Armenia Architecture

According to topschoolsintheusa, the architecture of the Armenia medieval has its roots in the very first centuries of Christianity, when the powerful radiation from the religious capital Valašapat (od. Eǰmiacin; v.) and from the political capital Dvin (v.) managed to establish civil communities and places of worship even in the peripheral country: from the prov. of Gugark ‘in the extreme N (in contact with southern Georgia which was then becoming Christian), to that of Syunik’ in the E (from which, through the mountainous regions of the Arc’ax, the preaching reached the third Christian nation of Caucasus, Albania, where important Christian remains of this period are preserved), to those of Vaspurakan and Mokk ‘in the extreme S (in contact with the Christian communities of Upper Mesopotamia). In the formative period of the Armenian architectural culture – which is placed between the end of the century. 4th and second half of the 7th – an initial phase is distinguished, up to the whole century. 5 °, of which the buildings of worship are essentially known, mostly in masonry with strong facing in squared stone blocks, attributable to the types of the mausoleum, the ‘hall’ church and the basilica, which were then abandoned, or in any case adopted less frequently, when the great domed architectures spread. Most of the mausoleums, memorial chapels or martyria of saints, frequently remembered by historians and received in numerous examples of different shapes and characteristics, sometimes inspired by similar late ancient and early Christian monuments of Syria, was made up of burial chambers that are totally or partially underground, vaulted roofs (this is the case of Alc῾, Amaras, Naxičevan, S. Vardan of Zovuni, S. Hṙip῾simē of Eǰmiacin), which sometimes served as crypts of major buildings or constituted the initial nucleus of a cult complex including a great church. The chapels with a single nave and cross-shaped ones could descend from these rooms, but there are also examples of mausoleums equipped with memorial steles on high stepped podiums (such as those of Ałc῾, ǰrvež, Avan of Erevan) or protected by free arches on a high base (this is the case of Ojun and Ałudi), from which it is believed that the xač’k’ar derived, the well-known stone crosses very frequent in places of worship starting from the 9th century. of buildings from the earliest centuries is made up of churches with a longitudinal apsidal hall: these are environments marked by extreme compositional simplicity, whose internal space, oriented towards the altar placed in a mostly semi-cylindrical apse, was sometimes equipped with transverse arches that marked the nave in spans, or expanded in a series of more or less deep lateral expansions that interrupted the continuity of the vertical surfaces of the walls (e.g. ǰrveǰ, Balanis, ǰazǰaris). first centuries in the East and in the West, the basilica with three naves, an organism which is also very simple, but at the same time stately and solemn, destined, together with the largest of the hall churches, to the assemblies of numerous communities. The basilicas coordinate, within a context of greater spatial breadth, architectural elements and liturgical functions in all similar to those of single-nave churches: the ecclesial hall (which, however, is divided into aisles as well as spans, by means of two rows of free pillars which support, together with the longitudinal walls, the arches and roof vaults); the presbytery with apse and mostly raised by some steps, with the ancillary rooms, usually accessible from the aisles; the side arcades (and exceptionally front). The few examples of this type that have come down, a dozen in all, in varying degrees of conservation and sometimes with important subsequent transformations, or which are known from good documentation, allow us to reconstruct a design research path tending to create increasingly more large, bright and complex. In this period (as well as later, especially between the 9th and 14th centuries), a recurring and characteristic element, and central concern of the designers, was the dominant role of the dome (gmbet), common to all the types and subtypes adopted, in the its double aspect: on the one hand of magnificent conclusion – entrusted to a perfect shape, image of the celestial vault – of the central sector of the classroom, projected in height by the wide arches and the cavity of the drum; on the other hand of monumental emphasis crowning the external volume, in the form of a high cusped drum which, while hiding the internal hemispherical shape, strengthens its stability with its weight, increasing at the same time its emergence with respect to the surrounding buildings and visibility at a distance.The most important invention, however, was to impose the dome not only on the buildings with a central plan, but also on those with a longitudinal development, with one or three naves, with the intention of starting from the integration and skilful combination of the two types of spatiality and the respective functional and symbolic characters. Of the domed hall churches of the secc. 6th and 7th only the examples of Ptlni, Aruč, Dedmašen