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Garni 8: St. Sion “Mashtots Hairapet” Church

St. Sion “Mashtots Hairapet” Church

Next to the Temple are the foundations of St. Sion church, built in 659 and commissioned by Catholicos Nerses III the Builder. Partially excavated in 1907-1911, excavations were completely uncovered in 1949.

The church was a variation of the central dome church type with cross wings and is considered a copy of the church of Zvartnots. The interior of the cruciform walls form four semi circular apses, with annexes between the entrances into the wings of the cross.

The main altar and the annexes have horseshoe shaped apses, which, together with the cruciform plan make the space appear much larger than it is.

The central square lay beneath the dome. The church itself was entered on the Northern and Western sides. The entire structure rested on a plain inscribed into a 24 faceted sphere with a diameter of 24 meters, on top of a two stepped stylobate. 2-3 rows of finely polished tufa block masonry set in lime are what remain of the church.

“Mashtots Hairapet” Church

Adjoining the north end of St. Sion are the foundations of a small 12th century basilica, built to house the grave of Catholicos Mashtots Yeghivardetsi, who in 876 escaped Arab invaders attacking Echmiadzin and moved the Holy See (and its treasure) to Garni where he died and was buried. His gravestone is just north of the church ruins. .

The text was edited by ICOMOS/Armenia NGO.