The Six-Pointed Star in Armenian Culture

The Six-Pointed Star in Armenian CultureThe Wheel of Eternity is possibly the most iconic Armenian symbol. Armenians have depicted it in several ways, including inside a pointed star. Unfortunately, the six-pointed symbol isn’t known so well in relation to Armenians.

Today, people mostly associate the six-pointed star (hexagram) with the Jewish Star of David, the modern symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism. It even has been imaged on the official flag of Israel since 1948.

So, according to Wikipedia: “Its use as a symbol of the Jewish community dates to the 17th century”. Not much has been written regarding the Armenian usage of the symbol, although it has been quite extensively used in science, art, architecture, and even religious rituals.

Armenians historically are skilled mathematicians, architects, and craftsmen. Geometry, in particular, has always been very special to Armenians.

Ancient Armenian astronomers possessed developed knowledge of astronomy and were even able to predict astral events. Moreover, oldest known observatories are located in Armenia.

Dated all the way back at 4200 BC, Karahunj, as well as the ca. 2800 BC Metsamor observatory allowed ancient Armenians to refine geometry to such point that they could measure distance, longitude, and latitude, envision a spherical world, as well as predict solar and lunar eclipses 1,000 years earlier than Egyptians.

Armenian architecture often features solidity and mathematical precision with its traditional, well-elaborated straight lines connecting the columns.

The wide use of geometry in architecture allowed Armenian structures to withstand time and the harsh surroundings of the region dominated by wars, natural disasters, and poverty.

The geometrical awareness of ancient Armenian architects is perfectly demonstrated by millennia-old discovered fortress cities and temples using complex systems of squares, rectangles, circles, and polygons with intersecting patterns.

Because proper use of geometry was considered magical thanks to its possibilities, Armenians highly valued geometrical shapes, one of which is the aforementioned six-pointed star.

Early Armenians believed that the symbol held magical powers and thus incorporated it in architecture, astronomy, and sacred art.

This is clearly demonstrated by their churches with six-pointed shape, as well as their use of hexagrams to support the dome. Lastly, the symbol could be simply used as sacred decoration.

The first and most significant Armenian Cathedral of Etchmiadzin (303 AD) is one of the structures decorated with many types of ornamented hexagrams.

Another example is the tomb of an Armenian prince of Hasan-Jalalyan dynasty of Khachen (1214 AD) in the Gandzasar Church, Artsakh.

The most famous example of usage of the symbol could be the 12th-century Armenian Church, the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem, where hexagram-shaped arches support the dome. Similar dome arches can be found throughout Armenia, like the domes of the Khorakert Monastery or the 13th-century Khoranashat Monastery.

Floor plan of a Medieval Armenian Church of the Shepherd

The acquaintance of Armenians with the six-pointed symbol is clearly evidenced by the oldest known depiction of the symbol unearthed in the Ashtarak burial mound called “Nerkin Naver”.

A series of radiocarbon analyses conducted in laboratories in Germany and the US confirmed this. The six-pointed star was engraved on the handle of a dagger discovered in a burial mound safeguarding over 500 graves.

The hexagram isn’t the only symbol widely used in Armenian architectonics, although it may have been the most significant one.

Geometry has always been favored by Armenians who loved to build and create, making it an inseparable part of the Armenian culture.

To wrap up the topic, let us present you with some examples of hexagram usage in Armenia.

The Armenian Wheel Of Eternity PeopleOfAr

Marble tombstone of the Armenian Grand Prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian (1214-1261)
The handle of a dagger excavated in Ashtarak (Nerkin Naver) burial (3rd millenium BC., Armenia) Harichavank Monastery decoration, 7th c AD, Armenia. Relief of a medieval Armenian coat-of-arms found amongst Ani’s ruins marked with the name Sargis (clockwise) The Armenian Church of the Citadel Palace of Ani (622 AD)
13th c tombstone near village Bartsruni
13th c. tombstone near village Bartsruni
13th. century cross-stone at Haghartsin Monastery
Arches and dome of St James Armenian Cathedral
Armenia, Goshavank monastery, XII-XIII c. AD.
Bas-relief of the Lion—a symbol of the Vahtangian princes of Artsakh, Armenia’s 10th historical province.
Cross stone from Noravank Monastery (13th c.)
Decoration on Medieval Armenian cross-stone
Decoration on the outside of 13th c. Noravank Monastery (Armenia).
Hexagrams on Etchmiadzin Cathedral (303 AD.)
Inside the Geghard Monastery (groundbreaking 4th c. chapel build in 1215 AD). Decorative hexagram symbol on the dome arch. .
Lori – Armenia
Lower cover leather binding, 1577 AD, (binder Grigor Khach’ets, Venice, San Lazzaro, Library of the Mekhitarists
Marble tombstone of the Armenian Grand Prince Hasan Jalal Vahtangian 1214-1261
Medieval Armenian timbstone with hexagram and hand
Medieval Armenian timbstone with hexagram and hand

Neghuts Monastery (10th-11th c. AD.) – Armenia

Reliefs on the ruined 12th century Teghenyats Monastery Armenia
Reliefs on the ruined 12th century Teghenyats Monastery, Armenia
The altar of Mšakavank monastery 5th c AD
The dome of Khorakert Monastery (12th c. AD), Armenia
The dome of Khoranashat Monastery, 13th c. AD, Armenia
The portico of Sarkis’s palace 13th c.
Vorotnavank (10th c.)
Wall Detail on Gandzasar Monastery (1240)
Wooden chapiter, 9th century from Astvatsamayr church of Araqeloc monastery, Sevan. Displayed at History museum of Armenia


Related Publications


5 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.