Artistic Decor in Arates Monastery in Central Armenia

Haghpat Monastery

Retracing steps across the Debed river, take the main road N, passing the Sanahin bridge, built in 1192. The bridge is elegantly decorated with stone cats. About one km after crossing back to the E side of the Debed on leaving Alaverdi Town, a cluster of large modern buildings, the transport terminal (?), marks the turn-off right to Haghpat and Tsaghkashat (149 v., till 1935 Khachidur). Take the left fork which winds up to Haghpat (Հաղբատ, 448 v.), with one of Armenia’s most beautiful monasteries perched atop the rim of the gorge. This fortified monastery was founded, like Sanahin Monastery, by Queen Khosrovanush around 976. It has a S. Nshan church finished in 991 by Smbat Bagratuni and his brother Gurgen, and served as the religious headquarters of the Kyurikians. The gavit was built in 1185, with the following inscription on the N facade: “In the year 634/AD 1185, I Mariam, daughter of King Kyurike, built with great hope this house of prayer over our tombs -- those of my paternal aunt Rousoudan, my mother Tamara, and myself, Mariam, under the superior Ter Barsegh, archbishop, who finished the construction. You who enter through its door and prostrate yourself before the cross, in your prayers remember us and our royal ancestors, who rest at the door of the holy cathedral, in Jesus Christ.” A smaller S. Grigor church was built in 1025 and rebuilt in 1211. There is a huge, self-standing gavit of the Abbot Hamazasp built in 1257, a “grand and marvelous bell tower” of 1245, and a library built in 1262. There is a large dining hall incorporated in the defensive wall, and several other picturesque chapels and mausoleums. Haghpat was major literary center, and maintained rich feudal lands until the monastery properties were confiscated by the Russian Empire in the 19th c.

The architectural complexes of Sanahin and Haghpat are among the outstanding works of medieval Armenian architecture. In their artistic merits they transcend the limits of national culture.

The monasteries are situated in the north of Armenia, in the Tumanian district. Sanahin is now within the limits of Alaverdi city, and Haghpat is to the north-east of it, in the village of the same name. Standing on a high plateau, amidst low structures, they rise sharp against the background of steep forest-grown slopes of Bazum ridge. The ensembles are complemented by small churches built near them.

The exact date of the foundation of Sanahin and Haghpat is unknown. Documentary evidence and monuments of material culture suggest that these structures date back to the middle of the 10th century. The formation of Tashir-Dzoraget kingdom of the Kyurikids in 979 and the great attention paid to Sanahin and Haghpat by various rulers of Armenia and their vassals favored the construction of many religious and civil structures there. In these monasteries, especially in Sanahin, humanitarian sciences and medicine were studied, scientific treatises written and paintings, most miniatures, created.

Built in the monasteries over three centuries were more than 20 various churches and chapels, four annexes, sepulchers, bell-towers, the building of the Academy, book depositories, refectories, galleries, bridges and other monumental structures, to say nothing of numerous dwelling and service premises.

The main monastery buildings are grouped around their chief temples, forming integral architectural organisms. They are asymmetrical relative to their main axes, which lends them picturesqueness. Compactness and harmonious balancing of the complexes are achieved owing to the fact that each subsequent architect proceeded from the state of the ensemble that already existed and coordinated the shape and layout of his own buildings with it.

What Sanahin and Haghpat complexes have in common is not only the compositional features of various structures. The architectural details and decoration of the monuments, which belong to the same epoch, have much in common and are even exactly alike in some cases, which gives us ground to presume that they were created by craftsmen of the same school.

Most of the religious structures are of the cross-winged dome type and have annexes in four corners, or of the cupola hall type. The structures of the fist type are: in Haghpat, St. Grigory church (1005), which lost its dome during the reconstruction in 1211 in Sanahin. St. Hakob church (the 9th century), St. Astvatsatsin church, built some time between 928 and 944. and Amenaprkich church, completed in 966.

Standing out among these churches is Amenaprkich built by Khosrovanuish, the wife of Ashot III Bagratuni. This majestic structure with a transversally-oriented interior crowned with a huge dome in the center, has two-tier annexes. The altar apse and the dome drum were decorated with graceful arcatures which went well with the patchily ornamented window and door platbands accentuating the smooth spaces of the facades. The severe and majestic eastern facade is crowned in its gable with a monumental sculptural group of Kings Kyurike and Smbat. Chronologically, this is the first high-relief representation of human figures with a model of a church, which gives it great importance in Armenian art.

The most important of the cupola-hall type buildings is Nshana church in Haghpat, founded by Khosrovanuish in 976 and completed in 991. It is distinguished by its compactness and harmoniously balanced shapes crowned with a tremendous dome. In the interior, the fancy shape of the high cupola abutments, protruding to the center, is smoothly combined with high arches, resting on them and changing over from the semicircular to the pointed shape. The decoration, particularly ornamental carving, is very modest. A sculptural group of Smbat and Kyurike kings with a model of the temple in hands, a replica of that in Sanahin, is in a higher relief, which brings it closer to a three-dimensional sculpture fitted into a wall niche. This method of using sculpture also occurs in later monuments, for instance in the main temple of Harich monastery (1201).

The interiors of Astvatsatsin and Amenaprkich churches in Sanahin and Nshana in Haghpat, just as those of some other churches, were decorated with frescoes which are almost totally lost by now. The altar apse of Nshana church was decorated with frescoes twice, the last time in the second half of the 13th century. Probably the whole of the interior was covered with frescoes, of which only the representation of Paron Khurlu-bugi on the southern wall is relatively well preserved. In its stylistic features — color tone soft multi-layer treatment of the picture, etc. the technique of portraiture and of the murals of Kobayr and Haghtala monasteries is close to that of Georgian mural painting which was highly developed in the 12th century.

The infiltration of secular themes shows in the miniatures created by the artist Markare for the Haghpat Gospel of 1211. These miniatures are interesting not only for their artistic features, such as the intense and somewhat darkish color scheme, but also for the artists new attitude to the world. The miniature "The Entry into Jerusalem" shows a fragment of the city, a rich house and its owner. The khorans are decorated with men’s figures in secular costumes of those times. Of interest are the representations of standing men in expensive costumes, one with a jar and the other with a fish on a stick, and of a “gusan’’ musician sitting in the shade of a fruit tree.

The small churches and chapels of Haghpat and Sanahin are ordinary vaulted or domed structures differing from each other in size, details of composition and decorative features. Haghpat’s Astvatsatsin church of 1025, for instance, has quiet proportions and a low dome, while Kusanats anapat (nunnery) of the early 13th century has more dynamic proportions — the fractional bulk and a higher octahedral cupola decorated with an arcature composed of trefoil arches.

Annex are the largest structures of Sanahin and Haghpat, interesting monuments of medieval Armenian architecture. They were intended for morning and evening services. Parishioners for whom there was no room left in the temple stood there. The annex also served as sepulchers for outstanding figures and for the aristocracy. The annex (jhamatuns) were added to churches, hut there were also jhamatuns of the same type which stood separately from the church, sometimes next to it. In this case the jhamatuns did not only discharge their regular functions as annex but also served as places of meetings and councils of secular and church notables of the appropriate principality.

Such jhamatuns include the so-called Amazasp building in Haghpat, erected in 1257. This is the usual type of structure rectangular in the plan with four inner abutments — the biggest such structure in Armenia. Identical columns and wall abutments, as well as the vaulted roofings of perimetral sections, devoid of ornamentation, add to the expressiveness of the tori-decorated octahedron of the central part. The squat proportions of the building and its architectural details create the impression of interior and exterior heaviness. A small annex is attached to the chapel on the eastern side.

The vestry of Nshana church, the most outstanding structure of Haghpat, has an intricate spatial arrangement. Originally, it was a small vaulted gallery-type sepulcher of the Kyurikid kings, built in 1185. Under Father Superior Ovanes of Khachen. it was extended westwards in 1209 and roofed with a system of ribs composed of two pairs of crossing arches repeated twice in height. This is a unique structure with a daring system of roofings which gives the interior unusual roominess and grandeur. The artistic form of the interior is extremely expressive, which makes the vestry very much different from others. The large-span arches rest, on three sides, on wall abutments and, on the fourth, western, side, on mighty columns made as a bunch of slender shafts crowned with appropriately divided tori and ornamented abaci. The simplicity of the rest of the abutments and the almost complete lack of decoration enhance the architectural expressiveness of the entrance part of the interior. The slightly squat exterior is crowned with a horizontal cornice and a two-part pointed roof with a graceful rotunda. The stony smoothness of the western facade is decorated with window edges and a broad flat platband of the entrance. The architectural and compositional features of the vestry of Nshana church had a substantial influence on the formation of many structures of medieval Armenia. especially civil ones.

Vestries and galleries, as well as special structures, served as sepulchers for members of aristocracy. There are several such structures in Sanahin and Haghpat. They differed from each other in their architectural composition, which is evidence of the great creative ingenuity of their architects. The most ancient of them is the sepulcher of Kyurike and David Kyurikids in Sanahin which consisted of two vaulted cells, isolated from each other, one built at the end of the 10th century, and the other in the middle of the 11th century.

The sepulcher of Ukaniants family in Haghpat (the early 8th century) is made as three large rectangular memorial chapels standing side by side. These also serve as pedestals for khachkars. Such structures were simplified —chapels were replaced by pedestals cut by deep niches — as, for instance. in the tombstone with a 1268 khachkar in Ashtarak.

The bell-towers of Sanahin and Haghpat are the earliest examples of structures serving this purpose. These are tall three-floor towers with small annexes at various levels and a many-column rotund belfry on top. Sanahin’s bell-tower, built between 1211 and 1235, is of severe and laconic appearance. The bell-tower is crowned with a light rotunda, which became a characteristic feature of later separate bell-towers of Armenia. The smart western facade is singled out by a large ornamented cross of dark-red stone in a heavily shaped frame. The asymmetrically shaped windows, khachkars and carved spheres of yellow sandstone give the facade a picturesque and appealing look.

The 1245 bell-tower in Haghpat is less conventional. Its first storey is cross-shaped in the plan, and the second one rectangular, with the angles cut off. The transition between the two is formed by trompes beautifully decorated with original combinations of trefoils. Over the trompes the wall is crowned, just like the other walls of the structure, with triangular gables, which soften the transition from the lower bulk to the rotunda. The building is somewhat squat. It is decorated with picturesque architectural details — twin windows with columns, facade gables, varying in their sizes and in the height of their placement, and a septahedral belfry, the pointed roof of which is shaped like that of the main building. The artistic composition of Haghpat’s bell-tower found its reflection not only in later bell-towers such as the one in Kars, but also in various other buildings — mausoleums and even churches.

The book depositories of Haghpat and Sanahin are unique buildings illustrating the high level of development of civil architecture in 11th󈚱th-century Armenia. Such buildings were erected, as a rule, away from the main churches of the monastery. They were square-shaped in plan and had a niche for keeping manuscripts in. Special attention was paid to the design of the roof which gave the book depositories a distinctive appearance.

Originally, Haghpat’s book depository, built in the middle of the 11th century, had a wooden roof, probably a round and pointed one, resting on internal pillars. The stone roof resting on crossing arches and built between 1258 and 1262, changed the artistic look of the interior substantially. Differing in their sizes and shapes, the arches carrying the overhanging wall tops and the arches of the niches do not only emphasize, by their arrangement, the central axes of the premise, but add to the impression of its considerable height.

The octahedral tent-roof with a light opening in its top, situated in the center of the ceiling, contributes to this impression. The architectural decoration, concentrated on wall-attached abutments and on the transition hand at the base of the tent-roof, depends on the latter. The severe shapes of the niches and of the half-columns and the ceiling arches, proportionate to them, impart clearness to the shape of the interior.

The refectory of Haghpat stands out among the civil monuments of Armenia. This structure, dating back to the middle of the 13th century is rare in its architectural composition. The prototypes of its roofing can be seen in the palace halls of Dvin and Haruch and in the guest rooms of the peasant home. One is impressed by the enormous space of the stretched-out hall of the refectory divided by columns in length into two parts roofed separately by two pairs of crossing arches. The central sections of the roofings are crowned with octahedral domed vaults with light opening at the tops. The graceful slightly pointed arches, spanning the width of the hall, give a light, almost weightless look to the high ceiling composed of well-proportioned braces, intersecting arches, vaults and domes, The intersecting arches, which begin much lower than the wall cornices and which seem tote extensions of the abutments, and the parts of the cylindrical vaults they support create a smooth transition from the wall to the roofings. The entrance, located in the buildings butt, determines the longitudinal-axis perception of the interior. In the character and details of decoration, the interior of the refectory is close to that of Haghpat’s book depository, which suggests that the two were created by architects of the same school.

Small structure over water springs, which are still in use, are of special interest among the monastery buildings. Their architectural composition, based on the principle of symmetry, is simple and laconic. These are vaulted premises. rectangular in the plan, with arched openings or the main, longitudinal, facade. The 1831 structure over a water spring in the yard of Sanahin monastery is a single-arched one: a village structure of this kind in Sanahin, dating back to the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century, is twin-arched, and the 1258 structure in Haghpat is triple-arched, with the middle arch larger than the side ones and emphasizing the central axis of the structure. There are stone troughs stretching along the back wall of the structure for watering the village cattle, and also a water reservoir used by local residents. The vaulted composition was prompted by the climate of the country. The cool and damp air inside is a good protection against the scorching midsummer sun. The inner spaces, almost totally open in front, enrich the outer appearance of these purely utilitarian structures.

Sanahin and Haghpat complexes are especially rich in khachkars (more than 80 of them have survived), which were intended not only as memorials. Some of them were installed to mark various events: in Sanahin, one was put up on the occasion of building a bridge in 1192, another one, of building an inn in 1205, and others are Tepagir (1011), Tsiranavor (1222), etc. In Haghpat, khachkars were built to perpetuate philanthropic activities of the persons whose names are inscribed on them (Amenaprkich, 1273). Some of the khachkars are quite sizeable. and their pedestals are high and fancy-shaped.

