Ereruyk Basilica, Anipemza, Armenia
The Ereruyk basilica is located in the Shirak province of Armenia, not far from the village Anipemza (also 8 km. from ancient Armenian capital Ani, nowadays Turkey) on the left bank of Akhourian River. Now it’s partially demolished. Ereruyk basilica built at the end of the V century on the bank of an artificial lake (its weir was found during 1948 excavations), is one of the earliest Christian complex in Armenia.
Architectural composition of the basilica resembles Syrian temples. This can be explained by close cultural and religious connection between Armenia and Syria in IV and V cc. But the Armenian architects were able to develop borrowed compositional structures and create an independent project. Ereruyk three-nave basilica was built of red tuffa stone. Initially it was surrounded by a fortress wall. The basilica is erected on a stylobate (a continuous base supporting a row of columns in classical Greek architecture) with six steps. Three pairs of cruciform pylons divide the hall into three naves. The middle nave excelling another two in breadth is crowned with an altar apse. Judging by the remains of the western wall the nave had wooden ceiling and towered above the roof of the other two naves. There are two-storied rooms in the western and eastern parts. Open vaulted galleries connect them with the main hall. In VI-VII cc. the western wing was completely reconstructed. Three-arched hall-porch was erected at that time.
The roof of the church is completely demolished. There exist several opinions concerning the roofing. A group of researchers (Toramanian 1948.; Alpago Novello 1977) supposed the church had tiled wooden roof; the other (Tokarsky, 1961; Khachatrian, 1971) believed it was vaulted.
Interior decoration of the church is very elegant. All the decorative elements have a great artistic value. They are southern and western portals, toothed cornices, with equal-armed crosses, capitals decorated with geometrical ornaments and stylized leaves, etc.
The ancient inscription in Greek was found on the south facade dates VII c. Another two inscriptions were made in 1038 and 1201-1212 consequently. An ancient inscription where the basilica is mentioned as a Martyrium of St. Karapet was found during the excavations held by N. Marr (1908).
The basilica of Ereruyk was excavated several times: 1908 – N.Marr; 1928 – the Armenian Commission for the restoration of Monuments (the walls and interior steps were strengthened at that time); 1948 – the Commission headed by Sahinian. Beginning from 2009 the excavations are being held by the French archaeologists from the Provence University.
By Natalia Ghukasyan, www.building.am