remain (progenitors of a type that had the greatest diffusion in the mature period, between the 9th and 13th centuries), whose domes rise on arches resting on massive pillars integral with the longitudinal walls and protruding from these towards the inside, dividing the overall space into three quite diversified sectors: the entrance compartment formed by a barrel-vaulted arm, equipped with two lateral expansions, also covered they have barrel vaults, but transversal; the central domed compartment, determined by the intersection of the main nave with a sort of transverse arm corresponding to the median span, whose vaults form a large three-dimensional cross clearly identified even on the outside by the course of the roofs; the eastern sector, usually formed by a short vaulted arm, placed in front of the apsed and raised presbytery, called in Armenian bem, and by the two auxiliary rooms (analogous to the Byzantine pashaphoria) that flank it. entrusted to the rigid static system formed at the same time by the free pillars and the side walls, connected by a device of barrel vaults with a cruciform course, similar to that of hall churches. The various known examples of domed basilicas (Tekor, Bagavan, S. Gayanē, Zor, Ojun, Dvin, T῾alin, Mren, v.) Present in turn remarkable compositional variations, corresponding to as many interpretations of the model, where it is possible recognize, among other things, the tendency to place the volume of the dome towards the center of the composition (eg to Ojun and Zor). The process of expansion in several directions already observed for non-domed churches found its most complete expression in the cathedral of T’alin (v.) – as well as in the analogous example, now destroyed, of the reconstruction of the cathedral of Dvin -, a happy synthesis and balanced of a basilica, recognizable in the shape of the aisles, and of a triconca domed church, visible in the wide external shape of the three protruding apses. which form the other great line of experimentation of Armenian architecture, it is interesting to observe the process of complication of plants and volumetric devices as a trace of a logical development, not always confirmed by precise chronological sequences, of the design research applied to the remarkable field of variation of this type. The most elementary scheme is evidently the so-called free cross one, characterized by four arms grafted onto a mostly square central compartment.

It is represented in Armenia by about forty examples grouped into subtypes according to the number of apsed arms: churches with four apses (eg Crviz, Ošakan, P’aṙpi); churches with three apses with a rectangular entrance (eg Alaman, T’alin, Dorbantivank ‘); he asked a single apse, in the eastern arm (eg Aštarak, Byurakan, Šenik). Moreover, the same buildings can be aggregated according to other categories that take into account the greater or lesser development in the EW sense, thus establishing a progression from those in which the two axes of symmetry are perfectly equal (e.g. Ošakan, P’aṙpi, Šołagavank, Bǰni) to the decidedly longitudinal ones (e.g. Dorbantivank ‘, Alaman, Hnevank’, Byurakan). A first enrichment of this scheme consisted in grafting the four basins not on a space as wide as the arms of the cross, but on the axes of a much larger square environment, which gives rise to a dome of greater light and height. This device was made in two quite different ways: sometimes (this is the case of Bagaran and Eǰmiacin) by placing the vaulted roofs on four free pillars; at other times – with the evident intention of creating a unitary space without intermediate supports, of which it was possible to perceive the entire outline with a single glance – setting the dome, by means of a drum and fittings, on the same walls of the area (is the case of Mastara, Art’ik, Oskepar) Another interpretation of the tetraconco, original and complex, to be considered, precisely because of its area of ​​diffusion, an exclusively Armenian invention, present in the Christian architecture of the Caucasus since the. 6 ° (and taken up in turn in the 9th and 10th centuries), is the one that involves an internal space delimited by four apses and four cylindrical niches on the diagonals, which split the supports of the dome into eight equal pillars connected two by two by unloading arches. Of this system, called ‘tetraconco with corner niches’, we recognize two prototypes equipped with envelopes inspired by expressive instances of opposite sign: that of S. Giovanni di Avan, which conceals and incorporates the internal articulations, all defined by combinations of hollow cylinders, within a compact basement volume, and that of the Holy Cross of Ałbak, which instead lets almost every prominence of the internal walls shine through through walls of almost constant thickness. The latter prototype can be conceptually assimilated by both the Sarakap building, whose base walls, the only surviving ones, allow us to hypothesize an unusual stellar articulation also denounced outside, both the church of Mokhrenis, to be considered the progenitor of a series of examples, mostly Georgian, set on two almost equivalent axes of symmetry.