Most of the khachkar have the traditional shape of a cross which germinated out of a grain, with branches on its sides. In the khachkars of the 10th—11th century the framing of the cross was simpler than that of the 12th—13th century khachkars which developed new stylistic features. Ornamentation, which imparts picturesqueness to the general appearance of the khachkar and which covers the whole of the slab is mainly geometrical, consisting of stylized floral motives, squares which never repeat each other in their delineation and rosettes — some in the forefront, other in the background, and still others sometimes in between. The lacy patterns and their intricate interweavings on Sanahin’s Grigor Tudevordi khachkar (1184) or Sarkis khachkar (1215) are truly amazing for the ultimate skill of their execution. As distinct from them, Amenaprkich khachkar in Haghpat (1273) stands out for a great number of realistically depicted human figures fitted into the unique composition of the decor. Sophisticated ornamental compositions and their very high artistic level put the khachkars of Sanahin and Haghpat among outstanding works of Armenian art.

The ensembles of Sanahin and Haghpat stand out not only for the original architecture of religious and especially civil buildings. They are also most instructive as samples of town building art which show high skill of Armenian architects. Marked by the unity and compactness of their asymmetrical layout, they had a tremendous influence on the development of medieval Armenian architecture.

Architecture of the Soviet Armenia: Historical Prerequisites

The history of Armenian people was added in the extensive territory of Armenian upland (from The kolkhidskoy lowland - on the north to the Mesopotamian - in the south). In II -.i thousand to n. 3. was here created one of the earliest public educations - Hayasa, in THE XI -.ikh of substances to n. 3. is formed the state of Nairis, and in THE IX of substances to n. 3. - - Van reign (Urartu of Assyrian cuneiforms). From the tribes of Armenian upland strongest proved to be armeny (branch of khayasov), which, gradually proniknuv into the pond of Lake Van, Assyria and Urartu, occupied the predominating position in the latter how is explained ". the equivalence of terms To urashtu also of Armin in the babylonian and Persian texts Of the nakshirustemskoy and Bisutunskoy inscriptions of Dariya" [ 3 ].

About the byloy power of Van reign testify the ruins of the numerous fortresses, located on the territory of historical Armenia. Only in the range of modern Yerevan they find two largest in the past of center urartov - Teyshebaini (on the hill Of karmir-blur) and Erebuni (on the hill Of Arinberd).

From the period of hellenism they were preserved in Harney fortress III v. to n. 3., temple and bath with the mosaic floor I v. to n. 3. The author of the contemporary reconstruction of the antique temple of Harney A. Sainyan correctly notes that ".. do adoption by the Christian of religion Armenian architecture, find in the contact with the architectural skill of Greece, Rome and the adjacent hellenistic countries (Iran, Syria, Asia Minor a number of others), receiving and processing separate architectural forms and details, in essence went along the independent way "[ 4].

The addition of the features of original Armenian culture considerably was activated with the adoption in 301 g. of Christianity in Armenia as established religion and the creation at the end OF THE IV - beginning V v. of Armenian alphabet.

Christian religion placed before the architects of Armenia the most complex tasks, solved by them during those following it was age-long at the highest creative level, which raised Armenian classical architecture, by the unanimous acknowledgement of its domestic and foreign researchers, to the heights of world skill.

Sculptural stely V - of substances and the reached us first models of book painting prove, that Armenia participated, together with Syria, by Egypt and Italy, in the addition of the new iconography, which became then required for entire Christian east.

Basilica occupied the ruling place in the initial period of the formation of the Christian architecture of Armenia, about which testify the monuments OF THE IV -.v substances in Kasakh, to Yereruyk Basilica, Tekor, Yeghvard, Shirvandzhuke, Parbi and other I if dated IV v. Kasakh basilica has characteristic for this type of the cult buildings of the structure of plan and volumes, then Yereruyk Basilica convincingly proves, that in THE IV -.v substances the Armenian architects reached not only high artistic level, but also uniqueness in the development of Christian cult architecture, after creating its rare on the expressiveness architectural-artistic language.

Together with the bazilikal'nym type of church buildings in Armenia appear the central- domelike compositions of the temples, first example of which is cathedral into Vagarshapat (Echmiadzin), built in the IV century the plan of cathedral it represents by itself the cross, between branches of which are located square accomodations. Temple, in spite of small sizes, it is monumental because of unity and clearness of its stereo composition, in which the dominant position occupies the cupola quiescent on four pylons. In the cathedral Of echmiadzina are clearly expressed those new architectural principles, which became the basis of further development of entire Armenian architecture. The horizontal extent of basilicas yielded the place for vertical directivity in the organization of volumes and internal space of temples. Gradually preodolena the dismemberment of the latter, is achieved the rare unity of the planning and stereo composition solutions of buildings.

As the first most important component in development and improvement of central- domelike composition systems rightfully is considered temple the VI century in Avan. The form of cross in the rectangular, only elongated in the direction the east - West, the plan of temple it is obtained by polukruzh'yami of apses. Those located in the angles four the circular cross-section of pridela are connected with the basic podkupol'nym space. Under restraint and solidity of the undifferentiated facades of temple hides itself literally the entire firework of the system of the rock constructions, which organize passage to the highly raised spherical cupola. The bazilichnaya strictness of external architecture is combined in The avan temple with the emphasized vertical aspiration of its elegantly developed internal space. The same period includes the temples in Sisiane, Taline, etc.

In Armenia in the VI century was created the especially local type of khramovogo architecture - domelike hall, whose earliest example - the temple of Ptghnavank. The drum of its cupola was supported by the arches, thrown between the pylons. Four powerful pylons, forming podkupol'nyy square, took to themselves the basic loads of overlap. The entirety of the interior of temple was reached by the fact that the pylons in it adjoined the longitudinal walls, but they did not stand freely. The triangular niches located beyond the altarnoy apse play not only decorative, but also constructive role. The decorative decoration of temple, especially sculptural compositions on the southern and northern walls, formulation of the edges of windows presents large artistic value.

In the VII century the special spread of cultural and civil building is observed. For the unity of internal space and external volumes strive the creators of the domelike basilicas, extended in Armenia even in the IV - V substances (temple Of Gayane in Echmiadzine). Central- domelike composition finds the one-piece and final embodiment in the Temple Of Hripsime, erected in 618 g.

If in the plan the temple Of Hripsime is differed from the Avan church insignificantly (angular rooms - pridely they are square), then in the three-dimensional organization - it is substantial. In it synthesized increasingly better, what the Armenian architecture reached at the beginning the VII century: here and harmonious unity with the surrounding landscape, and interdependence of the architectural-planning and stereo solutions, and the monumentality of forms, which is combined with the plasticity of the individual lines of facade, and the ingenious constructive solutions, which use possibilities of stone. Finally, the temple Of Hripsime is characteristic by the utmost clarity of architectural thought, by consistency and by vzaimo¬svyazannost'yu of architectural and design forms. Tectonics of this unique construction in many respects is achieved by the presence to all four facades of the trapeziform niches, which not only facilitate the mass of walls, but also serve as the expressive element of the decorative working of facade.

Important components in the development of central- domelike system are churches in Bagarane and Mastara.

Temple into Bagarane, built in 624 - 631 yr., has the square in the plan and overlapped by cupola basic volume, which adjoin from all sides four semicircular exedras, which have outside pentahedral outline. Stands cupola on the arches, which are rested on four self-supporting pylon- abutments. A. l. Jacobson counts: "as a whole the temple Of Bagarana gives the completely unique and new composition of the free space under the cupola, which is flowed together with the wide exedras of four branches of cross. This was a large step forward. and were undoubtedly the great artistic achievement of Armenian architects "[ 5].

In relating to the middle VII v. temple in Mastara, in contrast to the temple into Bagarane, internal the space is freed from the pylons and it is completely overlapped by cupola, the entirety of its perception is ensured thanks to which. Are one-piece entire architecture of temple, its stereo composition, which truthful reflects the design construction of building. The deprived of decorative decoration walls of temple concentrate attention in the very invoice of the plane of wall, in the game of various volumes.

On the presence of one additional independent theme in the Armenian architecture the VII century testify the church Of zoravor into Yegvarde, church in the village Of irind Of the talinskeyeo region and the temple Of zvartnots, whose majestic ruins are located not far from g. of echmiadzina. First two - vos'miabsidnye their composition found expression in the three-dimensional solution: apses are outside emphasized by the alternation of the niches triangular in the plan (let us recall the temple Of ripsime), corresponds to each other internal and the external two-level volumetric articulation of the monuments, which are separated by tektonichnost'yu and strict rhythmicity in the organization of space.

The especially local, emergent in the territory of Armenia type of temples is Zvartnots. In contrast to the central- domelike (krestovo- domelike) temples of Armenia, in the plan Of zvartnotsa equilateral cross is inscribed not into the rectangle, but into the circle, which has outside many-sided form. Temple had the three-layer volume, which is completed by tent multi-sloping overlap. On the reconstruction of the ice-hummock Of toramanyana the internal space of temple was illuminated through the elongated on the facade windows, which have arched completions. However, the gallery of lower tier had circular window openings with the diversely decorated rock framing. The faces of the external walls of temple were richly decorated with decorative polukolonnami with the arches being rested on them, the plane of the walls above which was covered with high reliefs with the plant ornament. The rhythmical construction of temple, its aspiration were upwards clearly outlined both outside and in the interior building.

Researchers note that the architecture Of zvartnotsa showed action on the development of the khramovogo architecture not only of Armenia, but also other countries. The explicit influence Of zvartnotsa is felt in the churches Of Zoravor and Irind, noted above, in the large church in Artik, the church of the complex Of Khtskonk, some churches Of Ani.

Further development underwent into the VII century and the domelike basils, among which is separately separated The Odzun Church, dated by some researchers by earlier time. The well preserved temple, located in the village Of Odzun of Alaverdi region, is separated by the originality of planned and three-dimensional construction. Landed several proportion of the external galleries, inherent in the rannekhristianskomu period of Armenian architecture, are combined in it with the vertical directivity of the basic volumes of building, overlapped by ordered cupola. In the interior this aspiration even more is strengthened.

The association of the principles of the construction of the planned compositions of domelike basilicas and central- domelike temples can be traced based on the example of two immense for THE VII century construction: Large Talin Cathedral and Dvin cathedral. By special wealth of decorative formulation is separated temple in Talin, interior which was enriched by the frescoes, which reached to the present in the strongly injured form. Sections with the monumental painting the VII century were preserved also on the altar apse of temple in Aruch.

But in the territory of Armenia was preserved well the significant number of small cross-shaped temples, in which with the great brightness, by which in the large construction, appeared the high workmanship of Armenian architects. In this number stand the church Of stepanosa in Lmbatavank, the church of Kamsarakanov in Taline and Karmravor in Ashtarak, dated by the VII century the cross of their clear planned composition clearly it is read in the nekhitrostnykh volumes of these "miniature" buildings, which possess entirety and expressiveness of sculptural work. The accurately obtained and well received proportions are made their not only elegant, but also to a certain degree even filigree.

"entire Armenian architecture of early epoch is pierced by artistic unity and entirety, united architectural style. Its basic feature - laconicism and the clarity of architectural forms. Approaching the building, spectator immediately covers entire his composition as a whole, as it not was complex. External masses always rosary are expressive they are crystalline clear and sufficiently fully transfer the internal volumes, so, so clear and manufactured. To this laconicism corresponds the monumentality of architecture "[ 6].

Historical Armenia Earth was the arena of the crossing of the interests of important states and it constantly underwent by invasions destruction, which caused interruptions in the cultural development of nation. Its following stage is fallen to the end OF THE IX -.khi of substances. In the architecture it is characterized by further development of domelike compositions and by formation of large architectural ensembles. The masterpieces of this time assert the high professional level of Armenian architects, their skill to develop plastic ideas, and also rare gift of the erection of buildings in the absolute accordion with the natural environment.

Simultaneously with the architecture and in the unique stylistic connection with it is developed sculpture in the form of decorative relief on the buildings and free-standing stel with the ornamented image of cross - "khachkarov", which are been the especially local unique architectural-artistic phenomenon, the history of appearance of which is connected with the assertion of Christianity in Armenia.

The earliest buildings of this period are located in the peninsula the earliest buildings of this period are located in the peninsula lake of Sevan - church, based in 874 g. cross-shaped in the plan two small central- domelike temples, whose walls are lined from the roughly processed stones, it is wonderfully planted on the relief. They it seems are poured with the severe landscape, moreover not only because of the accurately obtained scale, but also, which is not less important, the invoice expressiveness of building material and to color accord.

Central- domelike composition found creative development in the main church Of the tatevskeyeo monastery - temple Of pogosa-Petrosa. Instead of four pylons, which support the drum of cupola in the similar systems of construction, here only two two of others are substituted with the angular walls of pridelov located from the western side.

To the forms of krestovo- domelike construction turned himself in the beginning X v. architect manuel, who built the palace temple of tsar gagik Artsruni on the island Of akhtamar Of the vanskyyo lake, find today on the territory of Turkey. In The akhtamarskom temple were abolished western pridely, and the form of cross found considerably clearer expression both in the planned composition and in the three-dimensional organization of building. But special popularity acquired Akhtamarskiy temple because of the unique reliefs, which decorate its facades and which testify about the emphasized tendency toward the plastic enrichment of the planes of walls.

The important circumstance of each new period in the development of Armenian architecture was the fact that it began from that how ended that preceding. And this principle, as it was noted, not was chance, since otherwise could be formed the break between the past and presently, but succession - one of the basic qualities of Armenian architecture in all stages of its history. Was manifested this both in questions of the creative development of the specific composition, design or architectural-artistic principles and in the formation of the architectural ensembles, which are folded during the life of several generations, and finally in the town-building approach to the solution even of separate architectural problems.

