Last Byzantine church in Ankara fights for survival

The last remaining Byzantine church in Ankara, Turkey, is fighting to survive as the crowded city continues to spread.

The Byzantine era produced a number of other historic church structures including the famous Hagia Sophia in IstanbulReuters

The Orthodox Church of Saint Clement, built at least 1,000 years ago, is in ruins and is quickly disappearing amid office buildings in the Altındağ district. Despite being of cultural and historical importance, the church can only be visited by walking down an office fire escape with express permission from the owners.

Although the church was registered with the High Council of Immovable Heritage Items and Movements (GEEAYK) on April 12, 1980, it now is struggling to survive due to lack of care.

Believed to have been built between the fourth and ninth centuries, all that is now left of the church is the interior facade of a wall and some marble blocks.

"Nowadays you can only see a few walls and a little marble pillar", was how one visitor described the ancient site.

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During the time of the Ottoman Sultan Murad II, a mosque and madrasah were built on top of Saint Clement's by Ahmed Bin Hızır Yeğen Bey. However both buildings were burnt by fires in 1917 and only a remnant remains.

Saint Clement was a bishop born in Ankara in 283. He worked to spread Christianity throughout modern day Turkey before being martyred by the Roman Emperor Diocletian during his purge of Christianity in 303.

Later declared a saint by the Orthodox Church, the church named after Saint Clement was built in the Byzantine era.

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