A project is underway to restore and open to visitors a 1,800-year-old Greek church near the town of Bodrum (foto) in western Turkey, national media reported recently.
The Gara Church, according to the publication, is located within a tourism facility built by a private firm, NF Construction and Tourism, which has had a report prepared outlining ways to preserve and restore the church, and open it to visitors, the Hurriet Daily News reported.
The church dates back to the late Roman-early Byzantine era from AD 2 to 4, and boasts remains that are unique and important in terms of archeology and art history, Dr. Emine Tok of Ege University’s art history noted in a report, cited by the publication.
“The mosaics, especially on the church floor (foto), are the most important and rare kind,” according to the report. “It is possible to restore the church and turn it into an asset for tourism. The building will not last long considering its current situation; it should immediately be repaired.”
The church, which is 8 metres high, has a well, a cistern and water canals, one prayer room and two living quarters. The floor mosaic, thought to have been brought from Egypt, has images of four dolphins and a swordfish, symbols of the religious beliefs of the time.
The plan for the restoration of the church involves covering the mosaics with glass and turning it into a museum of culture and art.
Representatives of local tourism businesses, cited in the publication, claim that the church’s restoration will contribute to the development of cultural tourism in the region, which is mostly known for as a destination for beach vacations.
“Such a project will highlight the ties between different cultures and religions, bringing them together, and will attract tourists from many countries, including neighboring Greece,” Remzi Güngör, a tour operator from Bodrum, told the media.
So far, around 100,000 US dollars have been spent for scientific research and the restoration project, said Fırat Özbaşar, an executive from NF Construction and Tourism, which operates the boutique hotel next to the Gara Church, adding that “an additional 300,000 US dollars is needed to turn the church into a museum and a cultural center.”
“Maybe a different project can be completed at a much lesser cost, but we aim for the 1,800-year-old church to become an important religious location, not only for Bodrum but for Turkey and Europe,” Özbaşar concluded.
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