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Historic buildings in Türkiye’s Hatay province damaged due to tremors

Historic structures in Türkiye’s southern Hatay province, known as the home to civilizations, were damaged due to strong earthquakes on Feb. 6.

In Altinozu district, a historic Greek Orthodox church was destroyed due to the quakes. The church was estimated to be 700 years old.

Only the bell tower of the church remains. Its ceiling collapsed and most of its walls were also destroyed.

Speaking to Anadolu, Ibrahim Cilingir, vice president of the church foundation, said the building was restored in 2020 and prayers were since held there.

“We restored the church three years ago. We really put a lot of effort into it,” he added.

“It was a very beautiful and truly worth seeing church and has stood since its founding. Unfortunately, it was destroyed after the earthquake,” he said.

Calling on Turkish authorities for support to restore the church, Cilingir said: “The destruction of the church really upset people. I hope we will rebuild this church together with the state.”

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 destroyed in the earthquakes.

Nizamettin Senal, the village head of the Otencay neighborhood in the Belen District, told Anadolu that the historical castle was damaged after the earthquakes.

Senal said: “It cannot be visited at the moment, you would be afraid to visit it in case it collapses on you.”

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.

Only the tunnel-shaped entrance, right under the minaret, remains of the 600-year-old mosque, most of which collapsed in the first earthquake.

Nuh Gokoglu, who has been working as a preacher at the mosque for the three and half years told Anadolu that the mosque was built in the 1400-1450.

“Our mosque is one of the first five mosques built in Hatay. Our mosque is the only mosque in Hatay with ‘earthquake columns’,” he said.

“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.

An aqueduct from the Roman Period and the houses around it 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 meters and a width of 2.5 meters, today serves as a bridge.

Mehmet Saganak, who has a house near the aqueduct, told Anadolu that the historical bridge and the surrounding houses were not seriously damaged in the earthquake.

Stating that the region was built on a rocky area, Saganak said: “Our houses are 65-70 years old. The historical aqueduct in our neighborhood is still standing despite earthquakes.”

Türkiye and Syria were rocked with twin earthquakes which have left an upward of 50,000 people dead and entire cities destroyed.​​​​​​​

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