Pages 14-15

by Vusala Zahirova

The restored Qum Basilica in Qakh District was inaugurated on 6 May 2008. The three−naved basilica, one of the earliest monuments of Christian Albania, was constructed in the 4th century.

The first Christian chapels were in homes and catacombs. Churches did not appear until Christians were able to worship openly in large numbers. Initially, churches were built in the style of the Roman basilica or meeting hall. Such churches were built throughout the Roman Empire and also in the Caucasus region.

Qum Basilica is one such early Christian place of worship. Only the central part of the building and part of the roof survives.

The US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation and the local
executive authorities carried out a joint project to restore and conserve Qum Basilica. The project, the fund´s first in Azerbaijan, started in 2006. The basilica was investigated, photographed, cleaned and restored and the findings of the research were published.

US Ambassador Anne Derse attended the inauguration. She expressed her pleasure at the restoration of the basilica: "The Qum Basilica is an early example of this kind of temple and a most valuable part of the region´s cultural heritage. The temple is also a clear sign of religious tolerance and cultural richness in Azerbaijan. It is a real pleasure for me to see that the $30,000 that we have spent on the restoration of the basilica have produced such a splendid result."

The US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation is the only US government programme that provides direct small grant support to heritage preservation in developing countries. The programme was established by the US Congress in 2001 with $1million. To date, the Ambassadors Fund has supported 437 projects worldwide, totalling more than $11 million. Funded projects include technical support for the restoration of historic buildings; assessment and conservation of museum collections; archaeological site preservation; documentation to save threatened traditional crafts; improved storage conditions for archives and manuscripts; and documentation of indigenous languages.

The US Ambassadors Fund is at present implementing a project to restore a mosque in the village of Qala. The work is due to be completed in the near future.