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Zvartnots - what the temple Watching Sil is?

In 15 km from Yerevan one of the most mysterious temples of Armenia - Zvartnots, the temple of the Watching Sil or Heavenly Angels is located. It is called still Surb Grigor - it is considered that here St. Gregory the Enlightener`s relics were stored for some time. Now it is possible to see only partially restored first tier of the temple. What in it is mute mysterious? the name and a design Are unusual

- Zvartnots differs from other Armenian churches.

In 642 the Catholicos Nerses over a dungeon Chorus Virap constructed the chapel reminding Zvartnots. Perhaps he wanted to be convinced that the design will be steady? Zvartnots`s construction only began.

According to the eyewitness of construction of the temple, the Armenian historian Sebeos, the Catholicos Nerses III Stroitel in 641 founded Zvartnots on the meeting place of the tsar Trdat with Virap Gregory the Enlightener released from a hole Chorus. Nerses planned to transfer the residence from Dvina to Vagharshapat. All architectural complex was complete in 660.

At a ceremony of consecration of the temple in 652 there was the Byzantine emperor of Constants II. He was delighted with the temple and wished to construct same in Constantinople. However his plan was not fated to be carried out - the architect Zvartnotsa died on the way to Constantinople.

The temple was destroyed by an earthquake in 930. Over time on the place of ruins the huge hill of which the remains of four poles (entrances) looked out was formed. The monk Hachik Dadyan in 1901 began excavation of the temple. In 1904 excavation was started by the architect Toros Toramanyan. Having studied ruins, Toramanyan made the rebuilding plan Zvartnotsa. Ruins of the temple, Patriarch`s Palace, premises of the Catholicos and vinodavilnya were dug out.

Several years later N. Ya. Mar`s expedition in Ania`s city dug out a statue of the tsar Gagik in whose hands there was a tiny model of Zvartnots Cathedral. The image Zvartnotsa is revealed on bas-reliefs of church Seong Shapel in Paris.

On Toramanyan`s reconstruction the temple represented a round three-storied construction with a dome. The general height of the temple - 49 meters, diameter of the lower tier - 35,75 m. All design leaned on four powerful columns of twenty-meter height. The temple stood on the multistage platform. In church conducted five entrances.

In respect of the temple the equilateral cross entered in a circle. The first tier Zvartnotsa - tetrakonkh (4 - the petal plan) with 6 columns on a semicircle of each petal. Columns, are topped with capitals and connected with each other by arches. Stands behind each semicircle on one column with a capital on which the eagle with open wings - all eagles different is cut. These columns connected among themselves and the middle of a semicircle by the arches of double curvature create a monolithic ring - the second tier relied on it.

At an altar apse (the semicircular ledge blocked by a semi-dome) - a high eminence, ahead - a baptismal font. Behind the apse was adjoined by the square room - a vestry from which walked in the corridor going on top of the first tier upstairs. East side of the temple - a semicircular solid wall with mosaics and frescos. The space between a cross and an internal wall was filled by two-storeyed gallery. Outside a massive wall from 64 - x sides. The second tier of church consisted from 32 - x sides, through from three parties, its walls leaned on six powerful columns. The third tier - a high many-sided dome.

Zvartnots had rich furniture. Walls of the first tier are outside issued by wall arcades on pair semi-columns which are decorated with a skillful carving on a stone: a grapevine and pogrudny images of builders with tools. Over arches there was an ornament with grenades and clusters of grapes. Under one of portraits the inscription “Hovhaness“ is read. Perhaps, this name and portrait of the architect of the temple.

At construction Zvartnotsa masters used gray, black, is violet - a brown and red tufa. For simplification of weight of the arches exaggerated obsidian was used. Roofs were from a reddish tile.

In 2000 ruins of the temple and the territory around it are included in the list of the World heritage of UNESCO.

The architect Trdat in 1001-1010 in Ania`s city constructed the copy Zvartnotsa: St. Grigory`s temple (Gagikashen). Influence Zvartnotsa is felt in many temples of Armenia: in Aruche, Egvarda, Tallinn, in monasteries Htskonk and Marmashen. Modern architects also build the churches in a form reminding Zvartnots.

What unusual and mysterious in Zvartnots Cathedral?

If to understand symbolics, then there is nothing mysterious in the temple. Zvartnots - one of the few Christian shrines which in the geometry display the most ancient pre-Christian symbolics.

The cross in a circle means the shown Space or the World divided into four parts: the vertical line represents the Man`s Spiritual Beginning, and the horizontal line - Matter or the Feminine. Adding aspect of Perpetual Motion to this symbol, we receive the World Wheel - the Swastika, the Sun symbol. Freely standing columns, supplementing the basis, display the shown Space in the Movement. The eagle - the Sun symbol, the known symbol of Egypt and Sumer, removed to Armenia.

In Armenia since the first centuries of Christianity to XII - go centuries there was a big community of Christians - solntsepoklonnik. Toramanyan found petroglyphs of Gnostics in temple ruins. Architects of the Armenian temples of the early Middle Ages could be Gnostics.

Round buildings, similar Zvartnotsa, were in the ancient time erected for cult service (mysteries) and Dedication. The font in the center of the temple symbolized material manifestation when Spiritual Fire connected to water in a font. The round hall was called epopteya, and passed dedication - epopt, highest Devoted.

Zvartnots initially was not popular in the church environment - fathers of church guessed true purpose of the temple. Zvartnots could suffer partially in 930, but not collapse - the temple collapsed gradually, not without participation of people. The architect Trdat in 1001 saw Zvartnots whole. Any temple like Zvartnots did not escape.


the Pole - the entrance, massive columns standing on the parties of an entrance.

Tetrakonkh - in medieval Armenia ancient type of the centric temple with 4 - x the petal plan.

the Apse - the semicircular ledge of the building blocked by a semi-dome or a close semivault.

During the work on article used materials: E. A. Mirzoyan “Symbolism sources in Christian Architecture of Armenia of late Antiquity and early Middle Ages“.