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Architecture - first of the arts


B. ARMENIAN ARCHITECTURE AS CHURCH ARCHITECTURE
Beside these limited ancient examples and the urban architecture of the twentieth century in the Armenia Republic, Armenian architecture is essentially that of church buildings, thus a Christian architecture. Its productive history spans the period from the fourth to the seventeenth century.

Though it should be noted that in modern times, especially in the diaspora, churches continued to be built and are now being erected in large numbers, scholars have not yet studied this phenomenon, leaving modern Armenian church architecture rootless and for the moment outside the art historical tradition.

A second observation arising from the idea of Armenian architecture being confined to Christian buildings is the lack of any secular construction. Were there not palaces and fortresses for the kings and catholicoi? Or bridges and caravansaries to accommodate the extensive trade that passed through the country? Did not people live in houses and were not these grouped together in cities?

The answer is yes, but few examples have survived. Common dwellings were made of perishable materials, wood, mud brick, or simply dug into the ground or a hillside. The excavations of the medieval capital city of Ani made in the beginning of this century, confirm the lack of substantial dwellings that could be considered architectural monuments.

Several bridges - among them Sanahin, twelfth century, Ashtarak, seventeenth century - and a few caravansaries have survived; they have been brought together in a book by V. M. Harutiunian.

The stone foundations of important residences of the catholicos have been excavated at Zvart"nots" and Dvin.

They date from the sixth and seventh centuries. An extremely large number of fortresses with their inner complex of dwellings, churches, and other buildings was constructed in Greater Armenia, the most famous being Amberd of the tenth century, and, from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, in Cilician Armenia, among which the best known are Sis, Lampron, Korykos, Silifke, Anavarza, and Yilankale.

A large volume devoted to a general survey of Armenian fortresses was published by the Mekhitarist father M. Hovannisian; recently, Robert Edwards has devoted a detailed study to 75 Cilician Armenian fortresses (see the bibliography for full references to all works cited in this text).

Thousands of Armenian churches were built during the long history of Christianity. They varied in size from very small to large, though there were no giant structures like St. Peters in Rome or Hagia Sophia in Constantinople or the large cathedrals of Europe.

Some churches were intended to stand alone, while others were parts of monasteries. A large number of types were developed, providing a great variety of exterior shapes and interior volumes.

 
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Writer: Dickran Kouymjian
Editor: Eugenia Melkonyan
 
 
 Date Added: Tuesday September 05, 2006 10:46:23 
 




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