Aruch’s name was first mentioned by the historian Yeghishe (5th c.) according to whom it served as a winter-camp for the royal army of the Arshakuni kings. However its most important period is connected with Prince (Hayots Ishkhan) Grigor Mamikonian (661-685) when Aruch became his official seat of power, as granted by the Arab caliph.


Aruch Cathedral

Aruch temple / S. Grigor Cathedral

The church is the largest of Armenia's early medieval domed hall types (34.6 x 16.95 m), famous for its architecture and frescoes. According to historians, it was built during the reign of Prince Grigor Mamikonian, the mason inscription on the eastern wall and historical references pointing to its construction 662-666.

The interior is enlivened by traces of 7th c. frescoes, including one of the Ascension of Christ painted against a deep blue background on the apse conch, with a frieze of acanthus vines and an ornamental band below. The 7 meter figure of Christ, only part of which remains, stands on a gem-encrusted pedestal similar to the one shown at L’mbat. The figure holds a long parchment unwinding to the ground, with a verse from the Gospel of John: "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them it is he that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21) To the right of the Christ figure you can see the hem of a tunic and the foot of another figure, probably an angel.

The words inscribed on the scroll are taken from Jesus' last days on earth, addressed to apostles who are depicted on the lateral walls of the apse. Only those on the north side have been preserved, the first five standing, facing forward, holding the Gospel and the sixth, in profile with his right hand raised as if to speak. An acanthus scroll adorns the base of the dome and the name, "Step'annos" (the artist) is written beneath in large uncials.

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    How to reach Aruch is close to Ashtarak, on the Giumri highway. It is about 46 km from Yerevan.

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