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Surb Astvatsatsin Church, Areni, Armenia

Areni Surb Astvatsatsin (Virgin Mary) Church is located in Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia, on a hilltop 0,5 km away from the village Areni, in the centre of an ancient Arpa township. Judging by an inscription above the west entrance the cross-domed church was built in 1321 by architect Momik under the initiative of Syunik archbishop Hovannes Orbelian.

The church has two entrances – from the west and from the east. There are side chapels on the both sides of the altar. The dome is resting on two detached pylons which unusual for the architectural monuments design of the period (XIII-XIV). This novelty, as well as cruciform windows in the altar, is the work of a famous medieval architect Momik. The evangelists’ symbols are carved above on the pendentives: an angel (Matthew), a winged calf (Luke), a winged lion (Mark) and an eagle (John).

An effigy of Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus in her arms is carved upon the tympanum. The decorative architectural motives as well as a series of bas-reliefs adorning the exterior and the interior of the church have something in common with integrated forms of the Armenian medieval miniature. It’s also an influence of Momik, who was not only an architect and a sculptor but also a miniature painter.

The dome of the church was completely destroyed by 1840 earthquake. The walls and the roof were reconstructed in 1967-1972. In 1998 the church was completely reconstructed under the sponsorship of Artashes Tyuzmechian and patronage of the Catholicos Garegin I. The dome was reconstructed in its initial shape: polyhedral and adorned with semi-columns. There are ruins of the princely palace of Tarsaich Orbelian, as well as a number of khachkars (cross stones) and gravestones (XIV-XVII) nearby the church.

By Natalia Ghukasyan,


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