In the splendid capital of Armenia, Ani city one of the most important architects of the middle ages Trdatom, that restored in 989 g. the immense cupola SV of Sofia in Konstantinopole, was built famous Aniyskiy cathedral (989 - 1001). In this largest temple of city the architect, creatively pererabotav the general principle of domelike -bazilicnyx cult constructions BY THE VII century, created the widely opened internal space, supported by the architectural forms of building both as a whole, and in its separate details. This was because of the significant expansion of central nave and emphasized vertikalizmu of the interior of cathedral reached directed toward the podkupol'noye space.

In the solution of the interior Of aniyskogo cathedral, in the opinion of the well-known European scientists Of i. strzhigovskiy, Sh. dalya et al., Armenian architect for the first time used those principles, which more lately developed in the romance and Gothic architectural monuments.

Another creation Of trdata - the temple Of gagikashen is built according to the plan Of zvartnotsa. But architect not to mogdopustit' mechanical copying. And the matter here not in the number of external faces (them in Gagikashene 36 instead of 32 - in Zvartnotse), but in the continuation of the tendency to increase the central podkupol'noye space of cult construction, to give to entire architecture the elevated aspiration.

Akin To zvartnotsu and the volumetric solution of the shepherd church, which relates to THE XI century but as is original its planned composition, as the three-layer articulation of church is uniquely processed! Six-final star is inscribed in the outline of the plan of this pearl of medieval Armenian architecture comprised of the triangular niches. Six crossing themselves in the center arches support the second floor of building. However, the space of the third tier is united in the interior with the second. It is here present only the generality of architectural concept, connected tsentrichnost'yu composition and with the pyramidal principle of the construction of volumes. However, in other respects the active creative process of development, searches, findings continues. As the obvious cases of the aforesaid can serve also having their prototypes in the previous period of the history of Armenian architecture the multi-apsechurches Of abugamrents (X v.), rescuer (1036), the four-apsechurch SV of apostles (Arakelots).

Numerous cult and civil buildings and construction (church, palaces, fortress walls and tower, bridges, apartment houses, underground motions, water lines, bath, etc.), the developed system of the streets Of ani testify about the high level and the town-building culture of medieval Armenia.

Summing up its fundamental research, dedicated To ani city, N. 4. Marr it wrote: "for the most important element in each original architecture, precisely, creation, crucial point is the local source of the origin of artistic ideals. This, by the deeply gripping people layers cultural fermentation is explained wealth of the artistic forms of Armenia. "[" ].

In the monastery Of gndevank, located in the gorge of river Arpa, in 996 g. was elevated one of the first vestibules, which adjoins the krestovo- domelike church 936 g. vestibules, or "zhamatuny" they were by nature the buildings not only of cult, but also civil designation. Their sources lie at the Armenian people dwelling (glkhatune), from which the creators of vestibules adopted, creatively pererabotav in the stone- both the principles of the organization of space and the forms of overlaps with the central illumination (yerdikami). In the cloister complex Of oromos, not far from Ani, in THE XI century was for the first time used the system of the organization of zhamatuna with four columns on to center. In Hans oromos's zhamatune, as in other analogous buildings, one cannot fail to turn attention to the virtuosity of the design formation of ceiling light shades and the refinement of separate parts.

Further development and new features obtained in THE XI century domelike halls. Their composition was substantial pererabotana, in what it is possible easily to be convinced based on the example to the main church (cathedral) of the cloister complex Of marmashena, which is been located not far from Leninakan. Is built this salient work of the medieval architecture of Armenia in 986 - 1029. In it is separated by innovative approach to the solution creative of the problem confronting not only the plan, but also entire used in the cathedral principle of the organization of the three-dimensional composition, balanced by maximally harmonious both in the interior, and in the exterior forms. It is considerably more than in other domelike halls, expressed tsentrichnost' is achieved because of a shift in proportions of cross with setting of cupola in the center of hall. Ease and vertical aspiration give to interior the shaped beams of the thrusts, which covered the powerful pylons of cathedral.

The principles, which were discussed above, in particular ansamblevost' of building, harmony with the natural environment, the succession of architectural-artistic thinking appeared clearly and in the prevailing in X -.khiii of substances cloister complexes of Armenia - Akhpata, Sanaina, Gegarda, Agartsina, Kecharisa, Ovannavanka, Arichavanka, Goshavanka, Sagmosavanka, Gandzasara, Khorakerta, Makaravanka, only it is later - in the complexes Of noravanka, Spitakavora and many others.

The main church Of akhpatskogo ensemble - Nshana (X in) is imposing not only according to the absolute sizes, but main thing, on the architecture, domelike hall. The drum of cupola predominates above all remaining buildings, which adjoin the church and which grow it seems from earth itself. Amazingly harmoniously occurs the growth of the volumes of the buildings, which compose complex.

Vestibule of the church Of nshana, completed by building in 1201 in the period of the bloom of Armenian architecture and active creative searches, - the unique monument of architecture. One of the key problems, at which worked the architectural thought of Armenia in THE XII -.khiii of substances, was the creation of the united internal space of building. Specifically, at this time is for the first time used the overlap of large halls with the aid of the mutually being crossed arches - very static design system. In the vestibule of the church Of nshana this idea found bright and original embodiment. In it the system of the being crossed arches is repeated in the vertical direction twice, which gave aspiration upwards and special expressiveness, caused by the maximum design justification of all lines, to interior.

The fundamental period of the formation Of akhpatskogo complex coincided with strengthening of secular ideology and increase in the scales of civil building in Armenia. Specifically, in THE XII -.khiii of substances the church architecture of Armenia experienced on itself the strong influence of people architecture. To trace this is possible and based on the example of refectory Akhpata, built in first half THE XIII century it is the elongated hall with size 9X21,4 of m, divided into two parts by two round columns. Formed thus halls of smaller sizes are overlapped by the system of the coupled mutually being intersected arches of lancet figure. Arisen from the intersection of arches squares, in turn, are overlapped by octahedral cupola with the central light opening according to the type of erdika. The problem of developing of the wide and well examined interior by refectory (examples Of akhpata and Agartsina) was placed not randomly, since being civil building, refectory served also for the meeting, or the contact. And simply it were not placed, but also were solved with luster and perfection of the true work of skill.

In medieval Armenia rare monastery did not have its library - library. The buildings of libraries, as a rule, were the square in the plan hall, overlapped by arch on the being crossed arches and which is illuminated through the located in the middle of arch circular opening. According to designation, in the walls of libraries were niches for the books. In the building the libraries Of the akhpatskeyeo monastery, in particular, niche complete by slightly lancet arches, which wonderfully connects them with the design construction and the architectural-artistic means of entire internal space.

There are many common features Akhpatom the ensemble of the monastery Of sanain has, located southeast the first and prevailing in the same period. The well-known researcher of Armenian medieval architecture O. khalpakhch'yan correctly considers that ".. arxitekturnye the complexes Of sanaina and Akhpata be among salient works of medieval Armenia, whose artistic merits rightfully exceed the scope of national culture "[ 8]. This estimation can be successfully carried also to many other medieval cloister complexes and separate architectural monuments of Armenia, whose integral part compose numerous khachkary (cross stones), which present unique phenomenon in the history of world skill.

The establishment of first khachkarov historians V v. of agafangeos and Fofstos Of buzand connect with the propagation of Christianity in Armenia. After arriving for the change to heathen ideals and to monuments, khachkary symbolized by themselves new faith. The circle of their application was considerably extended in the course of time. Without losing their religious designation, they were established apropos of different memorable events and as the sepulchral monuments [ 9 ]. Especially much them, proudly confronting the burning rays by gusty winds, on the old cemeteries.

Frequently in the epigraphical inscriptions, existing on khachkarakh, communicates historically important information. In connection with this they acquire the significance of the documents of the history of Armenia. Let us add that khachkary, together with the miniatures, proved to be by the most steadfast to the invasions of foreign aggressors, regions of national culture, which did not interrupt its development. And there are all foundations for considering that in spite of the compressed framework and the limited possibilities of khachkarov and miniatures precisely they became the means of retention in the heavy periods of the foreign dominion of heritage and large painting, and large architecture [ 10 ].

Most ancient of khachkarov (Nerkin Of talin - THE VIII -.ikh reached to the present of substances Vardenis, Mets Of mazra - 881 g. in the village Of martiros Of the azizbekovskeyeo region - THE IX century, Of noraduz - X in.) they are simple and laconic. Gradually khachkary became the truly highly artistic works of the skill of the masters of medieval Armenia - architects, the sculptors, engravers on the stone. Khachkar was covered with the finest ornament, into which skillfully intertwined not less elegant decorated image of cross (khachkary OF THE XI -.khiii of the substances Of agavnadzora, Ashtaraka, Qaxaq- penalty, Alayaza, Echmiadzina, etc.). By the special variety of the composition solutions and ornamental working are separated khachkary THE XIII century, of what it is easy to be convinced based on the example of the memorial monuments Of goshavanka, Sagmosavanka, Bdzhni, Agartsina, Akhpata, Sanaina and many other architectural ensembles of the middle ages. Wealth of the fantasy of masters gradually derives them from one plane of the treatment of the surface of khachkara. They go deeply into the thickness of stone, the open band of decor becomes multilayer, even more diverse and more intricate. In the unique composition solution of khachkara Of amenaprkich from The akhpatskeyeo monastery are used the numerous images of human figures. They be present, also, in khachkarakh of the cave church Of the gegardskeyeo monastery.

In the territory of Armenia are many khachkarov not only XII -.khiii of substances, but also later period. Their abundance and variety strike eyewitnesses. They are monumental and picturesque, strict and timid as nature of the earth of Armenian, integral part of which they became.

With the last development period of the skill of khachkarov should be considered it THE XVI -.khviii of substances. "the destruction of the country by Turks caused even in XV -.khvi of substances the wide wave of Armenian emigration to the side of West Europe, to the east and to the south, where began to be created the new centers of national Armenian culture. this economic development it caused to the life a whole series it was municipal and the places, whose bloom falls on THE XVI -.khvii of substances especially this relates to the there is no time large cultural and the commercial to center Armenia g. of Jouguet (Dzhul'fa) on Arakse artistic evidence of this are dzhuginskiye cross stones excellent according to their thread, whose complex dekorirovka is deeply traditional, but it is at the same time and very unique "[ 11].

The attempt at the familiarizing of khachkarov with other national cultures, which occurred recently, is unsubstantiated and devised '. It is based on the distortion of the value of the depictive symbolism of Christian subjects, the conjectures about their "mitraizskikh" roots, and also about allegedly the nearmyanskikh ornamental adornments. This attempt ".. kra1ne is tendentious on the sense and spirit its and can only disorient the reader "[ 12].

We not randomly stopped at khachkarakh. Their artistic culture, as the culture of the use of decor in the monuments of medieval architecture (from the modest decorative decoration Of ererukskoy basilica to the picturesque reliefs of the portals of church and vestibule of the monastery Of noravanka and chapel of the apostles of Peter and Pavel the monastery SV of stefanosa), and today has an effect on the formation of architectural-artistic principles, proving the indissolubility of the general chain of the development of entire Armenian architecture.

Beginning from the invasion of Mongolians in first half THE XIII century, Armenia again became the arena of continuous wars. Destruction and death bore to Armenian people Persians and Turkmen tribes, Timur and Turk- Osmanlis. The latter especially committed atrocities, converting the efflorescent there is no time cities and villages into the heaps of ruins and pursuing the purpose of the physical destruction of Armenian nation and its culture. The exception the eastern regions of radical Armenia, which entered later (in 1828 g.) was only in the composition of Russia. In them the specific economic and economic activity was observed, building was conducted, but, of course, not on scales of the previous period. In the church and civil building (in Yerevan, Tateve, Echmiadzine, Mugni, Ashtarake and other places) we again see the revival of traditional architectural forms, planned and design constructions.

The period of the bloom of Armenian architecture began with the formation after the centuries-old interruption of new statehood of Armenian people - Armenian Soviet socialist republic.

Before to pass to the account of the material of the following chapters, was desirable in the generalized form to again present the architectural-artistic special features of the monuments examined, the composing basis national uniqueness of Armenian architecture. This is - organic three-dimensional and coloristic connection with the natural environment tendency toward the crystal structure of construction as to the maximum expression of equilibrium (symmetry) the unity of architectural idea and engineering logic the laconicism of architectural language the uniformity of building material the hierarchical quality of the construction of the elements of building or complex on their significance from whole to the details as the guarantee of the harmony of architectural organism the dynamics of the growth of architectural theme from the periphery to to center the harmonious development of theme from tectonics to the decor with the high culture of working the plane of wall. Let us recall O. shuazi, who considered that ".. cisto the Armenian method of adornment, completely alien to byzantine skill, consists of coating of cavity wall with a number of arcatures first of semicircular, then of horseshoe-shaped form "[ 13].

The time, which is outstanding before the architecture the definite requirements, connected with the level of social development, plays important role in the formation of national uniqueness. Time is the strictest judge. Indeed many ensembles, separate temples or civil construction, which are considered as the today best models of the architectural and construction genius of Armenian people and they are received by specialists as the especially national manifestation, in their time sounded innovative, vozmozhn.o, sometimes even it is unusual and by no means immediately they arose in an ordered historical number.

For the course of the entire history of the development of architecture the problem of its uniqueness invariably remained one of the important, and Armenian architects solved it in all stages of the formation of national culture with the inherent in them depth and the creative luster.

We did not consider it necessary in more detail to stop on the historical material, which is concerned the Armenian architecture of the pre-Soviet period of its development. It is illuminated in the numerous scientific works.