The most frequently adopted solution, however, was the intermediate one, which indicates the internal joints on the outside through deep dihedral niches, as can be seen in the well-preserved examples of S. Hṙip῾simē in Eǰmiacin, Gaṙnahovit, Sisavan, Arcuaber. also from the chapels with radiant apses, recognizable by the characteristic corolla plan, with three or four almost equivalent axes of symmetry, since the EW axis, corresponding to the entrance-altar path, always prevails over the others, even if only slightly. Of those with three axes, which give rise to an internal hexagonal space, only the example of Aragac is known, antecedent of the numerous similar buildings of the secc. 10th and 11th, all built within the ‘Ani school’; of those with four axes, which generate an octagonal space, we know the examples of Zoravar, near Ełvard, and of Irind, from which we can derive, among other things, the Savior of Ani, of the 11th century. However, the maximum of spatial complexity was achieved through a more elaborate project of a vast and solemn monumental conception which, in view of a concatenated sequence of ascending volumes, pierces the walls of the basins through arches on free columns and surrounds them with a peribulum of a certain amplitude, disrupting the supporting structures into four massive pillars supporting the dome and into a continuous wall, independent of them, which runs all around. In addition to the primitive constructions of Išxan and Banak in Tayk ‘, both transformed in the following centuries, the palatine church of Zvart’noc’, erected between 643 and 659, which at the beginning of the century, belong to this type. 11th served as a model for the Gagik mausoleum in Ani, as well as the church of Liakit in Caucasian Albania, a region where a similar simplified building with a circular interior space rather than a tetraconch was also found in Kilisedagh., between the end of the century. 7th and the second half of the 9th, due in large part to the Arab occupation of the region, manifested itself throughout the Armenia independent return, a period of strong recovery and cultural rebirth that lasted until the beginning of the 14th century. This is the ‘mature period’ of Armenian architecture, marked by an original recovery of the typological models and stylistic forms of the ‘formative period’, the starting phase of which, between the end of the century. 9th and the end of the 11th, is characterized by a fairly diversified production which denotes the existence of regional schools, linked to the power centers of the great royal families. The region that before the others gave signs of recovery, with new foundations of a certain importance, was the Syunik῾ – corresponding to the vast territories to the South and SE of Lake Sevan – whose kings distinguished themselves as generous patrons, founders of churches and convents since the mid-9th century.

The medieval architecture of the ‘Syunik῾ school’ appears marked, from the beginning, by the character of severe mysticism that the interior spaces assume, also for the rough finish of the constructive apparatuses and the sobriety of the ornamentation. For the typological aspect, the most frequent models, at least for the main churches of the monastic complexes, are: the triconco (this is the case of Hac’arat, with free arms, of the two churches of Sevan, of 874, of Mak ‘ enoc’ac’vank ‘and Masrac’ Anapat, with three corner rooms, by Kòtavank ‘and Orotnavank῾, with four corner rooms, by Šolagavank’, which exceptionally experiments with semi-cylindrical external niches); the tetraconco (this is the case of Hayravan sul Sevan, with extrados free arms, of Vanevan, of C’ałac’k’ar west, with corner chapels); the cross type with short arms, incorporated into a rectangular masonry (as in the case of Ilkavank ‘). Naturally there is no lack of examples of churches with apsidal hall, mostly small in size (this is the case of the chapels of Mak’enoc’ac’vank ‘, of Orotnavank’, of Aratesvank ‘, of Noravank’ Amalu and of S. Stefano a C’alac’k’ar est), but sometimes much larger than usual, as in the case of Vahanavank ‘, of 911, divided into spans by a series of transverse arches. The domed rooms were not excluded either, both of the compact type with four corner chapels (this is the case of Tat’ev, of K’arkop ‘, of S. Karapet in C’ałac’k’ar est, of 1014, with decorative elements influenced by Širak), both of the type with expansions of the western arm open on the nave (this is the case of Batikyan, of St. Mary of Noratus, of the southern church of Aratesvank ‘), is still of the simplified type adopted for memorial chapels (this is the case of S. Maria di Tat’ev, dated 1087, similar for its small size to some