Momik: Ulgiur

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Ulgiur (Ulgurt): Momik. Momik's work

Ulgiur (Ulgurt)

An old medieval settlement; its original name is unknown. The half ruined Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church (Ulgiur) has a rectangular plan (5.45x3.7 meters). The foundations, made from semi-processed basalt stone, were laid with high-quality lime mortar. The walls were double faced, also laid with lime mortar. The entry to the church was made from a single slab of stone which is missing. The floor is made from semi-processed stones. The cornice stones are partly damaged. Near the monument there are important khachkars (stone crosses) and other beautifully carved stones.

Ulgiur is important as the birth place of the master Momik, an Armenian miniature painter, sculptor, and architect who lived from the late 13th-mid 14th centuries. In 2004 excavations uncovered gravestones for Momik's parents and members of his brother's family.

Note the two tall stones nearest the chapel; these were Vishap (dragon) Stones from Armenia's pre-Christian era, converted into Christian monuments by carving simple crosses and other religious symbols on top of the dragon image. Vishap stones were often placed at water sources and are among Armenia's oldest religious icons.


Momik Vardpet (b. 1260? – d. 1333, 1339 ) born in the village of Ulgiur (the medieval name of the village is unknown, Ulgiur is a late-period name), was a renowned calligrapher, miniature painter, sculptor and architect from the late 13th - mid14th centuries. His parents’ (Grigor and Avta), son (Askandar) and grandchild (Shatonik) are known.

Momik studied and worked at Gladzor University and later at the metropolitan (archbishopric) residence in Noravank monastery, where he was employed as a painter and architect for the powerful dynasty of Orbelian Princes, carrying out projects commissioned by Orbelian metropolitans. Momik was a student of the monk Hovasap and in addition to his formidable artistic gifts, he had a deep understanding of religious themes and mastered Greek.

Momik's work

Momik was a leading light of the Gladzor School of miniature painting. Among his best works are Gospels illustrated in 1292 and 1302 and now preserved in the Matenadaran in Yerevan (manuscripts # 2848, 6792) which demonstrate how skillful he was as a painter, as well as his profound knowledge of pictography and his strive for innovations.

As an architect, Momik demonstrated a unique approach in designing the churches at Areni St. Astvatsatsin and developed a completely new approach for the church called “Burtelashen” at Noravank, with a two-story crowned rotunda. Tatev Monastery's St. Grigor Lusavorich Church commissioned by Stepanos Orbelian and several other churches are attributed to Momik.

In his works Momik place the word “vardpet” by his name, denoting his skill as an architect, but he was also a remowned sculptor. His famous works are bas-reliefs at Areni and Noravank, especially those in the gavit of Surb Stepanos Nakhavka Church (St. Steven Protomartyr) --the scene depicting God the Father is exceptional. At Noravank he carved elaborate khachkars with exquisite patterns; they are now exhibited in museums at St. Echmiadzin and Yeghegnadzor.

The small khachkar (stone cross) erected in Momik's memory at Noravank bears the following inscription: “May Christ remember and have mercy on Momik's soul.”

For countless admirers of his artistic treasures, “Momik's soul” is his everlasting work.

Original text provided by the "Historical Environment and Historical-Cultural Museum Preserves Protection Service" NCSO of the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, edited by ICOMOS-Armenia and Karen Matevosian, co-author “Momik Miniaturist”, author “Momik”.