Nagorno Karabakh and adjacent territories belonging to historical Artsakh (some of which fell under the Republic of Artsakh's control in 1992-1994) has been called an open-sky treasure-house of various forms of Armenian architecture. [1] [2] Overall, Nagorno-Karabakh hosts several thousand architectural artifacts and historical monuments in a larger sense. In addition to ecclesiastical structures, this number includes samples of civil architecture, ancient castles and fortresses as well as numerous khachkars. [3]

The art and architecture created in Nagorno Karabakh has progressed through the same major stages as did Armenian art in a larger sense. They began developing in the pre-Christian times, proceeded through the adoption of Christianity early in the fourth century, and entered the era of modernity after blossoming in the Middle Ages. [4] [5]

The principal expression of Artsakh's art in the Middle Ages was through ecclesiastical architecture: churches, cathedrals, chapels and monasteries. Most other forms of art in that period, including illuminated manuscripts, khachkars (Armenian: խաչքար unique-to-Armenia stone slabs with engraved crosses) and mural paintings were likewise tied to Artsakh's religious life and its primary institution—the Armenian Apostolic Church. [6] [7]

Works of architecture in Nagorno-Karabakh are constructed according to similar principles and with the use of the same techniques as those in the rest of Armenia. [8] [ need quotation to verify ] Limestone is the principal building materials that form the nucleus for the walls. They are then covered with facing and/or plated with volcanic tuff rock slabs.

In large buildings in cities or in monasteries the exterior facing can consist of carefully cut blocks of tuff. The monasteries of Gandzasar and Dadivank serve as the primary examples of that style. For more modest structures, such as parish churches in provinces, it was common to use less carefully cut stone, a practice which creates a more rustic appearance. [9] [10]

Names of monasteries in Nagorno Karabakh, like in the rest of historical Artsakh and Armenia, customarily include the term "vank" (Armenian: վանք), which means "monastery." Examples: Dadivank, Gtichavank, Khunisavank, Khadavank, Khatravank, Yerits Mankants Vank, etc. [6] [11] Monasteries are often located in or near settlements that bear the name Vank (Վանք) the most notable cases include Dadivank Monastery, Gandzasar Monastery and Spitak Khach Vank Monastery. Names of castles and fortresses in Nagorno Karabakh like in the rest of historical Artsakh and Armenia, customarily include the term "berd" (Armenian: բերդ) which means "fort." Examples: Jraberd, Handaberd, Mairaberd, Khokhanaberd, etc. [11] [12] [13]

The earliest monuments in Artsakh relate to the pre-Christian era when polytheism was the most widespread form of religion. [14] The most curious art form from that time period is, perhaps, large anthropomorphic stone idols that are found in the eastern lowlands of the northern counties of Jraberd (Armenian: Ջրաբերդ) and Khachen (Armenian: Խաչեն). They date from the Iron Age.

In the northeastern outskirts of the Republic of Artsakh, and further to the east, so-called sahmanakars (Armenian: սահմանաքար, meaning "border stones") are found. [15] [16] They originally appeared during the reign of the Artashessian (Artaxiad) royal dynasty in Armenia (190 BC-53 AD) who used the stones, with inscriptions, to demarcate the kingdom's frontiers for travelers. In Artsakh, the tradition of marking borders with sahmanakars endured throughout the Middle Ages. The largest of such medieval markers stands near the town of Mataghes (Armenian: Մատաղես) in the Mardakert District. An inscription on the stone declares: "Here [the province of] Syunik ends." [14] [17]

In the early Middle Ages, Artsakh and neighboring provinces of Utik and Paytakaran, known together as The Eastern Prefectures of Armenia (Armenian: Կողմանք Արևելից Հայոց) became a target of missionary activities of prominent religious leaders from Armenian mainland. [17] The most distinguished of them were St. Gregory the Illuminator (Armenian: Սբ. Գրիգոր Լուսավորիչ, died circa 337 AD), who baptized Armenia into the first Christian state in 301 AD, and St. Mesrob Mashtots (Armenian: Սբ. Մեսրոբ Մաշտոց, 361-440 AD), the scholar who created the Armenian alphabet. [18]

A number of Christian monuments that are identified with that vital period of the Armenian history belong to the world's oldest places of Christian worship. Among them is the Amaras Monastery (Armenian: Ամարասի Վանք), which, according to ancient authors, such as the forefather of Armenian history Movses Khorenatsi (approx.410-490), was founded in the 4th century AD by St. Gregory himself. [19] The oldest part of the monastery is the martyrium of St. Grigoris (Armenian: Սբ. Գրիգորիս), St. Gregory's grandson and Bishop of Aghvank, who was killed by the pagans, around 338 AD, when teaching Gospel in the land of the Mazkuts (present-day Republic of Dagestan, in Russia). [20] The mausoleum of St. Grigoris is a vaulted burial chamber equipped with two lateral vestibules that serves as the crypt for a church dating from a later period. [21] Amaras is an active monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

While traveling in Artsakh and the neighboring provinces of Syunik and Utik, in circa 410 AD, St. Mesrob Mashtots established a school at Amaras where the Armenian script, invented by him in 405 AD, was first introduced for teaching purposes. [21] [22] [23]

For 35 years until his death in 440, Mashtots recruited teams of monks to translate the religious, scientific and literary masterpieces of the ancient world into this new alphabet. Much of their work was conducted in the monastery at Amaras …" [24]

The description of St. Mesrob Mashtots' journey to Artsakh and the neighboring province of Utik is a focal point of several chapters of the "History of Aghvank" (Armenian: Պատմություն Աղվանից) written in the 7th century by one of Artsakh's most prominent natives—Armenian historian Movses Kaghankatvatsi (Armenian: Մովսես Կաղանկատվացի). [25]

Another temple whose history relates to the mission of St. Mesrob Mashtots is the Targmanchats Monastery (Armenian: Սբ. Թարգմանչաց Վանք) near Karhat (Armenian: Քարհատ, present-day Dashkesan in Azerbaijan, to the north of the Republic of Artsakh). [22] [26] The word Targmanchats (Armenian: Թարգմանչաց) meaning "Saint Translators," designates both St. Mesrob Mashtots and St. Sahak Partev (Armenian: Սբ. Սահակ Պարթև), head of the Armenian Church (387-436 AD) who sponsored Mashtots' scholarly and religious expeditions. Using Mashtots' alphabet, St. Sahak Partev translated the Bible from Syriac into Armenian in 411 AD (as testified by Mashtots' pupil Koryun in his biographic work about his teacher). [27] [28] The main church of the monastery, reconstructed in 989, consists of one vaulted room (single nave) with an apse on the east flanked by two small rooms.

The basilica of St. Gevorg (Սբ. Գևորգ, St. George) at the Tzitzernavank Monastery (Armenian: Ծիծեռնավանք) in Kashatagh, is not only an important religious site, but is the best-preserved example of an Armenian basilica with three naves. [29] It is a large and well-preserved structure dating probably from the fifth or sixth centuries. [30] It stands not far from the so-called Lachin Corridor, a territory that connects Armenia with the Republic of Artsakh. The word Tzitzernavank originates from the root "tzitzern" (Armenian: ծիծեռն) meaning "little finger" in Old Armenian. This points to a period in the history of the monastery when it was believed to contain relics of St. George the Dragon-Slayer. In the past, the monastery belonged to the Tatev eparchy and is mentioned as a notable religious center by the 13th-century historian Stephanos Orbelian (Armenian: Սթեփանոս Օրբելյան) and Bishop Tovma Vanandetsi (Armenian: Թովմա Վանանդեցի) in 1655. [31] Beginning from 1992, the Tzitzernavank Monastery underwent renovation and became a venue of autumn festivals organized annually on St. George's Day. Tzitzernavank is an active monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Churches with a cupola built on a radiating or cruciform floor plan were numerous in Armenia during the seventh century, and are well represented in Artsakh. [26] [32] [33] One example is the chapel at Vankasar (Armenian: Վանքասար) where the cupola and its drum rest on the central square of a cruciform floor plan. The chapel is located on the eastern frontier of the Republic of Artsakh, and was reputedly founded by Artsakh's celebrated monarch Vachagan II the Pious (Armenian: Վաչագան Բ Բարեպաշտ) of the early medieval Arranshahik dynasty (Armenian: Առանշահիկ). Another example is the Okhta Trne church at Mokhrenes (Armenian: Օխտը Տռնէ, "The Eight-Door Church"), probably dating from the fifth to seventh centuries. [34] Its walls, roughly cut and bonded, enclose a quatrefoil interior with four small diagonal niches. Less common is the free cross plan with a cupola, found in the Chapel of St. Savior (Armenian: Սբ. Փրկիչ) in the Mardakert District.

Artsakh's designs at times differed from the course of the architectural evolution of mainland Armenia. Observations suggest that certain floor plans frequently employed in other regions of Armenia during the seventh century are not found in Artsakh. These include the chamber with a cupola supported by wall braces (e.g. the cathedral in Aruj, in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia) the cruciform plan with a cupola on four free-standing pillars (e.g. St. Gayaneh Church in the Holy City of Echmiadzin, Armenia), and the radiating type with four rooms in a rectangle (e.g. St. Hripsimeh Church in the Holy City of Echmiadzin, Armenia). [35]

Another peculiarity of the region is that few of Artsakh's monuments date from the post-Arab period or the rise of Armenian kingdoms (ninth to the eleventh centuries), which was a very productive artistic era in other Armenian provinces. The structures that could be attributed to that period are chapels on the cruciform plan with a cupola, such as the church at Varazgom (Armenian: Վարազգոմ) near Kashatagh, the Khunisavank Monastery (Armenian: Խունիսավանք) in Getabaks (now–Gedabey district of Azerbaijan, north to the Republic of Artsakh), and churches with a single nave, such as the church in Parissos (Armenian: Փարիսոս). [36]

It was during the post-Seljuk period and the beginning of the Mongol period (late twelfth and thirteenth centuries) when Artsakh's architecture blossomed. Monasteries in this era served as active centers of art and scholarship. Most of them contained scriptoria where manuscripts were copied and illuminated. They also were fortified and often served as places of refuge for the population in times of trouble. [4] [37]

Several monastic churches from this period adopted the model used most widely throughout Armenia: a cathedral with a cupola in the inscribed cross plan with two or four angular chambers. Examples include the largest and most complex monasteries of Artsakh: Dadivank (Armenian: Դադիվանք, 1214–1237), Gandzasar (Armenian: Գանձասար, 1216–1238) and Gtichavank (Armenian: Գտիչավանք, 1241–1246). In the case of the Gandzasar and Gtichavank monasteries, the cone over the cupola is umbrella-shaped, a picturesque design that was originally developed by the architects of Armenia's former capital city of Ani, in the tenth century, and subsequently spread to other provinces of the country, including Artsakh. [38]

Like all Armenian monasteries, those in Artsakh reveal great geometric rigor in the layout of buildings. [38] In this regard, the thirteenth century's Dadivank, the largest monastic complex in Artsakh and all of Eastern Armenia, located in the northwestern corner of the Mardakert District, is a remarkable case. Dadivank was sufficiently well preserved to leave no doubt that it was one of the most complete monasteries in the entire Caucasus. With its Memorial Cathedral of the Holy Virgin in the center, Dadivank has approximately twenty different structures, which are divided into four groups: ecclesiastical, residential, defensive and ancillary. [39] [40] [41] Dadivank is an active monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

A conspicuous characteristic of Armenian monastic architecture of the thirteenth century is the gavit (գավիթ, also called zhamatoun Armenian: ժամանտուն). [42] The gavits are special square halls usually attached to the western entrance of churches. They were very popular in large monastic complexes where they served as narthexes, assembly rooms and lecture halls, as well as vestibules for receiving pilgrims. Some appear as simple vaulted galleries open to the south (e.g. in the Metz Arrank Monastery Armenian: Մեծառանից Վանք) others have an asymmetrical vaulted room with pillars (Gtichavank Monastery) or feature a quadrangular room with four central pillars supporting a pyramidal dome (the Dadivank Monastery). In another type of gavit, the vault is supported by a pair of crossed arches – in Horrekavank (Armenian: Հոռեկավանք) and Bri Yeghtze (Armenian: Բռի Եղցէ) monasteries.

The most famous gavit in Nagorno-Karabakh, though, is part of the Gandzasar Monastery. It was built in 1261 and is distinctive for its size and superior quality of workmanship. [1] [43] Its layout corresponds exactly to that of Haghbat (Armenian: Հաղբատ) and Mshakavank (Armenian: Մշակավանք)—two monasteries located in the northern part of Armenia. At the center of the ceiling, the cupola is illuminated by a central window which is adorned with the same stalactite ornaments as in Geghard (Armenian: Գեղարդ) and Harichavank (Armenian: Հառիճավանք)—monasteries in Armenia dating from the early thirteenth century.