small domed churches of Širak, such as the southern church of Bagnayr and three of the chapels, now destroyed, by Xc’konk ‘). Among the major institutions we must mention the Tat’ev monastery (whose main church dates back to 895-906), which was for centuries the most important religious and cultural center of all the Armenia oriental and became the seat of a famous university that attracted scholars and students even from distant countries. Located in an inaccessible and dominant position, with a fortified wall, which also enclosed the teaching rooms and the residences of the monks, all built in solid stone masonry, it was continually enriched by royal donations including a large number of fortresses, villages and cultivated territories. in three distinct locations: Van, home to commercial and defensive structures; Vostan, seat of government and administration; Ałt’amar, residence of the sovereigns and later of the patriarchs. Much of the construction activity was also concentrated here in the monastic centers developed in places already consecrated by the memories of apostolic preachers, by ancient hermit presences, or chosen to house holy relics. Among the main ones we should mention Narekavank ‘, founded in 935; Iluvank ‘, dating back to the century. 10 °; Varagvank ‘, where the church of the Hagia Sophia was erected in 981, and finally that of the Holy Cross of Aparank ‘, from 983. The last two buildings were built at the behest of Gagik I (989-1020), who also assigned the convents of Karmrakvank’, of St. Thomas of Ganjak and of St. George of Gomk, all destined to develop further in the following centuries. Also the oldest religious buildings of the monasteries of St. Thaddeus of Artaz (od. Maku), of St. Bartholomew of Ałbak (od. Sikefti), of St. Stephen Protomartyr in ǰula (od. Jułfa), were erected in this period of intense activity. Other monastic institutions of great prestige and attractiveness developed, W of Vaspurakan, in the contiguous prov. of Taron (od. Muş): among the main convents are those of S. Hovhannēs, S. Aṙak’eloc ‘and S. Karapet, this the last heir of the role of pilgrimage center that had been of the pagan sanctuary in the nearby city of Aštišat, which became, after the conversion, the first episcopal see of Armenia.

For the purely typological aspect, in addition to a certain number of churches with apsidal hall both for parish use (Uranc ‘, Kerdivan, Pert’av, Pančas) and conventual (S. Cristoforo a Pori, Pułenc, Baṙ, Ginekanc’, Arcuaber), there are, of course, the domed hall churches, such as the aforementioned Hagia Sophia in Varagvank ‘(from 981), the church of Hzaruvank’, S. Isaac in Ererin and the largest of the Vaspurakan churches, the Holy Cross of Aparank ‘(from 983), built entirely of brick, at the time covered inside by a cycle of frescoes. as proof of the well-known versatility of the Armenian builders, the triconco and the tetraconco, made, similarly to what has been seen in Syunik ‘, both with partially free arms, even if with a rectangular or polygonal external perimeter (this is the case of S. Tikin in Sortkin and Butacvank ‘, perhaps dating back to more ancient times), and inscribed in a parallelepiped envelope (this is the case, for example, of S. Maria in Iluvank’, of 941, and of S. Giovanni in Varagvank ‘, from the end of the 10th century).The richest and most advanced of the cultural areas of the Armenia medieval was the Širak (corresponding to the Axuryan valley, a left tributary of the Arasse), the geographical and economic center of the region and the seat of the royal family of the Bagratids who, through dynastic alliances and connections, controlled many other neighboring feudal territories. The construction activity was first concentrated in the ‘provisional’ capitals (Kars, Širakavan, Argina) and, after 970, in Ani and in the provincial capitals, where an intense urban civilization based on a high level of organization developed, according to the oriental model tripartite: citadel of the sovereign and his court; city ​​of the nobles, also surrounded by walls; outer city (or suburb) of the people and foreigners. Each of the three entities was provided with different spaces and buildings for the different activities and with places dedicated to the meeting of the groups and ethnic groups subject to the king’s authority. Armenian cities were equipped with paved streets, underground sewer networks and aqueducts for the water supply of palaces and public buildings (hotels, caravanserais, warehouses, warehouses, commercial agencies, bathrooms, tax offices), convents, schools, scriptoria, laboratories: institutions necessary for the development of education and cultural life and for the exercise of various