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.



Church of the Redeemer

Another is the Church of the Redeemer (Amenaprkitch - completed around the year 1035) the walls covered with inscriptions showing much of its history.  And it is in the this church’s history that the structure of the Bagratuni Armenian society can be understood.  For us, much of the fascination (some might say fixation) of the ruling class and Armenian society on churches and religion, can seem obscure and remote.  But in fact, it was the cohesive unit that bound the Armenians to their culture, to their king, and ultimately, to their survival against the Arabs, Persians and Turcomans that were sweeping across their lands.

The church- both its idea as a conduit to God and its physical presence—was the embodiment of an Armenian idea; that no matter how strong the pull of the invader’s culture was to Armenia, no matter how many were pulled to renounce their faith and join the cause of the Greeks (Byzantines), Arabs or Seljuks, the ultimate destination for the people who worshipped here was with their God, a distinctly Armenian one at that. 

The design of the church, its decoration and symbolism, can be read as biblical lessons for an illiterate class and at the same time a glorification of the ruling power.  It can also be seen as an act of defiance, distinctly Armenian, an architectural statement of independence from the opulent (decadent) design in Byzantium, which had abandoned its iconoclastic struggle and once again reveled in the representation of Christ and the saints in icons and frescos that covered their churches, something the more ascetic Armenian religious orders recoiled from. 

Armenia built structures to God, their decoration was no doubt more richly endowed than the stripped down versions we see today, but they were also removed from the iconography Armenians of the time preached against. God was the word; the word was made real on earth in the vision of Saint Grigor, in a church, in a building.  The church of the holy redeemer embodied his spirit.  Inscriptions cover the remaining structure, showing its purpose and symbol.  The Prince Ablgharib Pahlavid (Pahlavuni) had inscribed on the walls:


"In the year 480 (A.D. 1035), I, Ablgharib marzpan took an edict on behalf of Smbat Shah’n’Shah to Michael, Emperor of the Greeks, at Constantinople, and with great effort and expense bought a fragment of the Holy Cross, and when I returned, completed this temple..."


The church, like the fragment of the True Cross, was the embodiment of the divine on earth.  It had 8 apses, the 8th and largest apse symbolizing the day after the resurrection and end of earth, the day of reckoning, the Day of Judgment, which was to be on the 8th day in metaphysical terms.  The 7 subservient apses represent the 7 days or times of life leading the judgment, the number 7 believed to the completion of a cycle, just as it ends the days of a week. 

There are three altars, the large central one and two mall embedded into the walls on either side.  The church is circular, the walls made into a 19 faceted polygon.  The number 19 represented two sacred concepts of the time, borrowed from classical ideas: 1 for the Base, the beginning, the be all and in all of the 1 God, and 9, the most sacred of numbers a product of the multiplication of the number 3,m which represented the Holy Trinity.

The drum of the dome is unusual for it being completely circular and not octagonal as was the custom.  It is quite tall and quite wide, capped internally with a cupola.  There are faint frescoes from a later age (13th c) attributed to Sarkis Parchkans, and showing a penchant for Byzantine style, betraying the structure’s earlier resistance to Greek Orthodoxy.  The faint paintwork is still beautiful and was later white washed, which leads some to believe the church may have been used as a mosque in its later Persian/Turkish periods.


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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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