Church of the Holy Virgin in Areni – Armenia

Church of the Holy Virgin in Areni

The Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) Church is located in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia, on a hill half a kilometer from the village of Areni, in the center of the ancient village of Arpa. Judging by the inscriptions preserved over the western entrance, this cross-domed church was built on the site of a former pagan temple in 1321 by architect Momik on the initiative of the Syunik archbishop Hovhannes Orbelian.

The church has entrances from the west and south. There are aisles on both sides of the church altar. The dome rests on two separate pylons, which is unusual for architectural monuments of that period (13th-14th centuries).

This innovation was introduced by famous architect of the Middle Ages Momik. Cruciform windows in the altar are also an invention of Momik. Symbols of evangelists are carved on the pendentive – an angel (Matthias), a winged calf (Luke), a winged lion (Mark), and an eagle (John).

On the tympanum of the western entrance of the church, an image of the Virgin with the baby Jesus in her arms is carved. Decorative architectural motifs, as well as a series of bas-reliefs decorating the interior and exterior of the church stylistically resonate with the generalized forms of Armenian medieval miniatures. It also shows the influence of Momik who was not only a famous architect and sculptor but also a miniaturist.

During the earthquake of 1840, the dome of the church was completely destroyed. The walls of the church and its roof were restored in 1967-1972. In 1998, at the expense of a Constantinople Armenian Artashes Tuzmechian and under the patronage of Catholicos Garegin I, the church was completely reconstructed.

In particular, the dome was completely restored to its original form – multifaceted and decorated with half-columns. Near the church are the ruins of the princely palace of Tarsaich Orbelian, as well as numerous tombstones and cross-stones of the 14th-17th centuries.

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