10:23 pm - Friday November 28, 2014

Karabakh’s cult Architecture (part 2)

The fortress planning was carried out in two stages. The foundation of the fortress was designed at the first stage, while during the second, the construction  was moved  from the relatively quiet  eastern  section  to the west which had a much rougher terrain. Most of the construction ac- tivities commenced  under the rule of the son of Panah Khan, Ibrahim- Khalil Khan (1760-1806), who forti- fied the walls of the Shusha fortress. It is worth indicating that  the  Askeran fortress was erected  by Ibra- him  Khan’s  brother,  Mehrali Khan [ref]Ahmed-bek Javanshir, The History of the Karabakh khanate, Baku, 1961; P.  Zubov,  The  Historical Caucasus novel. A Karabakh astrologist or the establishment of the Shusha for- tress,  St. Petersburg,  1834; V.  Dorn, The Caspian, St. Petersburg, 1975; The Caucasian Calendar for 1855[/ref].
Major researches have been dedicated to studying Azerbaijani architecture in modern times. These researches have identified the main features of the formation and devel- opment  of the  country’s architec- ture and its unique national forms.

The evolution of Azerbaijan’s architecture represents a complete cycle which fits quite well into the development of the Near East and subse- quently of Central Asia and Western Europe.
The architecture of Caucasian Albania is a link in this single process. Alban architectural monuments emerged   as  a  visible expression of the  people’s  powerful  creative potential. Every monument  contains features characteristic of the epoch in which it was created. The monumental cult architecture of Caucasian Albania was noted for its uniqueness  and  identity, as is the case in other countries of the Chris- tian world. It wasn’t like any other architecture. But at the same time, it was subordinated to the tendencies (development laws) we have been observing  in other  countries  and regions.
Holding a special place in the Caucasian Albania architecture are the  cult structures of  Karabakh. Their appearance  in this his- torical region meant  that  people’s religious beliefs had significantly strengthened. Therefore, cult structures acquired a certain social, political, cultural and ethnic function [ref]R. Geyushev, Christianity of Caucasian Albania, Baku,  1984; D.  Akhundov, The Architecture of ancient and early medieval Azerbaijan, Baku, 1986; G. Mamedova, Cult architecture of Caucasian Albania, 1997[/ref].
Rectangular temples triggered the development  of hall-vault churches. The performance of cult rituals necessitated   the  construction of domes, which led to the creation of central dome temples and basilicas.
Information about the construction of Christian cult structures in Karabakh is mainly preserved in Alban narrative sources, most notably “The  History of the  Country of Al- bania” by Moses of Kalankatuyk, the main reference on the history and architecture of Caucasian Albania. The author dwells upon the first church built in Karabakh after Christianity was declared state  religion. This is how the Amaras temple  emerged. Archaeological excavations have re- vealed that this is a three-aisled basilica. A chapel was built in the same monastery in the  early 6th   century during the times of Vachagan III [ref]R. Geyushev, Christianity of Caucasian Albania, Baku, 1984[/ref].Another chapel of St. Panteleimon was built in Dutakan, the native village of King Vachagan  III. Moses of Kalankatuyk suggests that Alban Catholicos Gregory built  a church “in the great city of the Agvan rule, Tsri”. The historian also provides  detailed  information  about the monasteries built by the great Alban prince Javanshir.

Describing the history of his country and the deeds of Alban kings and  princes,  Moses  of  Kalankatuyk pays special attention  to their construction activities. Vachagan III alone built as many churches as there are days in a year. Also engaged  in the  construction  of cult structures and landscaping were Alban princes. The  wife of Prince Spram built a monastery and deco- rated it in a splendid manner.
One of the  most important  di- rections of Christian architecture in Karabakh was the rapid development  of monastery  complexes  [ref]V. Kerimov, G. Mamedova, Complex of St. Elisha and its architectural paral- lels in adjoining countries. Reports of the Second International Sympo- sium, Baku, 1997[/ref].
The construction  of cult buildings inside large monasteries, which also served as family shrines,  was considered  particularly prestigious. Monasteries were viewed as cen- ters of spiritual and public life of the  country. In fact, major monastic ensembles emerged,  such as  Agoglan  (Lachin District),  Khudavank  (Kalbajar  District), Amaras (Shamkir  District), Gutavan (Gadrut District). They reflected the most advanced architectural and construc- tion achievements of the time. The examination and research of the cult structures that  were part of these ensembles provide a glimpse of the monumental architecture of that epoch. In Karabakh, monasteries appeared  in the early middle ages. This represents irrefutable evidence that as early as in the 5th  century there was a large number of mon- asteries in Albania that played a certain role in the economic and cultural life of the state.
Due to  the  overall cultural development in Azerbaijan in the 12-13th   centuries, the  construction  of monasteries reached its heyday and remarkable architectural ensembles started  emerging. The monumental buildings reflected new ideas of artistic expression and courageous design solutions. This was a period when monasteries became  centers of spiritual and secular culture.
One of Karabakh’s biggest monasteries is Khudavank or Dadivank. A legend links its name with Dadi, one of the students of apostle Faddei. Faddei, the  brother  of apostle Thomas, was one of 72 junior apos- tles sent to pagan countries for ser- mon [ref]F. Mamedova, Political history and historical geography of Caucasian Albania, Baku, 1986[/ref].
Moses of Kalankatuyk writes, “We, residents of the East, have received apostle Faddei who died the death of a martyr at the hands of Sanatruk”. The legend  goes  that  one  of his students Dadi, who also died as a martyr, was buried in Small Sunik. A monastery was subsequently built on his grave and named after him.
The monastery was refurbished and  new  buildings constructed  in it in the 13th  century at the expense of Alban Prince Vakhtang ( Vakhram). The main church of the Alban Catholicos was built here by Princess Arzu, the  wife of Prince Vakhtang, in 1214. Further south  of the  cult ensemble  there  is another  church of the  Khudavank complex  – the church of Great Hasan.
The Ganjasar (Ganzasar) monastery, established  on a tall and picturesque highland on the Khachinchay river near the Vank- lu village, represents an interest- ing combination. This is the best- known   Alban  monastery   that was a residency of the last Alban Catholicos until 1863 (R. Geyushev, On the confessional and ethnic background  of the Ganzasar monastery. Azerbaijan’s material culture, Vol. 6, 1965).
The Gutavan monastery com- plex is mentioned in “The History of the Country of Albania” in connection with the Partav cathedral. The same-named  fortress adjoining the monastery was the residency of Alban princes from the 9th century.
Karabakh’s cult architecture is represented by numerous monuments. It embodies strong construction  traditions going  back to  the depth  of centuries. The monastery ensembles  harmoniously interlocking with mountain  views are clear evidence of the high level of skill of Alban architects. At the same time, these monuments  form an integral part of the centuries-long Karabakh architecture.

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The Amaras monastery (Khojavand District)

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The Ganjasar monastery (Agdara District)

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Filed in: Architecture, Karabakh Culture

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