Yereruyk Basilica

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V AD - Shirak Marz

Yereruyk Church

Approaching Shirak via the border highway from Armavir, you enter the Marz just after the village of Tlik. A faded metal pillar commemorating a now-forgotten Party Congress marks the turnoff for the village of Ani-Pemza (312 v., till 1938 Kzkule) on the Akhurian river gorge. The village gets its name from the pumice mines nearby, which bury the town in fine dust. Approaching the village, you see on the right the imposing remains of the Yereruyk (Երէրույք) basilica* of the 5th c.; there is an early Iron Age cemetery in the valley just N of the basilica.

[Paragraph Source: Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook.]

This monument is not only a famous achievement of Armenian classical architecture, but also that of early Christian period. It is situated not far from Bagratuny's capital Ani, in Shirak's historical Yereruyk settlement, on a not very tall hill in the northern side of Yereruyk artificial water-well. It was built from the local light orange stone of Ani.

The scheme represents a 11,5 x 26,6m a rectangle hall between the four corner rooms of which outside vaulted halls were built. From all the sides basilica is encircled with many-stepped socles. In present preserved the almost original walls, the main apse and the vestibules next to it, part of the north-western walls, the remainders of outer halls and socles.

The inside space of the hall was divided into a wide (the central one) and two narrow naves by means of three pairs of pillars.

The remainders of the wall in south-western corner show that walls had been raised over the arches of the main nave (here surely were windows to light the room).

The three windows on the western side built with pleasant outline and simetry served for the same purpose. The main nave was raised from the other naves and hall got so-called "basilica-cut". The small naves and the corner rooms had tuff-covered roofs, the type of the roof of the central nave is unknown.

To give the archade of the main nave more official and noble look they were placed 40cm above the hall's floor on a special platform.

At first Yereruyk's basilica had a comparatively simple construction to which in different periods were added the western hall with its adjacent rooms, the outer halls from southern and northern sides and the socles.

The additions were done with great mastery and artistic taste, and a new, true to its period's soul, whole architectural construction was created. The scheme of the basilica proves the point that the most official and the largest part of it was the western part. The southern and northern corner rooms of it came out from the western wall and created a roomy area in front of the hall. A vaulted hall was created on that area, the horse-shoe-shaped arche rows of which connecting with each other the corner rooms, and together with the tall silhouette of the hall created a step by step rising architectural harmonized unit. The southern part was constructed very skillfully too. The strong row of outside arches rising on the socles in both ends was enclosed in corner room walls and creating a game of light and shadow harmonized with the southern wall built with great enthusiasm. The entries of southern side, the windows placed above them and the architectural unique-style beautiful simmetry and rich details even in half destroyed condition saved the artistic impressiveness of theirs and are pleasant for eye today too. The architectural details were processed with artistic delicate taste.

The architecture of Yereruyk's basilica descended from the previous before Christianity period art, was in some contact with the neighboring Christian nations' (Syria) architecture and in its turn gave rich material to the next period of Armenian architectural-building art.

Yereruyk Church interior
Yereruyk Church side wall


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