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Areni 2: St. Astvatsatsin, Other Sites

St. Astvatsatsin

The 1321 church was commissioned by the same Bishop Hovhannes, who ordered the construction of nearby Noravank. It was designed by the architect, sculptor and miniaturist Momik (1250?-1339). Recruited from Kilikia (Cilicia) to Gladzor, Momik had immediate impact with his exquisite 1302 miniatures, "Entombment" and "Angel Appearing to Holy Women". After 17 years during which his eyesight deterioriated, and, finally writing in 1307 he was no longer able to complete his last gospel, Momik turned to sculpture, creating masterpiece works at Noravank, Tatev, Yeghegis (Zorats Church) and Gladzor among others.

Astvatsatsin was built when Momik was still at the height of his artistic powers, and is one of the most beautifully proportioned churches in Armenia. Sculptures include Momik's badly preserved but still magnificent Madonna and Child, on the tympanum over the entry. The depiction of the Virgin Mary and Christ child, while maintaining their iconic poses, are infused with life through the drapery of their clothing and the florid background design, which includes highly detailed grape vines.

The interior is marked by the soaring dome, hoisted aloft by four pillars, two of which are free standing, a unique feature of the church. The drum rests on pendentives that are faced with four exquisite carvings representing the evangelists.

The churchyard has tomb stones from different periods, same dating to the Hellenistic period and before. The smaller, more elaborately carved khachkars are contemporary to the church, but the larger, cruder stones are older. They are the remains of menhirs (standing stones) carved with double and triple crosses, a design found on other 4th century carvings.

Other Sites

Medieval ruins Medieval Areni was the estate of the Orbelian family, in the 14th century boasting a large medieval village and castle for the Orbelian patrician Tarsaiyich Orbelian. The castle’s ruins immediately adjoin and surround the church. The remains of a 13th c Bridge attributed to Bishop Sarkis span the river under the church.

Shrines Traces of Areni's medieval period include several shrines and khachkars, scattered about the modern village. Some are in yards, others in open areas. These include a St. Sarkis cave-shrine in the cliffs and a St. Grigor Nahatak shrine, which resembles a Tukh Manuk.

Hrashkaberd is a ruined medieval fortress that sits on a mountain side overlooking the southeast road to Amaghu village. The fortress is noted in Stepanos Orbelian's History of the State of Sisakan (ca. 1299), in which he wrote of the Mongol invasion and its effects on the Orbelian holdings in Siunik.