website of Jelle Verheij, historian

Travel Snap Shots

travel snap shots past and present

Village church in Tatvan district, Bitlis province


".... After luncheon we looked at the church. It is a very plain stone structure, with nothing externally architectural about it and nothing ecclesiastical in its appearance except that a number of crosses patée (✢) are scratched on some of the stones. Attached to the west end is another lower and wider bulding of inferior contruction, which looks like a mere outbuilding. On entering the latter building by a small and low door, we found that this is the nave of the church - a perfectly plain room, which might be a stable, with its roof supported by rough posts. Another small and low door gives access from the nate into the chancel. This is a comparatively lofty building, with a plain pointed-arched stone groining, very dimly lighted by one small slit in the east wall. At the east end is the sanctuary - a raised platform about three feet high, with narrow steps in the middle by which the priest ascends to it, The alter slab (mensa), marked at the angles with crosses patée, is placed on a stone table which has only one central stone pillar. A very rude wooden frame over it represents the canopy, and there is no other furniture. The church possesses some books, which were in the custody of the head man and we could not get to see them.

     We saw here for the first time the substitute for a church bell, which is general troughout the East; it consists of a short board of thin hard wood called a semantron; it is held suspended ny a cord from the middle of one of its long edges, and is struck with a wooden mallet; the sharp and slightly sonorous sound is heard for a considerable distance, and is quite enough to answer its purpose of reaching the ears of all the villagers and announcing to them the hours of morning and evening prayer. We found the semantron and mallet hung up on a peg against the outer wall of the church.

     The Church is endowed with three fields, to maintain it in repair, and find the requisites for Divine service....."

Rev. L.E. Cutts, Christians under the Crescent in Asia. London, n.d. (Society for Promoting Christian knowledge) [report of travel in 1878]

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