Ani view point

Ani is perched on the Akhurian river, across from the 9th-13th cc Armenian capital Ani. Much of it gone, still the city of 100,000 has ruins of churches, palace and walls enough to impress.



Ani and the Perfection of the Dome

Armenia’s domes take their roots from the wooden broach roof of Armenian dwelling houses, as Xenophon described in his time. The use of a dwelling house borrowed for a sanctuary is not unique, and the Armenian house glhatun, with a hazarashen roof is a good example of a dome-like roof on a cube.

The archeologist Joseph Strzygowski, in 1918, put forth the view that it was the Armenians who first solved the problem of putting a dome over a square space. There are two ways: first, by the use of the squinche—a triangular-shaped section of a dome which fills up the comer of the square and so transforms it into a circle; second, by the pendentive—a small arch spanning the corner of the square, and so converting it into an octagon, onto which the circular base of the dome could be conveniently fitted.

The pendentive found great favor throughout Europe and Asia. When the possibility of placing a dome over a square had been realized, a variety of alternative elaborations became possible to architects. The square, for instance, could be extended in one or more of four directions, permitting a plan of much greater interest and significance than a mere rectangle, and leading at last to the basilica and cruciform plans, and sometimes a synthesis of all three. And the pendentive, according to Mr. Strzygowski, was developed by the Armenians.

At Ani there is ample evidence that in the Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator (completed 1215) the Armenians at least used the pendentive. This church is perched on the side of a cliff over the river, its unbroken walls decorated with sculptured arches, doubled columns and stone tracery of birds and flowers. Inside, 700 year old frescoes cover the nave, apse, the ceilings and all the walls with scenes from the Bible and accompanying legends in Greek. 

The apse is to the east end of the nave, a trend started by Armenians and said to be based on Pagan Sun worship. Above the nave, on four columns rests the dome, lit by a circle of windows that throws light onto the small arches spanning the corners of the square. It is a perfect example of the pendentive.

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    How to reach Take the M1 highway towards Giumri and 11 km north of Maralik, where a road turns left to Gusanagiugh. Follow the directional signs past Gusanagiugh to the H17, then south to Haikadzor to the view point. From Yerevan is 100km and about 1 hour 15 minutes.

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