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The Forms of Armenian Architecture
In the early period, so much innovation took place, so many architectural experiments were being carried out simultaneously, that it is impossible to conceive the historical progression of Armenian monuments in a strictly linear fashion.

There was, however, in certain areas of development, as for instance the working out of the concrete core technique outlined above, a roughly describable forward movement.

The rest of this essay, in introducing the various monuments illustrated in the photographic compliment which accompanies it, will be devoted to an explanation of the major types of church buildings used in Armenia.

1. The Basilica and the Single Nave Church
The earliest church structures in Armenia were the basilicas, of which at least seven have survived. All have three aisles. There was also a more simple variant, the hall church with a single aisle (Lernakerd).

Great numbers of these single nave churches were constructed from the fourth to the sixth centuries. They are of varying size and are found throughout the country. Some varieties have a room for liturgical purposes adjoining the apse (Karnut, Diraklar), and sometimes a covered porch on one side (Tanahat and at Garni and Dvin).

Variations of the pure basilican plan include a nave ending in a salient or protruding apse and side aisles with apses such as Kasagh, Eghvard, and Dvin; with the addition of two chambers flanking the apse, which of course is no longer salient, as Ashtarak, Tziranavor, and Tsiternavank"; with covered porches on the north and south and chambers at the east as Tekor, or chambers at both ends as Ereruk.

Since the dating of most Armenian basilicas is approximate, no certain chronological progression according to type can be determined. Armenian basilicas are similar to the Syrian variety, and like so many early Christian doctrines and practices the basilican form must have entered Armenia from that southern neighbor.

There are, however, characteristic differences. Armenian basilicas are built in stone and almost without exception have stone vaults over aisles and naves, whereas in Syria, though walls and apses are of stone, roofs are generally unvaulted and wooden like Byzantine and Roman counterparts.

A single roof covers both central and side aisles in most Armenian basilicas, while in Syria and the West the central nave usually has a separate and higher roof.

2. Domed Basilica and Domed Single Nave Church
The Armenian fondness for vaulting and the dome soon resulted in the transformation of both the single hall church and three-aisled basilica (a form considered alien to Armenia) to a domed building in which the cupola served as the focal point.

By the late fifth or early sixth century the basilica of Tekor was modified by the addition of a dome over the central bay of the nave; in the first quarter of the next century the basilican cathedral of Dvin was also changed in this manner.

Coterminously, perhaps starting as early as the fifth century at Zovuni, single aisle churches with a central dome resting on massive piers jutting out from the north and south walls were constructed (Ptghni, sixth century; Talish or Aruch", seventh century; and after the ninth century, Marmashen, Amberd, St. Mariam at Bjni and the church of Tigran Honents" at Ani. In the seventh century, basilicas were built similar to Tekor with domes resting on four central, free-standing pillars: Odzun, Bagavan, Mren, Gayané, Talin, and the famous cathedral of Ani (989-1001).

At this stage, however, the term basilica no longer entirely fits the last group, for if we remove the eastern end with apse and side chambers of the churches of Mren and Gayané, we are left with a nearly square interior of nine bays, the central one bearing the dome.

3.Central Plan
Truly centrally planned domed churches of varying models were built during the sixth and seventh centuries and perhaps even as early as the late fifth century during the reconstruction of Etchmiadzin itself. At Agarak there is a tetraconch or quatrefoil church composed of four salient apses, joined without intervening walls, supporting a dome.

Another series of well-known cruciform chapels and churches of small dimensions has an exterior plan in the shape of a Greek cross with arms of equal length forming an outside tetraconch (Mankanots", St. Sarkis at Bjni, and Tarkmanch"ats"), or with the same exterior and only one apse at the east end (Karmravor and Lmbatavank"), or with an extended western arm and three interior apses forming a trefoil (St. Anania at Alaman and St. Mariam at Talin).

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Writer: Dickran Kouymjian
Editor: Eugenia Melkonyan
 Date Added: Tuesday September 05, 2006 11:00:23 

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