In the aftermath of the earthquakes that struck the country on February 6, historic buildings and structures either sustained heavy damage or were completely destroyed in the country's southern region.
Several historic structures in Türkiye’s southern Hatay province, known as the home to civilizations, have been damaged due to strong earthquakes that struck the country on February 6.
In Hatay's Altinozu district, a historic Greek Orthodox church was left in ruins following the disaster. The church was estimated to be 700 years old.
Only the bell tower of the church remains, while its ceiling collapsed and most of its walls were also destroyed.
Ibrahim Cilingir, vice president of the church foundation, told Anadolu news agency that the structure had just undergone restoration in 2020 and prayers were since been held there until the February quakes happened.
“We restored the church three years ago. We really put a lot of effort into it,” he added.
“It was very beautiful and truly worth seeing the church and has stood since its founding. Unfortunately, it was destroyed after the earthquake,” he said.
“The destruction of the church really upset people. I hope we will rebuild this church together with the state,” Cilingir said as he appealed to Turkish authorities and other donors for support to restore the house of worship for Orthodox Christians.
While the government and heritage experts managed to preserve many other historical structures, the sheer magnitude of the destruction could mean restoration will take longer, with the priority given to housing for the millions of people who were displaced.
READ MORE: How Türkiye is taking care of its cultural heritage in quake-hit regions
Bagras Castle, Mahremiye Mosque
Some parts of the Baghras or Bagras Castle located on the Antakya-Iskenderun road in Hatay and thought to have been used by the Byzantines, Crusaders and Romans due to its strategic location, were also destroyed in the earthquakes.
Nizamettin Senal, the village head of the Otencay neighbourhood in the Belen District, told Anadolu Agency that the historical castle was damaged after the earthquakes.
It cannot be visited at the moment, you would be afraid to visit it in case it collapses on you,” Senal said.
The historical Mahremiye Mosque in Antakya, which has two rotating columns called “earthquake scales” on the right and left of the mihrab or prayer niche, could not survive the earthquakes either.
Only the tunnel-shaped entrance, right under the minaret, remains from the 600-year-old mosque, most of which collapsed in the first earthquake, which was measured at an intensity of 7.7.
Nuh Gokoglu, who has been working as a preacher at the mosque for three and half years told Anadolu Agency that the mosque was built in 1400-1450.
“Legend is the imam turns the pillars on the right and left of the mihrab at every prayer time, and if the pillars do not rotate, it can be known in advance that the balance of the mosque is out and it is said that precautions are taken accordingly,” he said.
“These pillars are a method made to ensure the safety of the community, religious officials and shopkeepers and to inform them of any danger. However, the mosque was completely destroyed in the first earthquake,” he added.
Gokoglu said that he learned from the Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry that such mosques, which are registered cultural assets, will be rebuilt as soon as possible.
READ MORE: Türkiye quakes generated up to 210 million tonnes of rubble
Meanwhile, an aqueduct from the Roman Period and the houses around have remained standing in Antakya.
Known to have been built by the Roman Emperor Trajan in the 2nd century, the aqueduct with a height of about 20 metres and a width of 2.5 metres, today serves as a bridge.
Mehmet Saganak, who has a house near the aqueduct, told Anadolu Agency that the historical bridge and the surrounding houses were not seriously damaged in the earthquake.
“Our houses are 65-70 years old. The historical aqueduct in our neighbourhood is still standing despite earthquakes,” Saganak said adding that the structures in their area were built on a rocky surface.
Türkiye and Syria were rocked with twin earthquakes on February 6 which have left upward of 50,000 people dead and entire cities destroyed.
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