The Roman era temple at Garni, Kotayk Province, is believed to date from the first century CE and is the most notable Classical monument in the countries of the former Soviet Union. However, the temple today is the result of a reconstruction that took place in 1969-1975 as the original structure was destroyed in an earthquake in 1679. The site is included here not only because its significance for Classical architecture in the Caucasus in general, but also because the remains of a seventh-century centrally-planned church abut the temple on its western side. There is also a Roman-era bath house complex north west of both the church and the temple. It seems Garni remained significant throughout its history as there is ninth and tenth century Arabic graffiti still visible on the monument and a number of European travellers recorded their impressions of Garni even after its destruction. Today the temple is one of the chief tourist attractions in Armenia as well as being the main cult centre for Armenian Neopaganism also called Hetanism. On the day of the site visit a ritual was being enacted in the cella of the temple and some images of this event are included in this entry.
Katoghike Tsiranavor Church of Avan (Cathedral Church of the Holy Mother of God, Avan) is the oldest church known that falls within the municipal boundaries of contemporary Yerevan. It is located in the Avan district in the east of the city, north of the road leading to Geghard and Garni. The building is a centrally-planned with a quatre-lobed interior, but is square on the outside. It dates to the end of the sixth century and, as with Zvartnots and Yereruyk, it stands on a stepped platform - although in this case there are only 2 steps. The church was later renamed Surb Hovhannes (St. John) and today is a ruin missing the upper portion of the building with only one of the 4 smaller linking conches that joined the 4 main lobes of the building still extant. The site is concealed down a narrow alleyway and stands on a small patch of waste ground surrounded by domestic buildings and a small auto repair business making it exceedingly difficult to find.
Zvartnots is a centrally-planned cathedral in Armavir Province that was built in the seventh century by Catholicos Nerses III. Today it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and it remains one of the most significant early Christian monuments in Armenia. From the early twentieth century onwards it has been explored in archaeological excavations and a number of archaeologists, art historians and architects have attempted to reconstruct the original form of the building from the extant architectural details. This website is not the place to rehearse the various arguments relating to the site, but a clear and convincing summary of this history and an up-to-date interpretation of the material is offered by Christina Maranci in Vigilant Powers: Three Churches of Early Medieval Armenia, Brepols; Turnhout, 2015. This entry is obviously not the place to detail this complex historiographical tradition, but it is hoped that specialists and non-specialists alike may find some of the attached images useful and/or interesting.
The C5th cathedral of Bosra has a quatrefoil centralised floor plan terminating in the east end in a complex arrangement of a central apse, flanked by two chambers that then link through to two further small subsidiary apses to north and south. Therefore the east end is divided into five chambers, three being apsed and two that presumably functioned as sacristies or martyria.
The C5th centrally-planned martyrium at Resafa was the original resting place of the saint and the focus of the cult. Later the relics were translated to the basilica to the south east of the city and the importance of the church declined.
The colour images are from 2010.
Capernaum is an ancient fishing village situated on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Within an insula of this village are a number of rooms that are traditionally associated with the house of Peter the Apostle. A simple, square room within this complex was given particular attention by the Christian community in the years immediately following his death. In the fourth century, this room became a Domus Ecclesia (a house church) and was the place for Christian prayer and gatherings. The numerous inscriptions on the painted plaster of this place suggest that it was a prominent centre of pilgrimage, even by this early period. In the fifth century, an octagonal church was built over the house church. It consisted of an inner octagon that was directly over the venerated room, a larger concentric octagon and an outer semi-octagon.
Tags: Architecture, Basalt, C1st-C2nd, C20th, C4th, C5th, Capernaum, Centrally-Planned, Christ, Christian, Church, Domus Ecclesia (house church), Galilee, Geometric Motif, Holy Site, Inscription, Israel, Mosaic, Octagonal, Pilgrimage, St. Peter, Wall
The small, centrally-planned church of St. John the Baptist in Idleti dates from C5th-C6th and is an unusual building suggesting the architects were experimenting with different forms as the dome, which is hemispherical on the interior, is in a square drum that rests on the crossing of the central space. This centrality has now been lost by the addition of a disproportionately large single storied narthex to the west.
Samtsevrisi is a C7th church of the 'Jvari' type. It is a small, centrally-planned chapel that now stands isolated in a small graveyard.
Ikalto in Kakheti is nationally revered because of its medieval academy. This institution is linked to the national poet, Shota Rustaveli, the author of "The Man in the Panther's Skin" and the ruins of the academy are medieval. However, they are in a walled complex with three churches; the Sameba (Trinity) church dates from the C6th, the smaller single-naved Kvelatsminda church is C7th and the large, centrally planned Gvtaeba (Transfiguration) church that dominates the group is C8th-C9th. Gvtaeba has recently been the subject of a partial excavation and restoration funded by Geocell, a mobile phone network, but the work has been poorly executed and the church still suffers from major structural instability.
Tags: (As)Syrian Fathers, Academy, Architecture, C6th, C7th, C8th-C9th, Centrally-Planned, Church, Georgia, Gvtaeba, Holy Trinity, Ikalto, Kakheti, Kvelatsminda, Middle Ages, Rustaveli, Sameba, Thirteen (As)Syrian Fathers, Transfiguration
Dzveli Gavazi is the name given to a church dated to the sixth century in the village of Alkhalsopeli at the foot of the Caucasus near Dagestan. The church has been changed since the sixth century, especially with the addition of an ambulatory that wraps around three-quarters of the building. The church was restored in 1852 and an inscription raised to commemorate this, and has also undergone restoration by the National Agency for the Cultural Preservation of Georgia. On the initial visit to the site in 2013 the church was locked and it was not possible to access the interior, however on a return in 2017 accompanied by Professor Nodar Bakhtadze, it was not only possible to locate the keyholder but also possible to take interior photographs of the building. This proved to be extremely interesting as each corner of the dome had a semi-circular rubble-built column at the junction between two lobes of the quatrefoil. The pendentives spring above these columns without an intervening capital making a clumsy transition that suggests a degree of experimentation. Interestingly the other quatrelobed monument in Kakheti, Ninotsminda in Sagarejo has its dome supported by the same arrangement of pendentives springing from columns without the intervening unifying element of a capital. Here we encounter the problem of the uncertain dates of both monuments. Dzveli Gavazi is attributed to the sixth century and the ambulatory which wraps around the exterior of much of the church is ascribed to the eighth century without any definitive reason for assuming these dates. Ninotsminda was believed to be an early monument, but recently there has been a move to suggest that it is not as ancient as previously assumed - although once again this discussion has been based on relatively nebulous typological grounds rather than being based on an archaeological or serious architectural resassessment. Given the ubiquity of the Kakhetian three church basilica in this region, Dzveli Gavazi represents a fascinating anomaly that requires further exploration.