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Armenian Cathedral; Surp Cross Church

Kader Kadem | 13:22 | 2Comments
Van Akhtamar Surp Cross Church is located on a very little island in Van Lake, and on a spot which is visible from very far away. The church reaches out the sky as a monument standing on an high and two stepped base. This monumental appearance of the church arises from the friezes ornamented with plastic art elements in an outlook of belts, which surround its facade. Written resources cites that a Regal palace was located on the island beside the church and that the architectural structure of that palace was legendary.

Surp Cross Church has been constructed by King of Vaspuragan, Gagik, in the early Xth century. Gagik Ardzruni who was the chief of Ardzruni dynasty which was the ruler of Vaspuragan Province, has been proclaimed as the Armenian King so as to be a competitor against Pakraduni King in Ani, Ist Simpad, in the year of 907 by Emir Yusuf, the governor of Armenia, who benefited from the intense problems and conflicts that has arised between Pakraduni Kingdom in Ani and Arabian emirates.

King Gagik who succeeded in improving his country in many respects and provided its security thanks to his sharp intelligence and talents he showed in political and warfare fields, has intiated vast architectural activities in his region. Akthamar which has not occupied an important place in the history until his period gained importance in Armenian history due to Vaspuragan’s being the political center in Xth century and upon the transfer of diocese to Vaspuragan.

King Gagik rendered Akhtamar not only a region of living but alos a shelter against his enemies, and surrounded its coast with a deep pier, and high walls including towers. After the completion of mansions, gardens belonging to the king and armories and other military facilities, the construction of the church has begun in the year of 915. The architect of the church, Manuel, has completed his artifact in 921 by bringing numerous artisans and workmen with different nationalities from all over the country.
Many addendums has been made to the main church in time. Saint Isdepanos and Saint Zakarias Chapels, and on more recent dates, at the end of 19th century, monastery, school and catholicos buildings has been constructed.

At first glance, one may realize that Akhtamar Church is different from the other Armenian churches pertaining to the same period, in terms of architecture and ornamentation art. Beyonding being a religious temple and house of the God, it gives an impression of a palace constructed in conformity with the desires of a king who is keen on earthly pleasures. Written resources and a few old pictures, wall pictures belonging to the King Gagik in the lodge strenghtens that conviction.
Many scenes from the sections selected from the Old and New Testament like throwing of Prophet Jonah into the sea, the Virgin and Jesus in her arms, dismissal of Adam and Eve from the heaven, struggle of David and king Goliath, Samson Palestinian duo, three jew young men in fire, Daniel in lion’s cave is located on the facade of the church. In addition to those, there are reliefs depicting hunting, viniculture, fights between animals, nature and animal adventures, fishes, peacocks and deers, which are an expression of earthly feelings in contrast with Medieval religious mysticism. In church ornamentation and reliefs, vine leaves, pomegranade which represents fertility, abundance of grape and vineyard scenes point to the interest shown by people to wine in Van region and besides the commercial importance of viniculture.
The inner walls of the church are ornamented with many pictures belonging to the Bible. These ornemantations has been harmed significantly in time. These wall pictures exhibits quotes from the Old and New Testament. They depict a large historical section from the birth of Jesus Christ to his crucifixion and rising up the sky.
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