Stone calendar

From the history of Armenian coins. 1.First Armenian coins

The coins of kings of Sophene (Tsopk) dated to the second half of the 3rd century BC are believed to the first Armenian coins.
Coat of arms of Erivan (Yerevan 1843 y.)

On the green field silver Echmiatsin church with golden domes and crosses.
Coat of arms of Tiflis

Coat of arms of Tiflis (1843) consisted of two parts:

In traditional housekeeping at Armenians the pottery prevailed.

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A. L. Yakobson ARMENIAN CROSS STONES (KHACHKARS) Summary Armenian cross stones (khachkars) are vivid, sanguineous phenomena in medieval art. Crosses, carved on stelae long ago beginning from the 5-6th centuries, serving as memorial or exhortational monuments in Christian countries, were known to Egypt, Northern Caucasus, Europe and northern Russia. In Armenia, however, khachkars are embodied with an especially rich artistic content and are valuable achievements in Armenian monumental art. Khachkars developed from cross monuments, originally wooden and later of stone. In the 4-th century, as Armenian historians tell, they were erected on pillars or columns on the sites of ancient destroyed pagan sanctuaries and were evidence of the victor of Christianity. Such memorials reflected the deep-rooted ancient traditions of one- or twocolumned memorial structures, well-known in Assyria, a neighbour of Armenia. Later in the Middle Ages, the pillar or column was replaced by a high massive stylobate. The architectural nature of structures dominated; the khachkar remained, in essence, a form of „minor architecture". Khachkars were many-sided from the functional point of view. Their primary meaning was memorial. Later khachkars, in the form of stelae, were placed on roads to assist passers-by; they served as kinds of talismans. In the 11th century and later, when khachkars had been formed and their composition become classic, they had various functions, preeminently memorial in nature. Khachkars were prepared to note different steps in the building and economic activities of secular and religious feudals, as well as outstanding events in the life of the state. In this work, khachkars are classified chronologically and typologically: they are analysed according to their artistic elements and rich ornaments. This study is based on chronological principles which permit showing the gradual progress in the artistic content of khachkars. Chapter I. Forerunners of khachkars were early medieval circular or octahedral columns or squares of pillared sections with crosses carved in them and crowned with bulky crosses placed freely. Such pillars of the 6-7th centuries were found at Garnahovit, Akarak, Arich, Talin and Mren. The surface of the pillars is decorated with winding vines and dangling clusters of grapes. The sides of the pillars are often framed by 3/4 columns giving the pillar an architectural effect. The bulky crosses crowning the pillars are often larger in size and stand out for their laconic style and are very elaborated along generalized lines, which conform to the placing of such crosses on high columns or pillars. These crosses were usually decorated; on the lower end there were wide, symmetrically cut palmetto leaves, gracefully curving and eaching the transversal arms of the cross It was from such bulky crosses, i. e., crosses on stelae, that khachkars originated. That is evidenced by 9-10th century khachkars as the one in Khacharan of 898 and that of 952 from Ani, very laconic and almost identical with the free cross of Dvin. Chapter II. The earliest khachkars of the 9-10th centuries, in the form of stelae and preserved near Talin, are varied and of different types. This is evidence of the fact that khachkars were just being formed. A large, circular khachkar (diam. 1.8 m.) is most interesting for its high relief, tour-pointed cross with equal arms and wide split ends. The narrow hollow space between the arms of the cross are filled with palmetto leaves having folded ends; the drawings of the palmetto leaves being of the 9th century. The circular form of the khachkar was undoubtedly well thought out and deeply symbolic, as everything connected with worship That shape, it may be thought, reflects the ancient east-Christian idea of the cosmic circle — the sky, heavenly sphere in the form of which, as early as at the dawn of the Middle Ages, the heavenly firmament was conceived, in the dome of the temple of which the church fathers wrote as early as in the 4-5th centuries. Circular khachkars were unknown later on. There is a very unique khachkar in Haghartsin unlike the others; the cross is completed with an elongated oval formed by thin palmetto leaves. At the upper end of the cross there is a presentation of the Almighty in a circle with two flying angels supporting him. That is a well-known, widespread early medieval composition of the Ascension of Christ. Just as this picture, so also the nature of the foliage show the date of the khachkar to be the 10th and beginning of the 11th centuries At that time simpler khachkars of crosses with spreading ends are more frequently found. The space between some of tl:e crosses are filled with heavy clusters of grapes, overhung with vines growing from the upper and lower ends of the cross. In the 10th century khachkars with a more complicated drawing appeared, the composition of which, clear-cut and elaborated, show how intensively the process of giving decorative forms to khachkars proceeded. The structure of such khachkars was comparatively complex as if the khachkars were on the borderline of the following epoch, between