Kümbet Mosque, aka The Church of 12 Apostles

Full of excitement, I rushed into Kümbet Mosque, a recommended site to visit while in the city of Kars. It was not until, I was on the way out that I felt great shame. You see, I had forgotten to cover my head with a scarf, and this is always requested of women entering mosques.

To be fair though, a majority of guidebooks do not call it Kümbet Mosque. They call it the Church of 12 Apostles, a name reflecting its history and exterior architecture. When it is constantly referred to as a church, it is easy to pale down its significance as a place of worship dedicated to Islam.

Kumbet Mosque

The mosque or church as it is commonly called has a turbulent history being passed from Christianity to Islam, back to Christianity and then being used as a museum before reverting back to a mosque. If that description has lost your thoughts, here is an easy timeline of its history.

Timeline of the Kumbet Mosque

  • It was constructed in 923 AD as a church
  • Converted into a mosque in 1064 AD, when the Seljuk Empire captured Kars.
  • From 1878 to 1921, it was converted back into a church when Russians ruled the city
  • From this date, it lay empty for many years with no purpose
  • From1969 to 1980, it was used a museum
  • In 1994, it opened as a mosque and was placed under preservation status.

Inside of the kumbet mosque

I think it is safe to assume, that there are no chances of it being used as a church again, however it seems to be better known as that, attracting major interest from tourists. Its small size means that you can observe the whole building within ten minutes but it is the intricate details that are the most interesting.

Kars Church of apostles

Why it is called the 12 Apostles Church?

There is a simple answer to this question and it is because the stone figures of the apostles are engraved into the dome, permanently set in stone for life

12 apostles

Readers question: If you were in Kars, would you visit the Kümbet Mosque, aka The Church of 12 Apostles?

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an eccentric,Internet addict with a passion for history. I really shouldn't travel because I can not read maps and always lose my way! But hey, that never stops me and it is part of the fun! Leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. says

    Actually, I was quite irritated that it had been turned into a mosque, given the size of the mosque right beside it. Discussed it with imam who was very sweet and said that turning into a mosque had meant it could be open. Frankly, I think it would have been enough to provide a custodian. I’m happy for old churches in areas with no mosque to be converted but this seemed quite unnecessary.

  2. says

    Beautiful photos as always Natalie, Kumbet looks fascinating, would love to go and visit. It feels like in the category of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul for me, changed so many hands throughout the history. Shame that it can’t be a museum but I agree with Alan, that now we can visit and enjoy the site, and it’s alive with folks.

    • says

      Will publish as soon as it is ready Inka. Also have a story about two wooden mosques that are interesting because of the colors they are painted in. Until I started looking into the history of this mosque/church, I never quite realised the amount of buildings like this. Find it all fascinating. Out of history, art and architecture, it is the history that attracts me the most
      Natalie wrote about..A Panoramic View of Rize from Çaykur Tea Garden

    • says

      Read the article. I already said it was a church and next time, be polite in your comments, or I will just delete them. Just found the rest of your comments in the Spam bin. THERE IS NO NEED TO EMPHASIS SHOUTING BY USING CAPITAL LETTERS. That is why the system thinks you are a spammer!

      • Frank says

        There’s a difference in calling this just a “church” than an “Armenian church”. You’re hiding invaluable information to your readers on the basis of ethnic and racial guidelines. Armenians didn’t build this church just so you can turn it into a mosque. Have some respect.

        • Nat says

          Right Frank – Stop speaking to me like I am a child. If you want me to add that it is an Armenian Church, this could have been done ages ago had you asked in an adult manner. This is called communication skills. Something you need to learn

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