Thayer's Note: In addition to the 3 woodcuts in this chapter, Kurkjian's History includes a folio of about 30 black-and‑white photographs, bound between pp432 and 433 (in another chapter), some of which directly illustrate material in this chapter, and others not referred to anywhere in the work. To avoid burdening this webpage, I've made them accessible from a page of their own; those that illustrate passages of this chapter are additionally linked below as appropriate.
Ruins of pagan temples in Armenia remind us of Roman monuments, with traces of foreign influence, Syrian or Byzantine. An example is Zwartnots, with its capital, and the eagles with spread-wings. The capitals of the Ani Cathedral display variants. Figures testify to Western and Eastern elements.
Attention has been attracted by cross-stones, called "khatchkar", some of them as old as the fifth century. Most common are geometric motifs, with figures of Christ, Mary, and biblical events, such as Daniel in the lion's den and legends of Gilgamesh the hero. One khatchkar bears the figure of Anahit. Church façades or windows areº decorated with the figures of angels. In one of them is seen the mounted knight Manuel Amatuni, fighting a lion. A sculpture in Mren portrays the founder of the church, David Saharuni and his wife, introduced to Jesus and disciples.
Another precious example is the church of Aghtamar, built in 920. Here is a frieze of animals and scenes of hunting and of grape-gathering, with King Gagik plucking grapes. On another façade, is portrayed Christ holding the Gospel, with an inscription of the sentence — "I am the light of the world." On a window, we see an inscription that reads — "And Adam gave them names of all the animals and wild beasts." The artist meant the Garden of Eden, but did not forget the later saints — the Illuminator, Thaddeus, Bartholomew, etc., and the main biblical events. p437
A notable fact is the Egyptian influence as evidenced on the Gospel of Queen Mlkeh of Van, dated 856. Sassanid influence was expected logically. Hence, numerous signs of Sassanian art. Returning to Ani, mention should be made of the statue of King Gagik, discovered in the ruins of that city. The precious relic was destroyed by the Turks in 1920. The king was clothed in a tunic with a turban on the head, and held the model of St. Gregory Church, constructed by him. Queen Khosrovanush, the founder of the Church of Haghpat in 991, placed the statues of her two sons showing to them the model of the church. Other dignitaries followed the example. p438
Metal sculpture became the fashion in Cilicia, during the thirteenth century. The silver-gilt Gospel cover, dedicated to Katholikos Constantine I in 1249, is a remarkable specimen. Ivory plates, portraying Christ and Mary with the Baptist, is another type. Reliquaries bearing biblical pictures were in vogue. On several specimens, the Eastern and Byzantine elements are intermixed. On certain relics Moslem art can be easily indicated. As to ornamental designs cut by Armenian artisans, their skill has been acknowledged by authorities. According to archaeologists, sculptural geometric ornaments were known in Armenia long before the Armens settled in the country.
The influence of Byzantium has been traced to Greece and Thessaly, particularly from the ninth century and the period of the emperors of Armenian origin, some of them on khatchkars. The one, in Mistra, Greece, reads — "Joseph, an Armenian, from the Greater Armenia."
The interior of churches in Armenia were adorned with figures, even some mosaics. Specimens remain in ruins of Zwartnots and in Douin pavements. A fine example of such mosaic is in the beautiful pavement that came to light at the end of the 19th century in Jerusalem. Further still, in Germigny-des-Prés, France, Armenian art came in evidence. In Armenia proper, many of the paintings have been destroyed, but their existence is obvious. Vrtanes Kertogh (the Poet) mentions representations of the Virgin with the Child, St. Gregory as tortured, Ste. Gayaneh, and Ste. Hripsimeh, etc. The Iconoclast movement has had its effect temporarily, also the Paulikianº denunciations. The church of Aghtamar was rich in pictures of Gospel miracles, some of them illuminated. Byzantine examples are noticeable in them. A specimen of Syrian and Persian influence is provided by the Gospel (996) of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore.a
Among the artists of Cilicia, Thoros Roslin is the most prominent. There are other miniatures whose authors are unknown. An exquisite example is the Gospel ornamented for Prince Vassak, now in the Freer Gallery in Washington. Artists draw attention to the originality of painters of Cilicia, who deal with detail in Gospel episodes, unnoticed until then, Passion week, for instance, and the betrayal by Judas. The most prolific painter of Cilicia was Sarkis Pidzak of the fourteenth century. Among notable artists are Mkrtich Nakashr, Ignatios and Thoros of Taron.
From Viscountº James Bryce, again:—
"The finest examples of ancient Armenian architecture are to be seen in the ruins of Ani . . . while the famous church of the monastery of Etchmiadzin is, though more modern, a perfect and beautiful existing representative of the old type. Etchmiadzin . . . is the seat of the Katholikos, or ecclesiastic head of the whole Armenian church."
1 Sirarpie Der Nersessian, "Armenia and the Byzantine Empire," Harvard University Press, 1945.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
History of Armenia
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY if its URL has a total of one *asterisk. If the URL has two **asterisks, the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use. If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 28 Oct 17