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Mysteries of Armenia

The Humble

In his work The Origin of the Christian Church the outstanding art critic Josef Strzigowski writes, “Italy was predestined to present the Eastern-Arian dome to Europe for the second time. The Renaissance admitted the significant advantage of the simple Armenian dome and gave it way into the European architecture for a long time”. Karmravor Church is a true manual for the specialists in Christian architecture. The miniature crusade-tambour composition seems to have served as a model for the bigger constructions that had preserved their entire basic configuration. Nevertheless, Karmravor remains the construction of the 7th century, the period of the Armenian architects’ daily improvisations. The tiled roof that underlines the self-sufficiency of the spherical roof (Zvartnots was also crowned with a similar one) was a typical alternative of the time to the faceted stone domes. “The church in Ashtarak is the most ordinary and the most modest for Armenia. So, this is a church in a hexahedral kamelaukion with a rope ornament going down the roof cornice and with similar rope eyebrows under the mean lips of the chinky windows. The door is meek and mild. Stand on your tiptoes and look inside. Look! There is a dome there, a dome, similar to that of St Peter’s in Rome, with crowds of people and palm-trees, and an ocean of candles, and a palanquin underneath”, wrote Osip Mandelstam, inspired by the Renaissance architectural forms.

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