artistic, literary and scientific activities. they elaborated two different interpretations of the domed hall: the first, more faithful to the classical models of Ptłni and Aruč, preserves the longitudinal development of the building and the unity of its internal space, including the lateral expansions of the western arm open completely on the nave (this is the case of Širakavan, of the 9th-10th century, of S. Nšan of Hałbat, of 972, of Argina and Haykajor, of the 10th century, of Bagnayr, of S. Miniato and of S. Giovanni di Hoṙomos, from the 11th century, and many others); the second, which tends to the formation of a compact volume, bordering on an almost square plan, instead creates a cruciform internal space – very different from that of the Byzantine ‘inscribed cross’ because it has no free pillars – in which the lateral compartments of the western arm close to form apsidal chapels, sometimes with two floors, as in the case of St. Mary, from 934, and the Savior in Sanahin, of the oldest churches of Mak’aravank ‘and Hałarcin, from the 14th century. 9 ° -10 °, of the main church of Mravyan, of the century. 10th-11th century, of the southern church of Ṃarmašen, of the churches of Amberd and Nelucivank ‘, from the 10th century. 11th, of the ‘cathedral’ of Kečaris, from the beginning of the 12th century. If these types appear at the same time also in other regions of the country, almost exclusive to the ‘school of Ani’ In these two centuries, on the other hand, the central domed organisms appear, also present, as we have seen, since the formative period, in a vast range of variants and subtypes with very different spatial results. Of these, the architects working in Širak and in the regions that culturally depended on it seem to have preferred not so much the simpler free cross expressions, but the more complex and articulated applications, capable of responding to searches for multiple geometries and of creating volumes with vertical development. with pyramidal trend.

These buildings offered opportunities for new experiments on the verge of compositional and constructive virtuosity, providing stimulating themes of design and execution of complicated three-dimensional geometries, with unusual but controlled intersections and interlocking of spaces and volumes. Among the types with a central plan, the hexaconchus was very frequent, conceptually singular, as it denotes the transition from a geometry based on the division of the square to another geometry based on the laws of the circle and the hexagon, which allows to build and verify the expressive potential of spaces detached from the position of the cardinal points, tending instead to recover the concepts of unity and totality expressed by the figures linked to circular matrices and, ultimately, equipped with a single axis, the vertical one, determined by the intersection of all planes of symmetry passing through the center of the geometric figure that draws the plan of the building. The second phase of the mature period, between the end of the century. 12th and the beginning of the 14th, led to a further resumption of building activity after the occupation of the Seljuk Turks, with whose architectural and figurative culture the Armenian builders established an active relationship of exchange, which developed further, especially in the century. 13th, also with regard to the Ilkanid Mongols. Much of the construction activity was concentrated in the northern regions of the country, where the most important works received once again concern the architecture of the monastic centers, which, when it was not a question of ex novo foundations, developed around places of worship pre-existing, as evidenced by the presence of churches or chapels of the formative period (this is the case of Hovhannavank ‘, Astvacenk’al, Hogevank’, Haričavank ‘), or of the secc. 10th and 11th (this is the case of Sanahin, see, Hałbat, Mak’aravank ‘, Hałarcin, Bagnayr, Hayravan sul Sevan, Dadivank’, Noravank ‘Amału, Aratesvank’), which served as an initial nucleus for organic growth dictated by the needs and concrete possibilities of expansion. For the construction of the complexes, in the absence of a unitary project to be carried out in stages, the most commonly adopted procedure was in fact to gradually aggregate, by juxtaposition and almost by budding, buildings each endowed with volumetric and functional autonomy, connected to each other not from a concrete entity (e.g. from a large abbey or cloister, as happened in the architecture of the Western Middle Ages), but from the abstract principle of repeating and juxtaposing similar elements, usually united by the analogous articulation of roofs that create a large three-dimensional