The Gandzasar Monastery was the spiritual center of Khachen (Armenian: Խաչեն), the largest and most powerful principality in medieval Artsakh, by virtue of being home to the Katholicosate of Aghvank. Also known as the Holy See of Gandzasar, Katholicosate of Aghvank (Armenian: Աղվանից Կաթողիկոսություն) was one of the territorial subdivisions of the Armenian Apostolic Church. [44] [45] [46]

Gandzasar's Cathedral of St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (Armenian: Սբ. Հովհաննես Մկրտիչ, designating St. John the Baptist) is one of the most well-known Armenian architectural monuments of all times. [1] [47] No surprise, Gandzasar is number one tourist attraction in the Republic of Artsakh. In its decor there are elements which relate it to three other monuments, in Armenia, from the early thirteenth century: the colonnade on the drum resembles that of Harichavank (Armenian: Հառիճավանք built around 1201), and the great cross with a sculpture of Crucifixion at the top of the facade is also found at Kecharis (Armenian: Կեչառիսի Վանք, built around 1214) and Hovhannavank (Armenian: Հովհաննավանք, 1216–1250). Gandzasar an active monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Gandzasar and Dadivank are also well known for their bas-reliefs that embellish their domes and walls. [48] After the Cathedral of St. Cross on the Lake Van (also known as Akhtamar-Ախթամար, in Turkey), Gandzasar contains the largest amount of sculpted decor compared to other architectural ensembles of Armenia. [49] The most famous of Gandzasar's sculptures are Adam and Eve, Jesus Christ, the Lion (a symbol of the Vakhtangian princes (Armenian: Վախթանգյան իշխաններ) who built both Gandzasar and Dadivank), and the Churchwardens—each holding on his hands a miniature copy of the cathedral. In Dadivank, the most important bas-relief depicts the patrons of the monastery, whose stone images closely resemble those carved on the walls of the Haghbat, Kecharis and Harichavank monasteries, in Armenia. [50] [51]

Although in this period the focus in Artsakh shifted to more complex structures, churches with a single nave continued to be built in large numbers. One example is the monastery of St. Yeghishe Arakyal (Armenian: Սբ. Եղիշե Առաքյալ, also known as the Jrvshtik Monastery (Ջրվշտիկ), which in Armenian means "Longing-for-Water"), in the historical county of Jraberd, that has eight single-naved chapels aligned from north to south. One of these chapels is a site of high importance for the Armenians, as it serves as a burial ground for Artsakh's fifth-century monarch King Vachagan II the Pious Arranshahik. Also known as Vachagan the Pious for his devotion to the Christian faith and support in building a large number of churches throughout the region, King Vachagan is an epic figure whose deeds are immortalized in many of Artsakh's legends and fairytales. The most famous of those tells how Vachagan fell in love with the beautiful and clever Anahit, who then helped the young king defeat pagan invaders. [52]

After an interruption that lasted from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, architecture flourished again, in the seventeenth century. Many parish churches were built, and the monasteries, serving as bastions of spiritual, cultural and scholarly life, were restored and enlarged. The most notable of those is the Yerits Mankants Monastery ("Monastery of Three Infants," Armenian: Երից Մանկանց Վանք) that was built around 1691 in the county of Jraberd. The monastery was established by the feudal family of Melik-Israelians (Armenian: Մելիք-Իսրաելյան), Lords of Jraberd, with an apparent purpose to rival the Holy See of Gandzasar and its hereditary patrons—the Hasan-Jalalians, Lords of Khachen. [53] [54]

Artsakh's architecture of the nineteenth century is distinguished by a merger of innovation and the tradition of grand national monuments of the past. One example is the Cathedral of the Holy Savior also known as "Ghazanchetsots" (Armenian: Ղազանչեցոց Սբ. Ամենափրկիչ, 1868–1888) because it was erected in the historical Ghazanchetsots (Ղազանչեցոց) borough of Shusha. It stands in Shusha, former capital of Karabakh Khanate and is among the largest Armenian churches ever erected. The cathedral's architectural forms were influenced by the designs of the ancient cathedral of St. Echmiadzin (4th-9th centuries), center of the Armenian Apostolic Church located to the west of Armenia's capital of Yerevan. After the Karabakh War, the Cathedral underwent restoration, and currently serves as an active house of worship of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

In addition to the Cathedral of the Holy Savior, Shusha hosted the Hermitage of Holy Virgins (Armenian: Կուսանաց Անապատ, 1816) and three other Armenian churches: Holy Savior "Meghretsots" (Armenian: Մեղրեցոց Սբ. Ամենափրկիչ, 1838), St. Hovhannes "Kanach Zham" (Armenian: Սբ. Հովհաննես, 1847) and Holy Savior "Aguletsots" (Armenian: Ագուլեցոց Սբ. Ամենափրկիչ, 1882). [55]

In the nineteenth century, several Muslim monuments appear as well. They are linked to the emergence of the Karabakh Khanate, a short-lived, Muslim-ruled principality in Karabakh (1750s-1805). In the city of Shusha, three nineteenth-century mosques were built, which, together with two Russian Orthodox chapels, are the only non-Armenian architectural monuments found on the territories comprising the former Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region and today's Republic of Artsakh.

From the 17th and 18th centuries, several palaces of Armenian meliks (Armenian: մելիք, duke) should be noted, especially the Palace of the Melik-Beglarian (Armenian: Մելք-Բեգլարյան) family in Giulistan (in the Shahumian District), Palace of the Melik-Avanian (Armenian: Մելք-Ավանյան) family in Togh (in the Hadrut District), Palace of the Melik-Mnatzakanian (Armenian: Մելք-Մնացականյան) family in Getashen, Palace of the Melik-Haikazian (Armenian: Մելիք-Հայկազյան) family in Kashatagh (in the Kashatagh-Lachin District), Palace of the Melik-Dolukhanian (Armenian: Մելք-Դոլուխանյան) family in Tukhnakal (near Stepanakert) and, finally, Palace of the Khan of Karabakh in the city of Shusha. [56] Princely palaces from earlier epochs, while badly damaged by time, are equally if not more impressive. Among those preserved is the Palace of the Dopian Princes, Lords of Tzar, near Aknaberd (in the Mardakert District). [57]

Artsakh's medieval inns (called "idjevanatoun" Armenian: իջևանատուն) comprise a separate category of civil structures. The best preserved example of those is found near the town of Hadrut. [58]

Before its destruction in 1920 the main repository of the region's civil architecture was Shusha. In the late 19th century, Shusha became one of the largest cities in Caucasus. In 1913, it hosted more than 42,000 people.

Shusha's architecture had its unique style and spirit. That special style synthesized designs used in building grand homes in Artsakh's rural areas (especially in the southern county of Dizak) and elements of neo-classical European architecture. The quintessential example of Shusha's residential dwellings is the house of the Avanesantz family (19th century). Shusha's administrative buildings of note include: Royal College (1875), Eparchial College (1838), Technical School (1881) summer and winter clubs of the City Hall (1896 and 1901), The Zhamharian Hospital (1900), The Khandamirian Theater (1891), The Holy Virgin Women's College (1864) and Mariam Ghukassian Nobility High School (1894). Of these buildings, only Royal College and the Zhamharian Hospital survived the Turko-Muslim attack on the city in 1920. [59]

The best-preserved examples of Artsakh's rural civil architecture are found in historical settlements of Banants (Armenian: Բանանց), Getashen (Armenian: Գետաշեն), Hadrut (Armenian: Հադութ) and Togh (Armenian: Տող). [60]

The first record of damage to historical monuments occurred during the early medieval period. During the Armenian-Persian war of 451-484 AD, the Amaras Monastery was wrecked by Persian conquerors who sought to bring pagan practices back to Armenia. Later, In 821, Armenia was overrun by Arabs, and Amaras was plundered. In the same century, however, the monastery was rebuilt under the patronage of Prince Yesai (Armenian: Եսայի Իշխան Առանշահիկ), Lord of Dizak, who bravely fought against the invaders. In 1223, as testified by the Bishop Stephanos Orbelian (died in 1304), Amaras was looted again—at this time, by the Mongols—who took with them St. Grigoris' crosier and a large golden cross decorated with 36 precious stones. According to Orbelian, the wife of the Mongolian leader, Byzantine Princess Despina, proposed to send the cross and the crosier to Constantinople. [61]

In 1387, Amaras and ten other monasteries of Artsakh were attacked by Tamerlane's hordes from Central Asia. According to a local Armenian legend, Tamerlane destroyed Amaras and ordered his soldiers to make up a miles-long line from the monastery all the way to the River Arax. Tamerlane's soldiers were passing on the stones of the demolished buildings from one person to another and throwing them into the water to form a bridge. But as soon as the conquerors left the region, the legend says, the region's inhabitants rushed to the river, brought the stones back and rebuilt the monastery to its original state. It must have been at that time when Amaras' famous scriptorium was established. [62]

Shortly after the Armenian genocide and the end of the Caucasus Campaign in 1918, a Pogrom instigated by the Muslim Azerbaijani Population in 1920 resulted in the destruction of the entire Armenian quarter of the city, which had a devastating effect on cities architecture heritage and position as a major trade city and producer of silk in the 19th century. After the entry of Turko-Islamic nomads to Karabakh's highlands in the 1750s, the city became divided into two parts: Armenian and Muslim. Although the Islamic Turkic tribesmen (known since the 1930s as "Azerbaijanis") [63] constituted a small percentage of the population of Artsakh's highlands, their largest concentration was in Shusha, where they lived in peace with the Armenian population there. However, during the early 20th century the cities cosmopolitan and tolerant attitude began to fall apart, and became a venue of sporadic inter-communal violence, but it was in March 1920 when it received the deadliest blow of all. Aided by expeditionary Ottoman forces, armed Turko-Tartar ("Azerbaijani" [63] ) bands burned and destroyed the Armenian section of the city, murdering most of its Armenian residents in the process— some 20,000 people in total. [64] [65] [66]

The city's three out of five Armenian churches were totally destroyed by the Turkic bands: Holy Savior "Meghretzotz" (Armenian: Մեղրեցոց Սբ. Փրկիչ, built in 1838), Holy Savior "Aguletzotz" (Armenian: Ագուլեցոց Սբ. Փրկիչ, built in 1882) and Hermitage of Holy Virgins (Armenian: Կուսանաց Անապատ, built in 1816). [67] The Cathedral of the Holy Savior (1868–1888) was desecrated and severely damaged. With as many as 7,000 buildings demolished, Shusha has never been restored to its former grandeur. Instead, it shrank, becoming a small town populated by Azerbaijanis(14 thousand residents in 1987 versus 42 thousand in 1913). It stood in ruins from 1920 up to the mid-1960s, when the ruins of the city's Armenian half were bulldozed by orders from Baku and cheaply built apartment complexes were built on top of them.

The Karabakh War (1991-1994) likewise left its deep scars on the architectural face of Nagorno Karabakh. The Azerbaijani Army intentionally targeted Armenian Christian monuments for the purpose of their demolition, using, among a variety of means, heavy artillery and military airplanes. Both Amaras and Gandzasar monasteries suffered in the process. [68] Robert Bevan writes: "The Azeri campaign against the Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh which began in 1988 was accompanied by cultural cleansing that destroyed the Egheazar monastery and 21 other churches." [69]

Two out of the three mosques in the city of Shusha also suffered during the war when Armenian forces captured the town in 1992. The authorities of the Republic of Artsakh, however, are restoring at least one of the mosques, reportedly with some help from Iranian architects.

The fortresses of the region (called "berd" in Armenian բերդ) were usually built on hard-to-reach rocks or on the tips of mountains,using the rugged and heavily forested terrain of the region. Some of the fortresses in Nagorno Karabakh include Jraberd (Armenian: Ջրաբերդ), Handaberd (Armenian: Հանդաբերդ), Kachaghakaberd (Armenian: Կաչաղակաբերդ), Shikakar (Armenian: Շիկաքար), Giulistan (Armenian: Գյուլիստան), Mairaberd (Armenian: Մայրաբերդ), Toghaberd (Armenian: Տողաբերդ), Aknaberd (Armenian: Ակնաբերդ), and Aghjkaberd (Armenian: Աղջկաբերդ). These Castles belonged to Artsakh's aristocratic families, safeguarding their domains against foreign invaders that came from the eastern steppes. The forts were established very early in the history of the region, and each successive generation of their custodians contributed to their improvement. [70]

When the Principality of Khachen forged ties with the Kingdom of Cilicia (1080–1375), an independent Armenian state on the Mediterranean Sea that aided the Crusaders, a small number of Artsakh's fortifications acquired a certain Cilician look as a result. [71] [72]

The Handaberd Castle, the traditional stronghold of the Vakhtangian-Dopian Princes located in Karvachar (Armenian: Քարվաճառ, Azerbaijan's former district of Kelbajar), was rebuilt with a grant received from Cilicia's King Levon I for that it was also known as "Levonaberd" (Armenian: Լևոնաբերդ).

Karabakh's most remarkable pieces of fortifications, though, are the Citadel of Shusha and Askeran Fortress. Backed by an intricate system of camps, recruiting centers, watchtowers and fortified beacons, both belonged to the so-called Lesser Syghnakh (Armenian: Փոքր Սղնախ), which was one of Artsakh's two main historical military districts responsible for defending the southern counties of Varanda and Dizak. [73] When the Citadel of Shusha was founded by Panah Ali Khan Javanshir, the founder of the Karabakh Khanate, its walls and other fortifications were built. [74] [75]

Khachkars (Armenian: խաչքար), stone slab monuments decorated with a cross, represent a special chapter in the history of sculpture, and are unique to historical Armenia. [76]

In the first stage of their evolution, this type of monuments already existed in Artsakh, as attested by one of the earliest dated samples found on the eastern shore of the Lake Sevan (at Metz Mazra, year 881) which at that time was part of the dominion of Artsakh's Princes of Tzar. A very large number of khachkars is also found on the territory of today's Republic of Artsakh and adjacent regions.

Several thirteenth-century examples look particularly refined, and a few of them deserve a special attention for their superior design. The two khachkars of the Gtichavank Monastery (Armenian: Գտիչավանք) dating from about 1246 (one of which is preserved at St. Echmiadzin in Armenia), show the two bishops who founded Gtichavank. There are also the two tall khachkar plaques placed inside the Memorial Bell-Tower at the Dadivank Monastery (1283), which are veritable laceworks in stone. [77]

Artsakh's most well-known example of embedded khachkars—where khachkars standing next to each other form some kind of hooded iconostas-in-stone—is the Bri Yeghtze Monastery (Armenian: Բռի Եղծէ Վանք), in the historical country of Varanda (Armenian: Վարանդա, presently in the Martuni District of the Republic of Artsakh). The use of embedded khachkars in Bri Yeghtze is the same as in the Tzaghatz Kar Monastery (Armenian: Ցաղաղ Քարի Վանք, in Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia) and in the Horomos Monastery near Kars (Armenian: Հոռոմոսի Վանք, now in Turkey). [78]

A large khachkar, brought from Artsakh's Metz Arants Hermitage (Armenian: Մեծ Առանց Անապատ) to St. Echmiadzin, represents a rare type of the so-called "winged crosses" which resemble Celtic cross stones from Scotland and Ireland. [77] The largest collection of standing khachkars in Artsakh is in the area called Tsera Nahatak, near the village of Badara.

In most cases, facades and walls of Artsakh's churches and monasteries contain engraved texts in Armenian that often provide the precise date of construction, names of patrons and, sometimes, even name of the architect. The number of such texts exceeds several hundred.

Covering the walls of churches and monasteries with ornamented texts in Armenian developed in Artsakh, and in many other places in historical Armenia, into a unique form of decor. [79] Compared with other Armenian lands, Artsakh contains a very large number of Armenian lapidary (inscribed in stone) texts per unit of territory, which date from the 5th century. The most notable and extensive of those cover entire walls of the Dadivank and Gandzasar monasteries.

