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Lmbatavank Monastery, Artik, Armenia

Lmbatavank Monastery or St.Stepanos (St. Stephen) church of the Lmpat Monastery is situated to the south-west from Artik town of the Shirak Province of Armenia. There are no extant inscriptions concerning the date when the monastery was founded. According to the archeological analysis it was erected in the VI-VII centuries. The church, built of smooth-hewn tufa stone, is a small cross-dome building with octagonal drum.

The most remarkable architectural elements are the main altar without a window (the opening you can see today was made later), the southern and northern rectangular wings and the arches. According to the inscriptions the dome of the church was restored in the 10th century.

The real treasures of St. Stepanos church are the fragments of early medieval frescoes (7th c.) preserved on the interior walls. It`s an original and bright illustration of early Christian period Armenian monumental painting. The famous biblical topic «Ascension» is interpreted by the Armenian artists as an Epiphany of the Lord. This interpretation is based on the prophet Ezekiel`s vision. In the centre of the composition is portrayed Jesus Christ surrounded by divine symbols against a background of tongues of flame. The pedestal of Christ`s throne incrusted with pearls which is put on the arch in the form of a rainbow is depicted at the top of the fresco.

Images of two riders, St.Sargis and St. Grigor, galloping towards the center are portrayed on both sides of the altar. It`s remarkable that there are no image of demons under the hooves of their horses. It`s supposed that an image of Virgin Mary with 12 apostles was depicted at the bottom of the fresco. The frescoes are painted in the manner of linear graphics however they are rather bright and rich.

The monastery was abandoned in the Late Middle Ages. In 1954 excavations were held on the territory of the monastery. Pedestal of khachkars (cross-stones), graves of IX-X centuries and fragments of roofing tiles (initially the roof of the church was covered with tiles) were found during excavations. In 1955-1956 the walls, the roof and the dome of St. Stepanos church were reconstructed.

By Natalia Ghukasyan,


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