The Sisavan Church – Sisian, Armenia

The Sisavan Church – Sisian, Armenia

The Sisavan Church, which is also known as St. Gregory Church or St. Hovhannes Church, is located northwest of Sisian in Syunik Province of Armenia. Historians disagree on the exact date of the construction of the church.

According to some sources, the church was built in 663-682 under Syunik Prince Kokhazat with the support of the spiritual leader of the province Hovsep I and cleric Theodoros. However, according to Archbishop Stepanos Orbelyan, a chronicler of the Syunik princely family, Sisavan was built by the princess of Syunik Varazdukht in 520-530. Like most ancient Armenian monasteries, Sisavan was also built on the site of a pagan temple.

Constructed of smoothly hewn bluish basalt, the church is a cross-domed building. The church has two entrances – one from the south and one from the west. In all its corners are rectangular aisles. Unlike other similar temples, the domed space here has the shape of a square.

The church’s all 4 apses are equal-sized, each having three large windows. The drum of the 12-sided dome is decorated with paired semi-columns which are connected by arches. On the cornice of the dome decorated with a woven pattern are carved images and the names of 4 evangelists. In the lower part of the dome hemisphere, there is a sculpted image of Prince Kokhazat, Hovsep I, and cleric Theodoros with corresponding inscriptions.

On the walls of the church, you can see various images, inscriptions, and signs, including archaic petroglyphic signs which have nothing to do with the architectural idea of the church. Early medieval motifs are also present here, the most remarkable of which is the ornament picturing pomegranate branches diverging in two directions.

The facade of the church is decorated with niches in the form of arches. On the territory adjacent to the church, there are khachkars (cross-stones) and a cemetery with tombstones typical of the Middle Ages.

In 1959-1961, the church was repaired, and the area around it was cleaned. In 1980-1988, it was tiled anew.

In the western part of the church, there is a pantheon commemorating natives of Sisian who have died in the Artsakh war.

Sisavan is a vivid example of early Armenian architecture. The church has reached our days in its original form with virtually no changes.

The article was prepared by Natalia Ghukasyan

Photo source: www.building.am

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