A prominent inscription, for instance, details the foundation of Dadivank's Memorial Cathedral it covers a large area of the Cathedral's southern facade. It begins with the following section:

"By the grace of God Almighty and his only begotten son Jesus Christ, and by the grace of the most Holy Spirit, I, Arzou Hatun, humble servant of the Christ, the daughter of the greatest prince of princes Kurt and the spouse of the Crown Prince Vakhtang, Lord of Haterk and the whole of Upper Khachen, with utmost hope have built this holy cathedral in the place of the last rest of my husband and my two sons … My elder [son] Hasan martyred for his Christian faith in the war against the Turks and in three months my younger son Grigor died of natural causes and passed to the Christ, leaving his mother in inconsolable mourning. While [my sons] were alive, they vowed to build a church to the glory of God … and I undertook the construction of this expiatory temple with utmost hope and diligence, for the salvation of their souls, and mine and all of my nephews. Thus I plead: while worshipping before the holy altar, remember my prayers inscribed on this church … Completed in the year [modern 1214] of the Armenian Calendar…" [80]

Another historic text inscribed in Armenian is found on the tombstone of St. Grigoris, Bishop of Artsakh, at the Amaras Monastery. St. Grigoris was St. Gregory the Enlightener's grandson who martyred preaching Gospel in the Northern Caucasus:

"The tomb of St. Grigoris, Katholicos of Aghvank, grandson of St. Gregory born in [322 AD], anointed in the year [340 AD], martyred in the year [348 AD] in Derbend, by King Sanesan of the Mazkuts his holy remains were brought to Amaras by his pupils, deacons from Artsakh." [81]

Few of Artsakh's frescoes were preserved, but those which survived are important for the history of Armenian fresco art because of their unique compositional features and color schemes. The largest collection of Artsakh's frescos are found inside the Memorial Cathedral (1214), at the Dadivank Monastery. The Memorial Cathedral was built by the orders of Queen Arzou of Haterk. [82] The paintings depict St. Mary, Jesus Christ and St. Nicholas, with a group of angels and worshippers.

The fresco on the southern wall shows the Holy Virgin in a long robe with a red kerchief tied around her head. She is holding an oration adorned with crosses. Another fresco portrays the Christ, as he is giving the Gospel to St. Nicholas. The fresco on the northern wall represents the birth of Jesus: St. Joseph stands at St. Mary's bedside, and the three magicians kneel in adoration in front cherubs fly in the sky above them, singing Glory in Highest Heaven. [83] A native of Artsakh and the 13th century author Kirakos Gandzaketsi (Armenian: Կիրակոս Գանձակեցի) hints in his "History of Armenia" that Queen Arzou (Armenian: Առզու Թագուհի) and her daughters were gifted with exceptional artistic talent, so it has been theorized that they could have been among those who helped paint the murals. [84] Other than at Dadivank, Some other frescoes are found in the main parish church of the town of Arajadzor in Mardakert District.

More than thirty known medieval manuscripts originate in Artsakh, Many of which are 13th and 14th century illuminated manuscripts created during the Principality of Khachen. [82] These scripts were created in Ganja, Azerbaijan, as well as at Karabakh's monasteries of Gandzasar, Khoranashat (Armenian: Խորանաշատ), Targmanchatz, Holy Virgin of Tzar (Armenian: Ծառա Սբ. Աստվածածին) and Yerits Mankants (Armenian: Երից Մանկանց Վանք). [85] A group of illuminated works is specific to the regions of Artsakh and Utik in their linear and unadorned style they resemble miniatures of the Syunik and Vaspurakan schools. These compositions are simple and monumental, often with an iconography that is original and distinct from Byzantine models. Besides depicting biblical stories, several of Artsakh's manuscripts attempt to convey the images of the rulers of the region who often ordered the rewriting and illumination of the texts. Manuscript No. 115 preserved at the Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan, Armenia contains a miniature portrait of Prince Vakhtang Tangik (Armenian: Վախթանգ Թանգիկ, Vakhtang the Precious) Lord of Haterk. [86]

During the 12th-15th centuries several dozens of well-known scriptoria functioned in Artsakh and neighboring Utik. [87] The best period of Artsakh's miniature painting may be divided into two main stages. The first one includes the second half of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries. The second stage includes the second half of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th century. Among the most interesting works of the first stage one can mention the Matenadaran manuscript no. 378, called the Gospel of Prince Vakhtang Khachentsi (produced in 1212), and the Matenadaran manuscript no. 4829, a Gospel produced in 1224 and associated with the name of Princess Vaneni Jajro. [82]

Carpets and rugs are a form of art which is central to the artistic identity of the region. It is known that in the tenth century dyed fabrics and rugs from Artsakh were highly valued in the Arab world. Two accounts by the historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi mention embroideries and altar curtains handmade by his contemporaries Arzou and Khorishah—two princesses of the House of Upper Khachen (Haterk/Հաթերք)—for the Dadivank Monastery. [84] In the 19th century, local rugs and samples of natural silk production became part of international exhibitions and art fairs in Moscow, Philadelphia and Paris.

The abundance of rugs produced in the modern period is rooted in this solid ancient tradition. Indeed, recent research has begun to highlight the importance of the Armenian region of Artsakh in the history of a broader group of rugs classified as "Caucasian." Woven works by Artsakh's Armenians come in several types. Rugs in an "eaglebands" (Armenian: արծվագորգ/artzvagorg) or "sunburst" (Armenian: արևագորգ/arevagorg) pattern, a sub-type of Armenian rug featuring dragons, whose manufacturing center from the eighteenth century was Artsakh's county of Jraberd, have characteristically large radiating medallions. Other rugs come with ornaments resembling serpents ("serpentbands" Armenian: օձագորգ/odzagorg) or clouds with octagonal medallions comprising four pairs of serpents in an "S" shape, and rugs with a series of octagonal, cross-shaped or rhomboid medallions, often bordered by a red band. [88]

Artsakh is also the source of some of the oldest rugs bearing Armenian inscriptions: the rug with three niches from the town of Banants (1602), the rug of Catholicos Nerses of Aghvank (1731), and the famous Guhar (Gohar) Rug (1700). [88] It should also be added that most rugs with Armenian inscriptions come from Artsakh. [89]

The Armenian Rugs

The Great amount of carpet fragments and primitive weaving tools from the 3rd-2nd millennium BCE that have been discovered at various archaeological sites in Armenian (like Teghut, Shresh blur, Shengavit, Artik tomb valley, etc.) attest to an ancient rug weaving tradition in Armenian Highlands. For example excavations at a Bronze age burial site of Karmir Blur revealed a fragment of a high quality rug including various other textiles.

Marco Polo and Herodotus are among the many observers and historians who recognized the beauty of Armenian rugs. They noted the rugs’ vivid red color which was derived from a dye made from an insect called “Kermes” (Arabic “kirmiz”), found in the Mount Ararat valley. Marco Polo reports the following in his travel account as he passed through Cilician Armenia:

“The following can be said of Turkmenia: the Turkmenian population is divided into three groups. The Turkomans are Muslims characterized by a very simple way of life and extremely crude speech. They live in the mountainous regions and raise cattle. Their horses and their outstanding mules are held in especially high regard. The other two groups, Armenians and Greeks, live in cities and forts. They make their living primarily from trade and as craftsmen. In addition to the carpets, unsurpassed and more splendrous in color than anywhere else in the world, silks in all colors are also produced there.”

The word “carpet”, which Europeans used to refer to oriental rugs, is derived from the Armenian word “kapert”, meaning woven cloth. The Crusaders, many of whom passed through Armenia, most likely brought this term back to the West. Also, according to Arabic historical sources, the Middle Eastern word for rug, “khali” or “gali”, is an abbreviation of “Kalikala”, the Arabic name of the Armenian city Karnoy Kaghak. This city, strategically located on the route to the Black Sea port of Trabizond between Persia and Europe, was famous for its Armenian rugs which were prized by the Arabs.

Armenian rugs were considered to be parts of the furnishing of royal courts and palace houses in Europe and Middle East. According to Arab sources, Armenian rugs were highly sought after in the markets of Cairo. The 12th century Arab geographer As-Saalibi recorded that Armenian rugs were the most expensive in the Caliphate. The Armenian rugs were also highly appreciated in Central Asia, particularly in Khorasan and among the Bulgars of Volga. In 922 AD. Arab ambassador Ahmad ibn-Fadlan reached the capital of Bulgars of Volga and wrote from there that the floor of the king’s tent was completely covered with rugs many of which were of Armenian craftsmanship. In 911 AD. Yusuf Abu-Saj, the emir of neighboring Aterpatakan, in order to improve his relations with Muktadir Khalif, who treated him with animosity, presented him seven Armenian rugs among other gifts. Armenian rugs were estimated as valuable gifts also in the countries far from Armenia. Particularly, at the beginning of the 11th century sultan Mahmud of Ghaznevid presented an Armenian rug and other rugs to Kadr Khan, the leader of the Turkmen tribes.

Similar accounts are known from prominent European settlements. Francesco Balducci Pegolotti, a Florentine merchant, reported in his Pratica della mercatura that in the 13th and 14th centuries, much prized Armenian carpets were imported from the Armenian port cities like Ayas to different parts of Europe.

The Pazyryk carpet

The oldest surviving knotted carpet is the Pazyryk carpet, excavated miraculously in the frozen tombs of Siberia, dated from the 5th to the 3rd century B.C., now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. This square tufted carpet, almost perfectly intact, is considered by many experts to be of specifically Armenian, origin. The eminent authority of ancient carpets, Ulrich Schurmann, says of it:

“From all the evidence available I am convinced that the Pazyryk rug was a funeral accessory and most likely a masterpiece of Armenian workmanship”

When chemists and dye specialists of the Hermitage Museum examined the Pazyryk carpet for various substances, it has been concluded that the red threads used in the carpet were colored with a dye made from the Armenian cochineal, which was anciently found on the Ararat planes. Moreover the technique used to create the Pazyryk carpet is consistent with the Armenian double knot technique. This technique is particularly known as the “Armani baff”, that is “Armenian work” in several rug weaving centres of Iran.

If you like to know more about the Armenian connection to the Pazyryk carpet click on the Additional Information bar bellow.

What is interesting to note is that rug fragments discovered in the neighboring Scythian burials in “Bashadar” and “Seneh” do not resemble the Pazyryk rug in style and technique. For example the knots of these rugs are “asymmetrical” as opposed to the “symmetrical” knots of the Pazyryk carpet. Whereas in Armenia, carpet fragments woven with symmetrical knots, similar to the Pazyryk carpet, have been attested from a 7-6th century BCE burial place at Karmir Blur.

Various decorative elements on the carpet also reveal Armenian origin. Regarding the style of decoration Ulrich Schurmann says:

“The artistic device of changing the direction of rows of depicted objects is not an invention typical of the Scyths. It is more likely an artistic device of the people of the Middle East.”

For comparison Schurmann mentions the similarities with the Urartian bronze decorations. He says:

“Their decor adds further proof that the Pazyryk rug could only have been made in the same [Armenian] district. It is the same style of repeating animals in rows, often changing the direction. The Armenians lived there and as inheritors of the Urartian art may have also have made many of those bronzes.”

Other decorative motives can also be traced to the Middle East and Armenian Highlands. For example the star motives at the center and on the second border are reminiscent of what we often see in Asia Minor from Urartian and the Artaxiad periods (see some examples bellow).

Urartian period

Bronze plaque from Urartu period.

Orontid and Artaxiad periods

It’s quite possible that a similar star became the prototype of the Christian cross. As we know the earliest depictions of the cross were actually symmetrical crosses very reminiscent of the mentioned pattern. See bellow some of the oldest examples of the Christian cross in Armenia:

Later (in the 12th-14th century) it was also used on coins of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia.

Not to get too far off subject, lets return to the expert opinion of the Pazyryk carpet design.

Ulrich Schurmann further brings to attention two seals found on former Araratian territory displaying warriors wearing Mithraic caps while riding horses and hunting. These images seem to correspond quite well with the horsemen of the Pazyryk carpet. Schurmann argues that Skythians were known to have pointy headgear, while the people of the Near East wore them down like those in the carpet and the seals (see images bellow).

Another author Volkmar Gantzhorn in his book on “Oriental Carpets” (1998) agrees with this thesis and points out that the ruins of Persepolis in Iran where various nations are depicted as bearing tribute, the horse design from the Pazyryk carpet is the same as the relief depicting part of the Armenian delegation. See bellow for the comparison.

Other symbols on the carpet like a row of gryphons was equally common in ancient Armenia and even today many of these motives can be found on Armenian carpets.

Considering all the evidence from the iconography, the motives, the artistic design, technique, the materials, the dye and the details, it doesn’t come as a surprise that experts conclude that this carpet is “most likely a masterpiece of Armenian workmanship”.

Donkin, R.A. (1977). “The Insect Dyes of Western and West-Central Asia”. Anthropos (Anthropos Institute) 72 (5/6): 847–880. JSTOR 40459185

Kurdian, H. (1941). “Kirmiz”. Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 61 (2): 105–107. doi:10.2307/594255. JSTOR 594255.

Cardon, Dominique (2007). Natural Dyes: Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science. London, United Kingdom: Archetype Books. ISBN 978-1-904982-00-5. English translation by Caroline Higgitt of Cardon’s French-language book Le monde des teintures naturelles (Éditions Belin, Paris, 2003).

Carvalho D., (1904), Forty Centuries of Ink

Volkmar Gantzhorn, “Oriental Carpets”, 1998, ISBN 3-8228-0545-9

USSR conference to exchange experiences leading restorers and researchers. The study, preservation and restoration of ethnographic objects. Theses of reports, Riga, 16–21 November 1987. pp. 17-18 (Russian)

Need to know: Armenia

Tucked between Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with a rich ancient history, its own alphabet, and a turbulent past, this tiny but proud country boasts great brandy, food, jazz, art, and exemplary peaceful protests. Despite the many touristy experiences that can be had in Armenia, the country reveals its more enchanting side to those who dig into its stony landscape and connect with its quirky, open-hearted people. Amid the narrow streets, ancient relics and rowdy spirit, you might discover a piece of yourself you never knew you had.

