Agos's Archive: How did Saint Theodore Church become Kurşunlu Mosque?

In Agos' archive, there is a journey to the history of Kurşunlu Mosque in Sur province of Diyarbakir, which was damaged because of a fire caused by bombs recently. Here is the story of Saint Theodore Church's transformation to Kurşunlu Mosque by Sarkis Seropyan.

How did  Saint Theodore Church become Kurşunlu Mosque?


The transformation of some historical structures speaks volumes about what happened. The story of Saint Theodore Church's transformation to Kurşunlu Mosque is a strking example to this. Dikran Mıgund, in his book published in 1950 in the US, told the tragic story of the church. Here are some selections from that book, which is almost lost today:

“Mıgırdiç Nakkaş was the spiritual leader of Amed and the Archbishop of  Saint Theodore Church. He built a seminary in the church. The monastry was bordering the walls of the forstrees and reaching to western walls of the city and the new market place and the horse market was included in it. 

In the first quarter of 15th century, during the most difficult times of Armenia, there was the rule of Akkoyunlu and Karakoyunlu Turkomans. Karakoyunlu Turkomans were ruling an area including Armenia and the north of Persia with Tabriz as the central city, whereas Akkoyunlu Turkomans were ruling an area in the south of Armenia which reached from Mesopotamia to the Straits. Amed was included in this area. During Nakkaş's time, Sultan Osman was the ruler of Akkoyunlu Turkomans. Nakkaş formed a friendship with him and got a permission to build the dome of the church. In those times, Christians weren't allowed to do anyting without the permission of the rulers. Getting a royal decree for building a dome under those conditions was the diplomatic success of Nakkaş.”

It is regarded that Nakkaş had died in Amed and buried in Saint Theodore Church in accordance with the traditions of those times. Boyacıyan defined the loss of  Saint Theodore Church as one of the most devastating events in Armenian history and wrote: “A man of God devoted his life to the glory of that building and made it a cultural center and almost 75 years later, another man of God gave it to the pagans and it became Kurşunlu Mosque; what a shame.” 

A story of betrayal 

“In 1516-17, a son of Ottoman sultan came to Amed and wanted to present a mosque to the city for its kind reception. Wandering around the city, he couldn't have found a proper place and climbed to Virankale tower. He blindfolded his eyes and threw an arrow with a red ribbon randomly. He announced that he will give a reward to the one who finds the arrow and he will build a mosque where the arrow hit and give a high expropriation price for the owner of the place. 

About a week later, a priest who carries out the maintenance work for Saint Theodore Church found the arrow with a red ribbon on the roof of the church. The other day, he presented the arrow to the sultan's son. He told that he is Christian but he decided that Islam is the rightful religion. 

Sultan's son asked whom he should pay the expropriation price and the priest said that he can give it to him so that he can divide it between the owners. After that response, sultan's son ordered his men to pour the golds in his treasury over the carpet. They kept pouring the golds until the priest said “Enough.” The priest was so blinded by the greed, he could have only said enough, when a hill of gold appeared on the carpet. Then, sultan's son asked:

'You said that you admired Islam since your childhood. But you are a Christian man of God, right?'

The priest said, 'Yes, your highness.'

'I guess you take an oath to stay faithful to your duties, right?'

'Yes, your highness, but it is about Christian theology.'

'Now, listen to me carefully. I see that you are abandoning your faith for the gold on the carpet. You are betraying your oath  like it is just a cloak. I am not a man of God, but I am sure that there is no mufti or imam who would accept your conversion to Islam after hearing your story. You poor creature, are you even aware that you are betraying your people? Since it is impossible for me to break my promise, here are my orders...' 

After that, sultan's son summoned his soldiers and ordered them to put the golds in a bag and lay it on the shoulders of the priest. He said: “Behead him at city center and give away the spoiled gold to the poor people of the city.” 

Then, sultan's son wrote a letter to the archpriest of the church to explain the situation. He wanted them to evacuate the church in 3 days and hand it to the Muslims.  

In 3 days, Armenians took whatever they can and their remainig stuff was burned by the Muslims. That was the way Saint Theodore Church was plunged into darkness. On the rightside of the door of the Church of St. Giragos, there is an inscription which reads:

“Saint Theodore was martyred in 1517.”

A life devoted to beauty: Mıgırdiç Nakkaşyan

Famous poet of late medieval times, miniaturist and man of God, Mıgıdıç Nakkaş was born in Bor village of Bitlis c. 1394. He studied philosophy and theology and he had a good comprehension of several eastern languages and classical Greek. After the death of his wife in 1420, he went to Amed and became a priest. In 1430, he ordained as the archbishop of 24 provinces. He built new churches under the aegis of Sultan Osman, repaired the old ones and founded schools. In 1434, Partsrahayyats Surp Asdvadzadzin Monastery in Ergani, which was designed by him, was built. Between1439 and 1443, he repaired  Saint Theodore Church in Amed. The dome of the church was higher than the minarets of the mosques in the city and this made the fanatic Muslims furious. Osman's heir Hamza gave an order to demolish the dome of the church. 

Saddened by this demolition, Nakkaş left Amed and go to Constantinopole. After 4 years, Hamza's son Cihangir invited him to Amed and allowed him to rebuild the dome. The restoration finished in 1447 with the efforts of craftsman Nekamed. 

Died in 1470, Mıgırdiç Nakkaş left innumerable poems, memories and historical documents.