the 10-11th centuries, when the composition of khachkars was finally established, becoming classic. In this respect the khachkar dated 996 from Noratus? is very interesting. The ornamented cross, vegetative sprouts surrounding the cross from above and below and ending with rosettes, form a regular rhombus in which the cross in carved. As for the external outline of this figure, it is an elongated oval. The vegetative decorations of the khachkar as a whole, keen and laconic, are penetrated by a unified, rigid rhythm and is very impressive. Thus in the 10th century, the classic composition of the khachkar was formulated; the features of its basic composition were clearly defined. The most essential of these were graphic clarity, rigidness and compactness of decoration to which vegetative ornamentation is completely subjected, attaining geometricized features. Chapter III. It was these features that developed further in the 11th century; as a matter of fact this process was very intensive. Numerous khachkars are evidence of this fact, chiefly those in rich monasteries. Dated khachkars served as a starting point for analysis. More characteristic of khachkar? are vertical orientation of geometricized foliage. Such khachkars are rather numerous; their composition was formulated undoubtedly as early as the 11th century, but they became especially popular in the 12-13th centuries. In all these khachkars, the crosses are placed under a semi-circular arch, i. e., in the portal with narrow semicolumns. Horizontally spread palmetto leaves are placed under the cross. Stylobates are presented under all the khachkars Three beautiful large khachkars of the 12th-beginning of the 13th centuries with this very same decorative composition are to be found in Odzun. The architectural interpretation of all such khachkars is very vivid; later on they remained characteristic elements of khachkars. Such a more widespread composition of khachkars was formulated in the 11th century and was completely adopted by masters of later centuries, the condensation and great use of ornaments became a more characteristic feature. The drawings of the lower (decorative) part of the cross acquired a geometrical nature and was more removed from the vegetative. Ornamentation and rigid graphic lines became inalienable features of the decoration. Later on, during the 12-13th centuries, these features developed even more. In addition the plasticity of fretwork developed more and more by means of deepening which led to a play of light and shade. The khachkar frame became wider, consisting of one or two vertical pillars, square or rectangular figures interlaced vertically or horizontally with ornamental carvings (mostly geometrical) or with palmetto leaves. In many khachkars their relations with architectural forms were underlined in the shape of portals with semi-circular completions, sometimes multi-spanned. In the 12-13th centuries, master-carvers continued to work out this artistic heritage. Chapter IV. In the 12th century the art of carving khachkars entered a period of flourishment which continued till the 13th century. The number of khachkars created increased. They were placed everywhere, for the most varied reasons in the economic and political life. In addition the verious decorative elaborations of khachkars increased, becoming more and more unique, i. e., there took place that which occured in all the arts of Armenia (and not only Armenia) of that time. Prominent skilled masters appeared, fine carvers on stone; some of them immortalized themselves by placing their names on khachkars. Chapter V The following period of the 14-17th centuries was a period of incessant enemy attacks on Armenia and a decline in the life of the country. Khachkars continued to be created in not small numbers, especially in Vayots Valley and Syunik, on the estates of the Orbelian and Proshian noble families which under the rule of the Mongols, had autonomy and independence to a certain degree. Undoubtedly this favoured the artistic creativity of Armenian architects and sculptors. Among them the outstanding master Momik created beautiful khachkars in the beginning of the 14th century at Noravank. In referring to 14-15th century khachkars, tradition was very influential, to which Armenian carvers on stone of that time adhered. Their khachkars followed old, established classic compositions (of group 1, 2, 3, 4 and the artistic 5th) while group 4 (with smaller crosses in the space between crosses) of the 14th century became especially widespread for its simplicity. Along with these, some deviations of this composition using carvings of different ornamental motifs must be mentioned. These khachkars seem to acquire a compiled effect which reveals a certain regress from artistic carvings. Khachkars may also be found on which the general composition with semipalmetto leaves bending towards the frame became a scheme far from the live, plastic drawings on 13th century khachkars. A new element of additional small crosses appear on 14th century khachkars which began to be included in khachkar frames as well. In some such khachkars, they are found in great numbers. The beautiful khachkar in the village of Dsegh stands out for its fine carvings of winding volutes like stalks and almond-like figures. That was the reason it was called "sirun" (beautiful). This khachkar is imbued with carvings often found on other khachkars of the same time. The result is that separate elements of the composition seem to blend with the ornaments about; thus the clearness of compositional structure of the khachkar is lost. In addition a reduction of the relief and