The Surp Toros (St. Toros) Armenian Church in the Kutahya region of western Turkey has been razed to the ground. Armenians have once again experienced the Turkish state's contempt for the country’s Christian heritage.
The ancient Armenian Church of St. Toros of Kutahya was built in the Middle Ages during the reign of Sultan Murad. Destroyed in 1603, then rebuilt immediately afterwards, the building was considered an important place of Armenian memory.
Tradition report that Turkish women, stricken with diseases, used to go to St. Toros to sit on a miraculous stone which is said to cure certain diseases.
Before 1915, some four thousand Armenians resided in the city of Kutahya and its surroundings. In Kutahya itself, one could count three Armenian churches. After the Genocide, Armenian Christians were down to 65.
Disused, the church became successively a wedding hall and then a cinema. The Turkish authorities seem to have remained indifferent to repeated calls from the Armenian community for its restoration, and its use as a cultural center.
Recently, St. Toros was bought by an individual who decided to raze it: yet the Council for the Protection of Cultural Property of Kutahya had ruled that the church should be preserved from demolition.
A photograph published by the Turkish news agency Bianet on January 27, 2021, shows that nothing remains of the 17th-century building.
MP Diyarbakir Garo Paylan, member of the (pro-Kurdish) People’s Democratic Party, called for an investigation into the handling of the case, proposing that the church be rebuilt in its place of origin.
Between 1915 and 1923, around one and a half million Armenian Christians were systematically wiped out by the Ottoman Empire, representing nearly 77% of the Armenian population at that time.