Hello from Armenia! We will be here only for four days but the program is very rich and there is a lot to learn. Armenians were the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301. According to tradition, Armenian Apostolic Church was established by two apostles: Thaddeus and Bartholomew.
It is always interesting to see how they bake their bread.
The three churches belonged to the monastic community Goshavank founded in 1188. Goshavank is considered one of the principal cultural centres of Armenia of its time. Historians believe it was abandoned after the Mongol invasion in 1375. Its library is said to have held 15,000 books. Most of them were burned by the invaders.
Armenian churches are different. They are darker, with smaller windows. Their walls are not covered with any frescoes or mosaics. Some of them are covered with writings and crosses.
An authentic Armenian form of art is a khachkar. The word khachkar is made up of the Armenian words for “cross” and “stone.” These memorial stones can be found in hundreds in graveyards or near monasteries and cathedrals. Dating from the 9th century, the khachkar art form saw the most intricate works around the 13th centrury. It became less popular starting in the late 1700s. Let’s see some of them:
The one here is gorgeous and can be found in many books about Armenian art:
Armenian cross looks like the “Tree of Life.” Christina Maranci in her book “The Art of Armenia. An Introduction” says that medieval Armenian texts often refer to cross as the “life-giving sign” emphasizing victory over death. The divinity of Christ is more important than his human nature. The emphasis is on resurrection rather than crucifixion.
In Haghartsin, the second monastic site we visited today, we had a chance to see an artist working on a wooden khachkar:
with his young helpers:
Built between the 10th and 13th centuries, the monastery also has three churches. The recent restoration of the site has been funded by the Sheikh of Sharjah in the UAE.
Finally, Lake Sevan and Sevanavank. At 1900m above sea level, Lake Sevan is the largest lake in the Caucasus, and one the largest freshwater high-altitude lakes in the world.
A pagan temple once occupied this elevated site overlooking the lake. In the 4th century the temple was replaced by a small church. Today we can visit two churches built in the 9th century.