What to read and watch:

It is impossible to speak about Armenia and its people without referring to the most painful page in its history, the killing of more than a million Armenians in 1915. The debate over the genocide remains one of the most bitterly contested legacies of World War I, as Turkey continues to deny that it ever took place. Memories of 1915 are ingrained in the psyche of the Armenian nation, and it is nearly impossible to meet an Armenian whose family hasn’t been touched by the tragedy. The massacre has been depicted in film and literature, in stories that speak of loss but also survival and the richness of Armenian life.

This 1997 memoir is particularly suitable for those who know little about the mass killing of Armenians. Pulitzer Prize winner Balakian masterfully guides readers through his early childhood in New Jersey and his grandmother’s stories of persecution and survival.

Arlen discovers his Armenian identity in a remarkable tale of reinvention, layered with journeys into the farthest corners of Armenian history, from antiquity through the massacre of Armenians in 1915, and ultimately to the tragedy that befell his father, a famous 1920s Anglo-Armenian novelist who kept his past secret. Passage to Ararat won the National Book Award in 1976.

Throughout his career, Grossman tackled some of the worst mass tragedies of the past century, including the Holocaust, the Battle of Stalingrad, and the Holodomor. In between trips to silent church chambers and frenzied feasts, his ruminations on Armenia lead him to rummage through himself—which is what often happens when you wander through Armenia.

Starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon, this 2016 film takes place during the twilight of the Ottoman Empire and depicts the annihilation of its Armenian population under the guise of war. Visually striking and nuanced in its portrayal of Armenian families, the film received 55,000 one-star ratings on IMDb before it was issued in wide release, leading many to believe that there was an orchestrated campaign to deter moviegoers. (A separate movie, released around the same time and backed by Turkish investors, had a similar plot but was accused of whitewashing the genocide .)

Academy Award winner Berlinger documented the campaign to discredit The Promise and delves into other efforts to deny there was an Armenian genocide in this 2017 documentary.

Hidden gems:

Mirzoyan Library , in the backyard of an old villa in Yerevan, boasts 19th century balconies, antique furniture, and a wonderful collection of avant-garde art books. Visit at night for live music and experimental DJs in the backyard.

Gayanei Mot (At Gayane’s), a restaurant in an old first-floor Yerevan apartment run by a charming Armenian woman named Gayane. Little of the decor appears to have changed in the last 30 years, and the food is, of course, homemade. Order the traditional khashlama and homemade mulberry vodka. Gayane will play old Soviet songs on the piano and might even join you for dinner.

Villa Delenda , a 1906 Yerevan villa turned bed and breakfast. Once the private residence of a wealthy family of merchants, it houses original handmade Armenian rugs and ceramics. Swing by for a traditional Armenian breakfast, an omelet.

Dalan Art Gallery , a souvenir shop that leads to a garden that leads to a cafe that leads to a gallery that leads to an art studio that leads to a restaurant. Got all that? It’s in an old reconstructed Yerevan house with a lush garden, wooden patios, and traditional Yerevan decor.

The open-air fish barbecue restaurant in Lake Sevan, even if you are just passing through. Stop for some barbecued trout and down it with a local beer like Kotayk or Kilikia. Any taxi driver will know which place is the best.

Know before you go:

1. Armenians are masters of civil disobedience.

In recent years, young people have taken to the streets of Yerevan to voice their discontent with corruption and the oligarchy, and they’re not afraid to use creativity and humor to get their point across. For example, in 2015, police used water cannons to disperse crowds protesting a hike in electricity prices. Demonstrators returned the next day with swimsuits and inner tubes. Armenian-American rock star Serj Tankian (lead vocalist of System of a Down) composed a theme song for the protests. Authorities eventually restored the old prices.

This spring, Armenians took to the streets to demand the resignation of former President Serzh Sargsyan, who after 10 years of ruling the country became prime minister in a move many said was a power grab. Protesters turned benches into blockades and played backgammon in the middle of the streets. They marched, danced, and filled Republic Square. Sargsyan stepped down on April 23, and opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan was elected the new prime minister on May 8.

People celebrate in Republic Square in central Yerevan after Prime Minister Sargsyan announced his resignation.

2. Armenians are storytellers.

Armenians are curious and inquisitive, especially about visitors and foreign lands, and they equally enjoy the flattery of having a complete stranger probe their history. Older gentlemen and taxi drivers are some of the most loquacious and can share tips and stories even the most experienced guides might be oblivious to. So ask away. At the end of the day, you may end up in someone’s backyard eating khorovats (shish kebab) and toasting under the stars.

A woman walks through the rain in Yerevan.

Vardavar is an ancient pagan water festival dedicated to Astghik, the Armenian goddess of love and beauty. After Armenia adopted Christianity in 301, the festival was integrated into the Armenian church calendar and is celebrated on the 14th Sunday after Easter, which means it usually lands on a sweltering day in July (July 8 this year). Good thing, since Armenians celebrate the day by splashing water on each other without permission, virtually anywhere they can reach someone with a bucket—in the street, in open cafes, under windows and balconies, even through car windows. Wear clothes you don’t mind having drenched, and keep your phone in a water-tight bag. Pleas to be spared are usually ignored.

4. When in doubt just toast, “Eh.”

Speaking of toasts, when you’re invited to feast with Armenians, alcohol is inevitable. After numerous toasts from the host or the tamada (toastmaster), you’ll be asked to recite one yourself. Tongue-tied? If so, simply toast “Eh.” It is a universal Armenian expression that encompasses everything known and unknown to man—joy and tragedy, from the synergies that move the galaxies to the mundane happenings on earth. Your host and other guests will nod in agreement and gesture toward the sky as if you’ve delivered ancient wisdom.

An Easter celebration at Zoravor S. Astvatsatsin Church.

5. Armenians love festivals .

In addition to Vardavar are the mulberry festival in Goris, with homemade mulberry vodkas made by master distillers the wine festival in Areni the dolma festival in Armavir and Hnaberd the sheep-shearing festival in Syunik the barbecue festival in Lori and bread, beer, watermelon, and taraz (traditional Armenian garments) festivals in Yerevan, to name a few. Festivals are packed and display Armenians’ love for kef (a party).

6. The Kardashians aren’t the only famous Armenians.

Armenians are very proud of the accomplishments of the diaspora, so go beyond just the Kardashians. Read up on French chanteur Charles Aznavour and chess grandmasters Tigran Petrosian and Garry Kasparov. Did you know Cher is part Armenian? Bonus points if you know about Hovhannes Adamian, who was instrumental in the invention of color TV, or Dikran Tahta, a mathematician who encouraged a young Stephen Hawking to pursue science.

7. Simple local foods shouldn’t be missed.

When traveling through villages, buy some tonir lavash (flatbread) and matzun (fresh yogurt). Almost all village homes have a tonir, a fire pit where traditional Armenian lavash is made. You may be invited inside a tiny dingy room to watch the ancient process of breadmaking or to taste fresh organic yogurt made with local greens and herbs. Put it all together for a lavash wrap, an Armenian road trip classic.

A backyard barbecue in Yerevan.

8. Two words: exceptional brandy.

Winston Churchill’s favorite brandy came from the famous Ararat factory. Ask a guide there if you can see the collection room, where the rare, limited-edition bottles are kept. It’s opened for extremely special guests, such as world leaders and Nobel laureates, but you can try your luck. If you succeed, the director of the factory (only he knows the combination) will open the guarded door and offer you a glass of one of the finest and rarest brandies in the world.

9. Take your hiking boots

Armenia is a land of mountains, and it is customary to have at least one hike through the rugged, scenic landscape. Some good hikes include Gosh Lake near Goshavank monastery. A narrow path leads through the thick (sometimes foggy) forest to a secluded mountain lake. Or go to Lastiver and take a horse to the riverbank, where you’ll see stunning tree houses, wooden totems, ancient caves, and a waterfall. Take a dip.

Worshipers pray and light candles at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral.

10. There’s a secret underground .

Almost all churches in Armenia were built on top of pagan temples. While the temples were obliterated above ground level, their underground chambers often remain. If you go to the ticket table at the Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat, for example, and ask if the underground chamber is open, you might get lucky and be guided down to an ancient chamber with a fire pit and cold stone walls that once echoed the ancient hums of pagan priestesses.

11. Armenia is museum happy.

Almost all noteworthy individuals in Armenia have a house museum—essentially their house turned into a museum—dedicated to them. It is obligatory to visit at least one. At the more digitally savvy ones you might find a walking hologram of a poet or take a virtual reality tour through a work of art. Soviet filmmaker and dissident artist Sergei Parajanov’s house museum has a collection of amazing peculiar artworks, collages, and handmade items. Walking through his house offers a unique opportunity to glimpse into the mind of this eccentric genius.

12. The jazz scene gets rowdy.

Armenia takes pride in its jazz, which filled the airwaves of the USSR beginning in the 1930s. Yerevan buzzes at night, when cafes fill with chatty guests, fervent piano keys, and moody saxophones. Find the small clubs, such as Malkhas Jazz Club, named after the star piano player, a gray-haired legend with magic fingers, or the cozy Ulikhanyan club for the ethnic Armenian jazz experience.

Grand Tour of the Monastery

This tour gives you fascinating insights into 900-year old history. Through the mediaeval cloister and the famous Verdun Altar, the tour leads you through the Baroque complex with the private rooms of Charles VI and the impressive Marble Hall.

The Grand Tour of the Monastery leads through the mediaeval cloister to the seven-branched candelabrum of Agnes from the 12th century and on to the mediaeval display room with its outstanding artworks of the Austrian High and Late Gothic period.
From the cloister, the tour leads into St Leopold’s Chapel, the burial place of St Leopold, where the famous Verdun Altar can be seen. This is regarded as a major work of mediaeval enamelling. Completed in 1181 by Nikolaus von Verdun, the altar is recognised as a work that is unique worldwide from the artistic, technical and contentual points of view.
The tour ends in the monastery church, which is particularly impressive owing to its baroque décor, the imperial oratory of Charles VI and the 17th-century “festival organ”, preserved in its original state.

In the first half of the 18th century, plans were made to turn the mediaeval complex of the monastery of the Augustinian Canons at Klosterneuburg into an Austrian Escorial in Baroque style.
Emperor Charles VI, the father of Maria Theresia, had the idea to construct a stronghold of worldly and spiritual power. However, the project was never finished and in many places the extraordinary baroque construction site remained unaltered. Over the centuries, Klosterneuburg Monastery developed into a significant religious centre of the Habsburg dynasty, to which innumerable precious objects were donated the Austrian Archducal Hat is the most prominent example.
Among the highlights of this tour are the impressive fresco painted by Daniel Gran in the Marble Hall, depicting the glories of the House of Austria, and the private rooms of Charles VI, which have been extraordinarily well preserved up to the present time.

Included in the price for the Grand Tour of the Monastery is the Admission to Klosterneuburg Monastery. With this ticket you can also visit the Treasure chamber with the Archduke’s Hat, the annual exhibition and the Monastery Museum.

Try the day ticket. For EUR 13,- all the tours offered on one day and also the audio guide is included.

EUR 12,- per person
Duration: Approx. 90 minutes

> includes Admission to Klosterneuburg Monastery *)
> includes four hours of free parking

Winter Season daily: 12:45 p.m.
Summer Season Mon. – Fri.: 1:30 p.m. | Sat. –Sun.: 1:30/3 p.m.

*) With this Admission to Klosterneuburg Monastery you can also visit the Treasure chamber with the Archduke’s Hat, the annual exhibition and the Monastery Museum.

Summer season: until 15th November 2020
Winter season: until 30th April 2021

The Art and Architecture of Cluny Abbey, France

The consecration of the main altar of Cluny III by Pope Urban II in 1095, in the presence of abbot St Hugh, from the Miscellanea secundum usum Ordinis Cluniacensis, late 12th – early 13th century, folio 91r (Illuminated Manuscript no. 17716, Bibliotheque National de France, Paris)

The largest church in Christendom

The abbey of Cluny III (located in Southern Burgundy, France) started modestly enough—the first church being a relatively simple barn like structure. However, Cluny quickly grew to be home to the largest church in Christendom—a title it would hold for over 200 years.

Surviving Transept, Cluny Abbey (Cluny III), 12th-century, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France

But first things first, what exactly is an abbey? An abbey can refer to a Christian church, but the term generally goes beyond that to refer to the grouping of buildings that constitutes the housing and other necessary buildings for a society of Christian monks or nuns who were all living under a specific religious rule (the rule regulated their lives, specifying behavior and the organization of the monastery). In the case of Cluny, the rule the monks lived under was that of Saint Benedict of Nursia, who had, in the 6th century, advocated a life divided between prayer, rest, study, and work.

A gift from William I, Duke of Aquitaine

William of Aquitaine addressing two monks of Cluny, historiated initial, from the Miscellanea secundum usum Ordinis Cluniacensis, late 12th – early 13th century, folio 85r (Illuminated Manuscript no. 17716, Bibliotheque National de France, Paris)

The site of abbey originally belonged to William I, Duke of Aquitaine and was home to his favorite hunting box (a hunting lodge for use during the hunting season). In the Middle Ages, a duke (the highest ranking member of the nobility) often wielded much more power and authority than a king (this was in part because the dukes held sway over the provinces, and power was decentralized). Dukes were often wealthier than the king (as the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry demonstrates). While a hunting box may conjure up visions of a one-room cabin, likely it was a large and stately home in its own right—so when, toward the end of his life, William I gave up the home, lands, and hunting rights (and several other parcels of land as well), so that charitable institutions could be built, it was a significant donation. The land that would become Cluny was placed into the hands of a venerable monk named Berno, who would become Saint Berno of Cluny.

