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Ani - City of 1001 Churches
In 961, Ashot III Bagratuni moved his capital from Kars to the great city of Ani where he erected new palaces and rebuilt the walls of the expanding city.

The Catholicosate was also moved to Arkina district, in the suburbs of Ani, where in 990, the gifted architect Trdat [ Tiridates in Latin] completed the building of the Catholicosal palace and the Mother Cathedral of Ani.

Trdat"s fame as a master builder spread beyond Armenia. In 989, the Byzantine Emperor invited him to try to restore the earthquake damaged dome of the Cathedral of Aya Sophia [Divine Wisdom] of the capital Constantinople.

Trdat successfully solved the problem of rebuilding the dome according to lasting principles.

The dome never collapsed ever since [having been hit by several massive earthquakes throughout for a period of over a millennium] and stands to this day very day.

Trdat, being the chief royal architect of the King, exclusively designed and oversaw the construction of the Mother Cathedral of Ani (989-1000) and the church of St. Gregory the Illuminator (1002-1010) in the Gagkashen district of the city.

In building the Cathedral of Ani, he used the old domed-basilical layout, but he widened the central nave, used clustered pillars of soaring proportions supporting concentric arches and pendentives, and imparted to the inner space of the cathedral a sense of solemn grandeur.

The exterior fasade is decorated with an arcade of sculptured columns, decorative arches, crosses and narrow light slits.

European scholars (Joseph Strzhykowski, Charles Diehl and others) have noted that many structural features of the Mother Cathedral are innovations, which later on have been borrowed and further developed by Roman and Gothic architects.

Originally King Gagik expressed the desire to see that the Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator is a mere duplicate of the outstanding Zvartnots Cathedral [also named after St. Gregory the Illuminator].

Trdat did not proceed in this direction.

Instead, he markedly enlarged the central space spanned by the dome, replaced the solid wall of the east apse with a row of arches, divided the exterior polygonal wall into 36 segments [instead of the 32 of Zvartnots], thus enhancing the soaring quality of the ornamental arcade gracing the exterior faзade.

Among the monuments built in this period that represent a revival of VIIth century architecture are the multi-apsed churches of Abughamrents [Ani], St. Gregory"s and Holy Savior"s of the Pahlavunik" and the Church of the Apostles.

According to the talented architectural historian and reconstructor, T"oros T"oramanian, the quatrefoil, solid masonry apses of this church were enclosed by five domes.

Ani"s Church of the Shepherd is one of the jewels of the XIth century Armenian architecture. In its structural design and architectural treatment, this church represents a scaled-down version of the Zvartnots" Cathedral.

Cultural and artistic developments of this period came to an end towards the middle of the XIth century as a result of foreign invasions and raids by the nomadic Seljuk Turks.

To sum up the architectural history of the period from the IXth through the XIth centuries we must first foremost emphasize the importance of new means of artistic expression that was created without drastic departure from the classic forms of the VIIth century tradition.

The interior and exterior design of churches soared and assumed extensive proportions. The exterior walls were cultivated with decorative arcades, niches and narrow light slits surrounded by delicate ornaments.

The octagonal drums supporting the dome of the VIIth century churches evolved into polygonal or cylindrical forms that were decorated by intricate carvings and crowned with the pleated Armenian domes pointing - to the Stars.

Writer: Gevork Nazaryan
Editor: Eugenia Melkonyan
 Date Added: Saturday September 09, 2006 08:42:29 

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