepted to have seven arched recesses. On the upstairs, there are disburdening rooms on the arched recesses and a narrow corridor.

Narthex in the west side of the structure is surrounded with cinctures in the shape of porch covering the half of south area. There is a gathering-place for women (vernadun) on this section covered with cinctures. There are five entrances to the church, one in the south, one in the north and three at the west.

The structure which was built in the technique of traditional masonry construction was shaped in the dominion of local stones. Limestone which was used very limited can be seen on some of the belt webbing and on scriptures. Rubble filling with frame house system, brick, timber and gypsum are the material used in the structure. The church which includes window, door, cincture, niche, eaves, and details of Diyarbakır traditional construction art was built in the feature of earth-sheltered building on wooden joisting.

The most important deformation in the structure is the abandonment and estrepement due to immigration of Armenian community after 1980’s. Non-functionality, dilapidation, natural and temporal conditions which has started with the non-existence of community has accelerated deformation process of the structure.

Cover coat of the church which has not reached to present day was completed in accordance with traditional construction technique, material and restoration project. Reinforcement, consolidation and joint filling were done on the surfaces where there is surface loss and joint discharge. Galilee and soil accumulation and excavation were cleaned. Units on the south porch which were damaged and changed were completed. Additional units which are against the original pattern of the structure were removed. All the surfaces of walls were cleaned and paintings were cleaned as well. Partially collapsed floor coverings were removed. Surface arrangement was done again and the original floor covering was completed. Conservation studies were done on gypsum adornment of altars.

As a result;
The church section was opened to worship after restoration study was completed in October-2011. With the opening ceremony and ritual with the participation of Armenians living in Turkey, Armenia and other countries; a cultural structure of Diyarbakır was regenerated. Restoration studies of Surp Giragos Church and structure group which is one of the important monumental structures in Diyarbakır is aimed to complete in 2013. The church is thought to evaluate as prayer place and other units are thought to be used with social and cultural functions. In this sense, project studies are carried out for new steeple and functional evaluation in the structure.

Dr.F.Meral HALİFEOĞLU
Dicle University
Faculty of Architecture