Sisavan Church

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VII AD - Syunik Marz

Sisavan Church

Among the architectural monuments of early medieval Armenia, compositions of Avan-Hripsime type occupy a special place. They are the results of many generations of creative searching in this architectural country. The earliest building of this type is the temple in Avan, built in the end of the VI c. During VII c in Armenia a number of temples of this type were built, with Hripsime (618) serving as a prototype for them. At the end of the VII c in the historic province of Syunik in Sisavan (now the regional center Sisian) was raised a temple of the same type, which reaches us in good condition. It's tetrakonk tops the lower rectangular walls. The beams situated in front of the eastern and western apses make the construction look taller. The compositional center of the temple appears to be the space under the belfry, and four apses join it through the main axis. The three-quartered obstinate bays serve as passages to the corner square rooms. The temple has two entries- from the west and south.

The essential apses of the temple have three windows each, and the side windows enter into deep bays of triangular cuts. The passage under the belfry is tromplike. The main tromps of first row are situated over the corner bays and make the organic part of the tall, octahedral from inside and twelve-hedral from outside drum of the dome.

On the top cut of the drum eight little tromps are situated, which form a direct passage to the circular foundation of the dome.

Upon entering, the entire temple opens up to you. On strong bases situated in the corners of the space under the dome, which make the organic part of the outward walls lean on underdome arches, carrying the whole top part of the monument. The harmonic combination of these components makes a clear, mutually balanced structure, particular to this type of temple.

The volume-spatial solution of Sisavan Church, especially its outward masses, repeats the traditional system with crosslike top and lower rectangular parts.

The most emphasized elements of the facade are the tongs that cross in the middle and tall bays of triangle cut. Under where the tongs cross the under-dome square is situated. The octahedral from inside and twelve-hedral from outside drum of the dome is plastic enriched with decorative arches on pair columns.

The decorative decorations of the temple are skillfully worked out: all its motives were well known in VI-VII cc. The Sisavan Church stands out with its relevant relieves. They are situated as on the facade, and in the interior of the church. In the depth of western and southern bays the pictures of well-off men are placed. On the western facade the relief of the protector of the temple- Hovanes is situated, and on the cornice towards the main axis of the temple the evangelists pictures are placed.

Still the most interesting from the point of view of artistic impressiveness are the well preserved reliefs, whose corresponding inscriptions are situated in the interior of the erection- on small tromps. Inside the northeastern small tromp the picture of the owner of Sunik-Kaozat is placed. To the left is the picture of priest Teodoros, and to the right- the relief of episcop of Sunik-Hovsep is placed. The pictures surely have some special characterization as they represent the main persons that founded the temple. The relief of prince Koazat especially stands out. He has almond-shaped eyes, distinctive, but not straight features.


Similar in type to the church of Saint Hripsime, this monument of Syunik is classified with the Armenian central cupola'd churches. It was built in basalt during the second half of the 7th century. Its sober and expressive form as well as the harmony of its plan and volumes, evinces the spirit of Armenian religious architecture at the height of the Middle Ages. [Paragraph Source: Monuments of Armenia]

The road uphill from the prominent Soviet monument to those who fell in 1921 during the Sovietization of Zangezur (i.e., fighting the Dashnaks) leads to a cemetery to Sisian's Karabakh martyrs, and from there to the Sisavan church, also known as S. Hovhannes or Syuni Vank. The church was built by Prince Kohazat and Bishop Yovsep I between 670 and 689, and restored in the 19th and 20th centuries. There are sculpted reliefs of the builders somewhere on the church. [Paragraph Source: Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook.]




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