Cluny I

Berno was the abbot of the newly founded Cluny from 910 to 925. The monastery was created to be a reform order that strictly adhered to the Rule of Saint Benedict.* Cluny sought to reform monastic life by returning to the Western monastic traditions of previous centuries which focused on peace, solitude, prayer, and work (such as caring for the poor). Importantly, William I of Acquataine (sometimes referred to as William the Pious), endowed the abbey with something more than land—he gave it independence. As a result, the abbey answered directly to the pope and did not have to obey any other dictates, or taxation, from local lords. This would help Cluny to become a wealthy center of the arts.

An artist’s rendering of the plan of the Monastery of St. Gall, as illustrated in Johann Rudolf Rahn, Geschichte der bildenden Künste in der Schweiz: von den ältesten Zeiten bis zum Schlusse des Mittelalters (Zürich, 1876), fig. 12 (Kloster S. Gallen nach dem Grundriss vom Jahre 830).

The first abbey at Cluny (Cluny I, which no longer exists aside from archaeological remains) developed quickly—becoming akin to small town, boasting over 200 monks. It was laid out in the style of the Saint Gall Plan—a large-scale architectural drawing of the “ideal” abbey that was created in Switzerland around 800 C.E. (above and annotated plan here). To our knowledge, no such abbey ever actually existed, but many abbeys appear to have been modeled on the plan—Cluny being one of them. The cloister (a quadrangular walkway where monks would stroll in meditation), is generally regarded as the spiritual center of an abbey. The Saint Gall plan places it literally in the center, and the other buildings, for example, workshops, domestic quarters, etc., surround it.

Cluny II

Plan of Cluny II annotated and adapted from Kenneth John Conant, “A History of Romanesque Cluny as Clarified by Excavation and Comparisons,” Momentum, vol. 7 (1971)

As mentioned, the first church at Cluny was likely not much more than a simple place of worship. However, as the order prospered, something larger and more illustrious was called for. Soon after the passing of Berno, a monk named Odo took over as his successor and continued to expand the abbey. The second incarnation of the church at Cluny (Cluny II) was begun just decades after the first.

What we know of it is largely speculative—based on written records and excavations. This second iteration (plan, left) sported a narthex (an enclosed area at the entrance of a church) with two towers in the west, a choir (the area between the main body of church and the altar) with a tower and chapels in the east, in addition to the main basilica form (a basilica is a church plan consisting of a rectangular space, often divided into the central area, or nave, with aisles on either side). The choir had chapels in echelon, or stepped out one after the other—one of the first examples of an architectural form that would become extremely popular. It also had a projecting transept (which cuts perpendicularly across the main body of the basilica).

Vaulting in the nave of Saint Philibert, 10th and 11th century, Tournus, France

The church consisted of an illuminated barrel vault, not unlike that still in existence at Saint Philibert at Tournus, Cluny’s neighbor (above). That abbey, and a few others in Burgundy, had been experimenting with the barrel vault. It is good to remember that the work of these builders was largely trial and error. From what we are given to understand, this was very much in keeping with the Romanesque style of the region. As Cluny I and II no longer exist, much of what we have to go on comes from extensive excavation studies—particularly those done by Kenneth Conant.

Vaulting, Cluny Abbey (Cluny III), 12th-century, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France

Romanesque architecture is known for its regional styles—the look and feel of Romanesque churches could vary widely from region to region. Burgundy and the pilgrimage churches were particularly important influences on the style that would develop into Gothic. Gothic architecture began to take on a more “International,” style, sharing characteristics from region to region where Romanesque churches varied largely depending on their location and the local building practices. The only thing that almost all Romanesque churches shared was the use of the rounded stone barrel vault. The nature of a barrel vault, which exerts continual lateral pressure, is not conducive to piercing the supporting walls with windows, so barrel vaulted structures tend to be poorly lit. At Tournus—and likely Cluny II—the builders tried to circumvent this by placing small windows above the arcade. This was the first example of an illuminated vaulted church.

Cluny III

Cluny had a series of strong abbots, and Hugh of Semur was one of that line. He waited until he had been in that position for 40 years before beginning construction on the monumental project that would be Cluny III. It is thought he was intent on observing the latest trends—seeing what worked and what didn’t—before embarking on this great building project. Cluny III seems to have been built with the idea of plucking the best attributes from what had been created before and synthesizing them into a grandiose structure worthy of the prestigious order. It was not completed until 1130 (Hugh the Great died in 1009,) and when it was complete it stood as the largest in Europe—with five aisles (rivalling Old Saint Peter’s in Rome).

Tower, Cluny Abbey (Cluny III), 12th-century, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France

The structure was built from a combination of brick and ashlar (stone) which had hitherto been part of two separate traditions. In many ways, the church laid out was the same as its popular Pilgrimage Route cousins. In addition to the spacious basilica with five aisles, it had two transepts, an ambulatory, and radiating chapels at the east end. The crossings were surmounted by octagonal towers (above) with additional towers over the transept arms. Only a singular transept arm still survives today (top of page).

Plan and elevation of the church of the abbey of Cluny III (Burgundy, France) from an engraving of 1754

While only the foundation and some other bits and pieces remain, scholars have reconstructed what the interior would have looked like as well (below). Composed of a three story elevation consisting of slim aisles with pointed arches, blind arcade with three arches in each bay and a triple clerestory, it would have been a sight to behold. The slightly pointed dome rose to a height of 98 feet. This vaunting ambition may have helped lead to the partial collapse in 1125—though quickly repaired by the time consecration took place in 1130.

Virtual reality panel, Cluny Abbey (Cluny III), 12th-century, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France

In many ways Cluny III followed, at least in plan, that of a colossal pilgrimage church and there are those who speculate that in fact Cluny was intent upon trying to compete with those medieval moneymakers. The abbey was in fact paid for in large part by money seized from Spanish Muslims who had been conquered by their Christian counterparts.

While William would help found many other monasteries, none would be so prosperous as Cluny. At its height Cluniac congregations numbered at over 1000. Berno was actually given the power to be the abbot of many abbeys, not just Cluny, and his successor, Odo, also began to gather more abbeys under Cluny’s rule. As one might imagine, this idea was not popular given these other abbeys were used to their own systems of rule. But the situation did help expand Cluny into the powerful institution it would become it would be from Cluny that a number of Popes would be plucked. However, despite the Cluniac movement being a reform movement itself, by late 11th century another breakaway group had formed—the Cistercian movement and, like Cluny, it would be highly successful (see article on Fontenay.) At the time of the Cistercian schism, the Cluniac order was suffering from corruption and excess (too much interest in things of the material world). A far cry from its devout beginnings!

Choir Capital, early 12th century, Third Plainsong Tone (photo: Holly Hayes)

*The foundation of the physical church of Cluny was the beginning of the Cluniac, or Benedictine Reforms. Theoretically, all Roman Catholic monks were meant to follow three simple rules set out hundreds of years earlier by Saint Benedict of Nursia. Essentially these precepts could be boiled down to peace, prayer and work. Cluniac monks also observed the traditional eight Benedictine hours of the Divine office: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. Some of the most delightful (and still intact), artwork of Cluny III are the capitals representing the tones of the Gregorian chant, or plainsong. Rescued from the rubble of the choir, these marvelous sculptures show tones of the chant personified as small figures standing in their concave almond-shaped mandorlas. Some of the figures are playing instruments, some seem to be contorted into movements of a dance.

Additional Details

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. For more information, please see our responsible travel page.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.

Flight Code Departing Arriving
PS 112 London Gatwick (LGW) 12:20 Borispol Airport (KBP) 17:40
PS 611 Borispol Airport (KBP) 19:10 Yerevan Airport (EVN) 22:55
PS 111 Borispol Airport (KBP) 10:00 London Gatwick (LGW) 11:25
PS 602 Baku Airport (GYD) 04:20 Borispol Airport (KBP) 07:10


Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour

For this tour, UK passport holders currently require a visa for Azerbaijan but not for Georgia or Armenia.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.


If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Northern Iran

Why not extend your time in the region and visit northern Iran to explore the assassins’ castles of the Alborz Mountains? Allow approximately 7 days.

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information


The weather conditions can be extremely varied (even within the course of a day!). The Greater Caucasus Range moderates local climate by serving as a barrier against cold air from the north and the relatively small territory covers different climatic zones, which are determined by distance from the Black Sea and by altitude. The climatic zones range from humid subtropical to snow and glaciers.


It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.


Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as many of the activities are optional. There will be some long journeys in the vehicles on the tour, so please be prepared for this.


We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.


As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.
On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.


Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. If you choose to purchase the Wild Frontiers bespoke policy through Travel & General (currently available to UK residents only) then please note for this trip the minimum required level of cover will be the Standard policy. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

Saint Catherine Area

The Orthodox Monastery of St Catherine stands at the foot of Mount Horeb where, the Old Testament records, Moses received the Tablets of the Law. The mountain is known and revered by Muslims as Jebel Musa. The entire area is sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The Monastery, founded in the 6th century, is the oldest Christian monastery still in use for its initial function. Its walls and buildings of great significace to studies of Byzantine architecture and the Monastery houses outstanding collections of early Christian manuscripts and icons. The rugged mountainous landscape, containing numerous archaeological and religious sites and monuments, forms a perfect backdrop to the Monastery.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Zone Sainte-Catherine

Le monastère orthodoxe de Sainte-Catherine est situé au pied du mont Horeb où, dans l&rsquoAncien Testament, Moïse aurait reçu les Tables de la Loi. La montagne est également connue et révérée par les musulmans qui l&rsquoappellent djebel Musa. La zone tout entière est sacrée pour trois grandes religions répandues dans le monde entier : christianisme, islam et judaïsme. Le monastère, fondé au VIe siècle, est le plus ancien monastère chrétien ayant conservé sa fonction initiale. Ses murs et ses bâtiments sont très importants pour l&rsquoétude de l&rsquoarchitecture byzantine. Le monastère abrite des collections extraordinaires d&rsquoanciens manuscrits chrétiens et d&rsquoicônes. Le paysage montagneux et sauvage qui l&rsquoentoure comprend de nombreux sites et monuments archéologiques et religieux, et forme un décor parfait autour du monastère.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

منطقة القديسة كاترين

يقع دير القديسة كاترين الأرثوذكسي عند قدم جبل حورب، المذكور في العهد القديم، حيث حصل موسى على لوحة الوصايا. والموقع يقدسه المسلمون أيضا ويدعونه جبل موسى. والمنطقة مقدّسة للديانات السماويّة الثلاث المنتشرة في العالم أجمع، أي المسيحيّة والإسلام واليهوديّة. وتأسس الدير في القرن السادس وهو الدير المسيحي الأقدم الذي حافظ على وظيفته الأساسيّة. فجدرانه ومبانيه ترتدي أهميّةً بالغةً لدراسة الهندسة البيزنطيّة. وفي الدير مجموعات كبيرة من مخطوطات وأيقونات مسيحيّة قديمة. وهو يقع في منطقة جبليّة متوحشة تضمّ العديد من المواقع والنصب التراثيّة والدينيّة ويُشكّل خير إطار جمالي يحيط بالدير.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Монастырь Св. Екатерины с окрестностями

Православный монастырь Св. Екатерины расположен у подножья горы Хорив, описанной в Ветхом Завете (именно здесь Моисей получил скрижали с заповедями). Этот район священен для трех мировых религий: христианства, ислама и иудаизма. Монастырь, основанный в VI в., является старейшим христианским монастырем, который и до сих пор остается действующим. Его крепостные стены и здания имеют большое значение для изучения византийской архитектуры, а внутри помещений монастыря хранятся выдающиеся коллекции раннехристианских манускриптов и икон. Пересеченный гористый ландшафт, где находится множество археологических и религиозных достопримечательностей и памятников, служит прекрасным фоном для монастыря.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Zona de Santa Catalina

El monasterio ortodoxo de Santa Catalina está situado al pie del Monte Horeb, donde Moisés recibió las Tablas de la Ley según el Antiguo Testamento. Los musulmanes veneran también esta montaña con el nombre de Jebel Musa. La región es sagrada para tres grandes religiones del mundo: el cristianismo, el Islam y el judaísmo. El monasterio fue fundado en el siglo V de nuestra era y es el más antiguo de la cristiandad que ha conservado su función primigenia. Encierra colecciones extraordinarias de manuscritos cristianos e iconos antiguos. El escabroso paisaje montañoso circundante, que enmarca a la perfección el monasterio, alberga numerosos sitios arqueológicos y religiosos.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Sint Catharina klooster

Het orthodoxe Sint Catharina klooster ligt aan de voet van de berg Horeb, waar Mozes de Tabletten van de Wet (de stenen tafelen) ontving volgens het Oude Testament. De berg is bekend bij moslims en wordt vereerd als Jebel Musa. Het hele gebied is heilig vanwege drie wereldgodsdiensten: het christendom, de islam en het Jodendom. Het klooster werd in de 6e eeuw gesticht en is het oudste christelijke klooster nog steeds in gebruik voor zijn oorspronkelijke functie. De muren en gebouwen zijn van groot belang voor de bestudering van de Byzantijnse architectuur en het kloostercomplex huisvest bijzondere collecties van vroegchristelijke manuscripten en iconen.

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Justification for Inscription

Criterion (i): The architecture of St Catherine's Monastery, the artistic treasures that it houses, and its domestic integration into a rugged landscape combine to make it an outstanding example of human creative genius.

Criterion (iii): St Catherine's Monastery is one of the very early outstanding examples in Eastern tradition of a Christian monastic settlement located in a remote area. It demonstrates an intimate relationship between natural grandeur and spiritual commitment.

Criterion (iv): Ascetic monasticism in remote areas prevailed in the early Christian church and resulted in the establishment of monastic communities in remote places. St Catherine's Monastery is one of the earliest of these and the oldest to have survived intact, being used for its initial function without interruption since the 6th century.

Criterion (vi): The St Catherine&rsquos area, centred on the holy mountain of Mount Sinaï (Jebel Musa, Mount Horeb), like the Old City of Jerusalem, is sacred to three world religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

Watch the video: Armenian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ancient Art Links (January 2022).