cross, raised from the ground, surmounted by arms crossed by the cuspidato drum.In the most important monasteries the frequent donations of nobles and wealthy merchants allowed the construction not only of buildings of worship, but also of vast ancillary rooms: in addition to the houses of the monks, almost always lost because they were built in precarious material or obtained in caves in the surroundings, the coexistence of two or more churches was frequent, which could have numerous altars, often in overlapping chapels in the case of large communities, with one or more meeting rooms (covered nartecuses, refectories, libraries, classrooms) and other minor elements (mausoleums, commemorative steles, bell towers, fountains, as well as kitchens, oil mills, mills and warehouses). Examples of this type of aggregation are Hałbat, Sanahin, Hałarcin, Gošavank ‘, Gełard, Mak’aravank’, Tat’ev, Dadivank ‘. A wall, often equipped with towers, sometimes enclosed most of these elements, giving the convent the character of a fortified town (this is the case, for example, in Axt’ala, Hałbat, Hovahnnavank’, Noravank ‘, Tat’ev). For churches the most common type remains, as always, the domed hall, in the two variants indicated above for the architecture of Širak. Deserving attention, in the context of monastic architecture, a particular environment, intended for different uses, religious and civil: the gavit ‘, a sort of large non-arcaded narthex, which has become the necessary complement to major churches, which often exceeds in monumentality due to its size and refined architectural conception. 11th in Hoṙomos, the gavit ‘ of the century 13 °, however, they abandoned the longitudinal course to consecrate the mature form of a large almost square room, illuminated from above by a lantern of varied and skilful geometric composition – which conceptually differentiates it from the church, which always has the dome closed at the top – and usually divided into nine sectors by means of large arches resting on the walls of the area and on four free columns.

The typological evolution seems to indicate a search, similar to that observed for other types, of progressive expansion of space, in which first the leaning pillars are inserted into the perimeter walls – as occurs in most of the known examples -, therefore the same free pillars tend to disappear to give rise to unitary spaces without intermediate supports, vank ‘by Ani, Hoṙomayr) – must be considered one of the compositional and constructive themes that found more frequent and more complete realization in Armenia It is precisely in this period that another building type appears, that of multi-storey sepulchral monuments, whose height development tended to underline their memorial character, also performing practical tasks, such as the distinction between chapels and tomb chambers and the ‘raised installation of stelae or bell cells.These devices, which actually reflect the similar structure with superimposed elements typical of some monuments of the formative period (such as those of Ojun and Aludi), developed and brought to maturity an architectural theme experimented with considerable variants already in the century. 11 ° (e.g. in the church of the Pastore in Ani, dated 1040, and in that of S. Maria a Tat ‘ ev, of 1087); as well as some examples made during the century. 13th (mausoleum of the ṙuzukan in Hoṙomos, from 1215, chapel-bell tower in Hałbat, from 1245, funerary chapel-bell tower of Kobayr, from 1279; chapel-library of Gošavank ‘, from 1291), it was applied in numerous monuments of the first mid-century 14th (mausoleum in the convent of Hovhannēs Karapet, from 1301-1321, aedicule in Spitakavor, from 1321, mausoleum of Ełvard, from 1321-1328, chapel of St. Mary in Noravank ‘Amału, from 1339, mausoleum of Kaptavank’ S. Minas, dated 1349).The architectural production of the Armenia Christianity did not stop completely with the loss of political sovereignty towards the middle of the century. 14 °; it continued, albeit with alternating phases, in the following centuries, helping to keep the national identity alive during the long periods of the country’s insecurity and dependence on foreign powers – Safavid Iran and qājār, the Ottoman Sublime Gateway, the Russian empire of the tsars – in constant contention for strategic control of the Armenian plateau. Although not without original contributions, especially in some regional areas and in some historical phases, the architecture of the ‘late period’ (from the 15th to the 19th century) generally involved a faithful repetition of traditional models, intentionally extending the medieval types and characters almost to the threshold of our century.

Armenia Architecture