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 Armenian 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.
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.
I think it is safe to assume, that there are no chances of it being used as a Armenian 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.
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
Readers question: If you were in Kars, would you visit the Kümbet Mosque, aka The Armenian Church of 12 Apostles?