Lake Van

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Lake Van

Lies in Western Armenia, todays SE Turkey. The city of Van is in the SE corner of the large lake, with a number of Armenian monasteries along the shores and on the islands in the lake. The most famous island is that of Aghtamar, on the southern shore towards the east. A few kilometers to the SW of Lake Van lies the town of Bitlis, and the province of Mush lies past the west of the region. North of Lake Van was the city of Tondrak, center of the medieval Armenian hippie Tondrakians sect.

Cultural history

The lake was the centre of the Armenian kingdom of Urartu from about 1000 BC, and the capital of Urartu, Tushpa, was on the shore of Lake Van (on the site of the medieval castle of Van, west of Van city).[1]

Along with Lake Sevan in today's Armenia and Lake Urmia in today's Iran, Van was one of the three great lakes of the Armenian Kingdom, referred to as the seas of Armenia. Along its shores and on several islands (Arter, Lim, Charpanak, etc.) the remains of Armenian churches and monasteries can be found. The best preserved is the tenth-century Church of the Holy Cross (Armenian Սուրբխաչ, Surb Chatsch, scientific transliteration Surb xač') located on Akdamar Island. It was built by king Gagik Artzruni between 915 and 921. Reliefs on the external walls represent Biblical stories such as Adam and Eve, Jonah and the whale, David and Goliath, etc.

Other important historical monuments include Van Kalesi (Castle of Van) on the Lake's eastern shore. The modern city of Van is located to the east of this castle.

The Lake Van region is also the origin of the popular Van Kedisi breed of cat, noted for among other things its unusual fascination with water (a very rare trait among cats, which generally dislike being immersed in water).


  1. The Concise Encyclopædia of Archaeology - Page 488 by Leonard Cottrell - 1960

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