The Castle of Kars (Turkish: Kars Kalesi), also known as the Citadel, sits at the top a rocky hill overlooking Kars. Its walls date back to the Bagratuni Armenian period (there is surviving masonry on the north side of the castle) but it probably took on its present form during the thirteenth century when Kars was ruled by the Zak’arid dynasty.
The walls bear crosses in several places, including a khachkar with a building inscription in Armenian on the easternmost tower, so the much repeated statement that Kars castle was built by Ottoman Sultan Murad III during the war with Persia, at the close of the sixteenth century, is inaccurate. However, Murad probably did reconstruct much of the city walls (they are similar to those that the Ottoman army constructed at Ardahan).
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Places of interest
Below the castle is an Armenian church known as Surb Arak’elots, the Church of the Holy Apostles. Built in the 930s, it has a tetraconch plan (a square with four semicircular apses) surmounted by a spherical dome on a cylindrical drum. On the exterior, the drum of contains bas-relief depictions of twelve figures, usually interpreted as representing the Twelve Apostles.The dome has a conical roof. The church was converted to a mosque in 1579, and then converted into a Russian Orthodox church in the 1880s. The Russian people constructed porches in front of the church’s 3 entrances, and an elaborate belltower (now demolished) next to the church. The church was used as a warehouse from the 1930s, and it housed a small museum from 1963 until the late 1970s. Then the building was left to itself for about two decades, until it was converted into a mosque in 1993. In the same district of Kars are two other ruined Armenian churches. A Russian church from the 1900s was converted to a mosque in the 1980s after serving as a school gymnasium.
The “Taşköprü” (Stone Bridge) is a bridge over the Kars river, built in 1725. Close to the bridge are three old bath-houses, none of them operating any longer.