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St. Grigor Cathedral, Aruch, Armenia

St. Grigor Cathedral of Aruch is located in the village of the same name in Aragatsotn Province of Armenia. The cathedral was built by Prince Grigor Mamikonian and his wife Heghineh. According to the inscriptions, the construction began in 662 and was finished (according to historical chronicles) in 666. It`s the only early Christian domed-hall building that can be accurately dated. The cathedral was consecrated by Armenian Catholicos Anastas I Akoretsi (661-667).

Before the construction of the cathedral there was a church on the site. One of its priests Giorgos participated in the 3rd Dvin council (609). Some of the researchers believe that a basilica construction in the eastern part is just this church, three-nave Katoghike basilica, which was transformed into a secular building after St. Grigor cathedral was built.

In VII century there was situated the residence of Prince Grigor Mamikonian, so, besides the cathedral and a vaulted chapel there were monumental secular buildings which included princely palace and a fortress. St. Grigor cathedral is a domed hall. It`s the largest church of this type (34,6 х 16,9 m.) at that period of time. The pendentive dome of the church (now destroyed) was of high artistic merit. The drum was ornamented with semi-columns. Its fragment was found in the yard of the cathedral.

Once, the walls were plastered and decorated with frescoes. But there preserved only a fragment of the fresco combining the composition “God Gives the Law” and “Ascension of Christ”. The 7 meter figure of Christ (only lover part of it remains) standing on a gem-encrusted pedestal is painted against a deep blue background on the apse conch, with a frieze of acanthus vines and an ornamental band below. Christ is holding a parchment with verse from the Gospel. Beneath the frieze apostles were depicted (only figures of six of them preserved on the northern wall). The frescoes of St. Grigor Cathedral followed the eastern Hellenistic traditions. Their author is the Armenian well known artist of the VII century Stepanos. His name is inscribed under Christ`s pedestal.

In XV century Khachatur Vardapet restored the cathedral. In XVI-XIX it was abandoned and doomed to collapse. In 1964 partially destroyed southern and western wall, cornices and the vault were restored. During the excavations (headed by V. Harutunyan) the ruins of princely palace built by Grigor Mamikonian were found. In 1958-1958 the roof of the prayer house was strengthened; in 1964 the nearby territory was improved.

By Natalia Ghukasyan,


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