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Talin Cathedral

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VII AD - Aragatsotn Marz

Talin Cathedral and Church (foreground)
Talin Cathedral - interior
Talin Cathedral frescoes

Talin (Թալին) is one of the oldest settlements of Aragatsotn Marz. It is mentioned even in I-II cc events, as well as in the writings of medieval Armenian historians - Stepanos Taronatsi, Mkhitar Ayrivantsi and Vardan Vardapetsi. On the territory of Talin some remainders of medieval constructions were found inadvertantly during excavations.

Katoghike church is the most important of Talin's historical-architectural monuments. The exact date of foundation is not known. From a number of existing manuscripts the oldest was dated 783, which mentioned the priest Ukhtoitur and his brother Totl, who brought water to Talin from Sarakapat field.

Being different by plan and volume-spatial foundation, it is similar to Zvartnots by architectural details (pillars, frescos, etc). This became a reason for the explorers to consider Talin's construction to be Zvartnots' contemporary and refer its construction to Nerses Kamsarakan (the constructor of Talin's small church), who lived in VII c and is known in history by the nickname "Churchbuilder".

The big temple of Talin is a unique monument of Armenian Church architecture and belongs to three-nave vaulted type of basilicas. Its prototype in the beginning of VII c is the reconstructed Dvin's St. Gregory temple, which from three-nave basilica turned into three-bayed temple. That was achieved by adding bays into the longitudinal walls, which were half-rounded from inside and polyhedral from outside. This new idea of foundation, improved in Talin's temple, became a complete, independent and the unique example of early medieval church type. In contrast to the prototype, in the scheme of the temple the mutual connection of some separate parts and symmetry of the whole picture is corrected.

The roomy, east-west rectangular praying hall's largest bay (eastern) and side (southern and northern) bays stand out marking the temple's length and width axis. The temple had five entries, one from west, and the others from north and south.

The big windows of all the walls lightened the praying hall. The outward architectural decorations of the temple are similar to the monuments of first and second half of VII c (Zvartnots, Aruch, Artik). The corners of each of the bays are decorated with a pair of pilasters, which serve as bearings for each of the border arches.

In the capitals and the arches such motives as are leaves and fruits of vine and pomegranate were used. The polyhedral drum of the dome is decorated with similar motives.

The shape and the expressive means of main entrance, western wall's pair of bays and all the windows are harmonic, represent Talin's stylistic description and are dear to Armenian architectural customs of VII c.

This remarkable monument was half-destroyed because of the earthquakes in 1840 and 1931. It was partly fastened in 1947 and essentially reconstructed in 1972-1976. During the work, excavations found a one-nave basilica, remainders of palace building, and pedestals.

The Holy Virgin (Kamsarakans) Church is situated southeast of the big church. According to undated building inscription, the owner of Shirak and Arsharunik -Nerses Kamsarakan, built it. Lithographs date the inscription to 30's of the VII c.

It belongs to simple, cruciform small type of churches, which in early medieval times appeared in various versions. The most interesting part of the architectural foundation is the square underdome space crowned with the dome leaning on polyhedral drum. Three of four rectangle wings of the square have half-rounded apses, and the western, a little stretched wing is rectangle from inside too (here open the southern and western doors). In general simple architecture beautifully stand out the western main entrance, arches of the windows and rack cornices.

The remainders of cistern's weir are situated 200-250 m to northeast from Katoghike church. From the medieval water-supply construction remains the concrete part.

Cemetery erections: These are unique examples of early medieval architecture that were erected in environs of big and small temples (now transferred to the museum of Armenian History). Being the prototype of Armenian khachkar, in IV-VII cc widely spread in Armenia this monuments consist of cube-shaped pedestal and monument put on it. The pedestal and the monument are decorated with Christian high reliefs.

The cathedral of Talin was built in the second half of the 7th century by the Kamasarakan princes. In its layout and spatial conception, it is a perfect specimen of the threenaved cupola'd basilica, the archetype of which is Saint Grigor at Dvin, rebuilt at the beginning of the 7th century. One modification distinguishes it from other cruciform cupola'd basilicas, however; the central square under the cupola is closer to the east altar, the west part of the church being extended. The apses, jutting out on the north and the south, are semicircular on the inside and polygonal on the outside. The polygonal exterior of these apses is finely decorated with blind arches, resting on twin columns. The polygonal drum of the dome repeats the same motifs. The influence of Zvartnots is plainly evident in the architectural details of this cathedral. [Paragraph Source: Monuments of Armenia]


According to the inscription engraved over its entrance, Prince Nerses Kamsarakan built the little church of Talin in the 7th century, which is why it is also called the church of the Kamsarakan. Rather small in size, it is built cross-shaped. The apses, semi-circular in the interior, are compressed on the outside into a thick rectangular mass. This well-preserved church maintains, in its general proportions as well as in its details, the characteristics of Armenian architecture in the high Middle Ages.

Turning from the main road toward Talin (4591 v), the 2nd or 3rd right turn leads to a large cemetery in which are the impressive remains of an important cathedral church* very similar to the 7th c. church at Aruch . Nearby is a smaller S. Astvatsatsin church, built in the 7th c. According to the inscription, "I Nerseh the patrician proconsul, lord of Shirak and Asharunik, built this church in the name of the Holy Mother of God for her intercession for me and my wife Shushan and Hrapat my son." Two Nersehs are attested as Byzantine governor, one from the reign of the Emperor Heraclius in 639, the other from the reign of Justinian II in 689. Somewhere in the vicinity are remnants of a medieval castle. [Paragraph Source: Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook.]


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