Cathedral of St. Grigor – Aruch, Armenia

Cathedral of St. Grigor – Aruch, Armenia

Cathedral of St. Grigor (St. Gregory) Aruch is located in the village of the same name in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia. The cathedral was built by Prince Grigor Mamikonyan and his wife Heghine.

According to the inscriptions, construction began in 662 and ended (according to chronicle sources) in 666. This is the only early Christian dome structure whose construction date is precisely defined. The Armenian Catholicos Anastas I Akoretsi (661-667) was the one who consecrated the temple.

Before the foundation of the cathedral, there was another church in its place, one of whose priests Giorgos participated in the Third Dvin Assembly in 609. Perhaps the basilica type building lying southeast is this very church, the Katoghike three-nave basilica which after the construction of the Cathedral of St. Gregory, according to some researchers, was turned into a secular building.

In the 7th century, here was the residence of Prince Grigor Mamikonyan. Due to this, in addition to the cathedral and the vaulted chapel, the complex also comprised of monumental secular buildings, including the princely palace and fortress.

The St. Gregory Cathedral is a cross-in-square structure. In terms of its internal dimensions (34.6 x 16.9 meters), it is the largest among similar monuments of that era. The now-destroyed sail dome of the church had a high artistic value. A decorative arcature served as the decoration for the drum. A fragment of the drum with half-columns was found near the cathedral.

The interior of the cathedral used to be lavishly decorated with frescoes. But only a fragment of them is preserved, which combines compositions “Lord, the Giver of the Law” and “Ascension.” There also was an image on a blue background with the 7-meter figure of Christ (only the fragment below the knees is preserved) on a pedestal, in whose hands was a scroll with the Gospel text.

The individual details of the frescoes were gilded. A little lower was a wide frieze of acanthus vines with baskets of fruit. Directly under the frieze are the Apostles (only the images of six of them on the northern wall have been preserved).

The frescoes of the Cathedral of St. Gregory are made in the eastern Hellenistic traditions, which manifests itself in ornamental motives, plasticity, ease of figures, the plane of the image, and consistency of lines. Their author is famous Armenian artist Stepanos (7th century), as evidenced by the corresponding inscription under the podium of Christ.

In the 15th century, Khachatur vardapet restored the cathedral. In the 16th-19th centuries, the cathedral was abandoned and slowly destroyed. In 1946, the dilapidated southern and western walls, cornices, and arch were restored. During archaeological excavations (under the direction of V. Harutyunyan) in 1947-1952, a palace built by Prince Grigor Mamikonian was found. In 1958-1959, the vault of the chapel was reinforced, and the nearby areas of the church were landscaped in 1964.

The article was prepared by Natalia Gukasyan. Photo:

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