The Architecture of Early Medieval Armenia

The Architecture of Early Medieval ArmeniaIn parallel with the development of science and literature, the architecture of Armenia also took the path of rising. In the 4th century, extensive construction works were carried out in the capital of Armenia Dvin and in the then-unfinished city of Arshakavan. The 5th-century city of Karin (Theodosiopolis in antiquity) was rebuilt as well.

In early medieval Armenia, a type of a secular palace structure was developed. It consisted of a rectangular pillar room, as well as small rooms adjacent to the main room’s longitudinal side panels.

These designs were included in the Armenian royal complex that mainly served as the residence of the Armenian Catholicoi and the leaders of the country. The excavations carried out in Dvin, Zvartnots, and Aruch convincingly proved that the general composition of secular buildings was significantly influenced by the Armenian folk architecture. This architectural style was mainly represented by wooden capitals adapted for stone, which was a relatively new building material back in the day.

The religious buildings built after the adoption of Christianity in Armenia initially continued the traditions of ancient Armenian architectonics. In the 4th-5th centuries, Armenian temples basically were basilicas. Their chapel was usually divided by columns into 3 sections: the central column was wide, whereas the rest were narrow.

The eastern section of an Armenian church typically housed an altar that was being used as the centerpiece during liturgies. Some of the Armenian churches had external porticos. The chapels of basilica churches were covered with a semicircular stone structure, a vault, which was enclosed under a double-ledge roof. Since the end of the 5th century, the basilica churches began to replace domed churches.

The Armenian churches built in the 6th-7th centuries are particularly remarkable. A classic example of a cruciform center-domed temple is the Hripsime Temple built in 618.

An architectural masterpiece and a slightly newer exemplar of cruciform center-domed temples is the cathedral of Zvartnots that was built by the Catholicos of All Armenians Nerses the Builder (Tayetsi, a Catholicos from 641 to 661). The four semi-cylindrical apses of the three-story church were surrounded by ring-shaped halls.

The exceptionally high level of early medieval architecture was largely determined by the development of constructive work and art in Armenia. Architectural issues of that time very often received their solution in Armenia. The architectural culture of the era became the basis for the further development of the construction art in general.

by Margaryan A.


Saint Hripsime Church


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