its denseness is very characteristic for 14-15th century khachkars. As it may be seen, 14th century khachkars added very little to the variety of compositional and decorative richness of khachkars from the period of the flourishment in Armenian art. Repetition of the past was, perhaps, more characteristic of Armenian artistic plasticity of that time. A brilliant exception of creative inspiration was the work of Momik and his school during the first half of the 14th century at the Vayots Valley monastery in Noravank. Momik's art and that of his school belonged, in essence, to 13th century art, too. Khachkars of the 15-16th centuries are undoubtedly very interesting. They likewise, have their roots in traditional compositions and traditional ornamentation. Yet they do not lack uniqueness; on the contrary, many khachkars are quite original. In many khachkars the ornamentation is not only arranged differently but is also given another stylistic form, differing from 12-13th century ornamentation. Some 15-16th century khachkars may be classified in group three. They are full of carvings, have wide frames in which crossses are included, blending with the ornamentation and not differing from it in any way. Two khachkars in Kamo, created by masters Arakel and Melikset, are worth mentioning. On one of them, in the lower spaces between crosses, there are flourishing stalks from each side of which there appears a talisman in the form of a siren — an anthropomorphous girl-bird. This bird is sunny and heavenly, embodying the soul of the dead. Such an image was very popular in the Christian and Mohammedan East, especially during the 12-14th centuries, although its roots were early medieval. The siren was known in Armenia (Akhtamar church) beginning from the 10th century up to the 15-16th centuries. As a whole late medieval khachkars which may be classified into groups two and three and have become traditional, clearly show that master-carvers of that period followed the old compositions only externally but departed from them, trying not to limit themselves in the choice and arrangements of ornaments. This is what gives 15-17th century khachkars a unique quality. No less characteristic and symptomatic is another feature of khachkars of that time — being immensely imbued with ornaments, often subduing the compositional structure of khachkars, thus losing clearness and vividness. Its separate elements were dissolved. It is in that overloading with decorations that Armenian carvers of that time, it may be thought, expressed the richness of their works. In the 15-16th century khachkars with a simpler composition, those with smaller crosses (group 4) were more popular. Many khachkars express this composition in a not-so-complex form. However each such khachkar has original features peculiar to it. A great number of late medieval khachkars of group four, similar to khachkars of group two and three, differ in that the smaller crosses are organically included in the ornamentation and blended with it. Five khachkars from Noratus of the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century by master Kiram are examples of this type; two of those khachkars are dated 1582. Smaller crosses are held in the palms of the hands. All five khachkars of Kiram have some common features: extremely fine geometricized ornaments, completely covering the area of the khachkar without free spaces. Low reliefs, as a result of which clarity and vividness of composition is lost, is a feature distinguishing khachkars of the period of nourishment, that of the 12-13th centuries. The relief is expressed by only the basic crosses and stars. Such a unique feature is also characteristic of many other late medieval khachkars (16-17th cent.) of group three and four. Late medieval decorative khachkars are very interesting. They are few in number and mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries. Among them, the 16th century khachkar at Kamo must be noted, which has a representation of Christ on the "peak" with secred animals beside him and anthropomorphous creatures behind; there is a griffon on the right and a bird (probably a siren) on the left. The purpose of these images, connected with the heavens, is to serve as a talisman, protector. The multi-sectioned khachkar at the monastery on the island of Sevan, 1653 (master Trdat) is extraordinarily imbued with presentations of the Crucifixion in the centre; at the bottom of the cross there are kneeling church wardens, while below the cross there is a scene from "Descent into Hades". In the frame there are representations connected with the theme of the "Nativity". Presentations are simplified and schematic. The figures are carried out in the tradition of Armenian monumental sculptures of the Middle Ages. As can be seen, however, they are the work of an untrained artist, since his work lacks the plasticity and mastery characteristic of khachkars of previous times and also its contemporaries. In this respect, the 17th century khachkar in Echmiadzin is contrastingly different in the way it is executed. The khachkar consists of three parts. The main cross with two smaller ones is in the centre, above that there is a scene from the Nativity. There are church wardens on the base of the khachkar. The reliefs of this khachkar are executed in a very traditional manner and don't go beyond the limits of such artistic standards worked out in 12-13th. century Armenian sculpture. The figures are presented in movement; they are generalized yet very dynamic and expressive. These reliefs show how high the masters of that time evaluated their artistic heritage. Interestingly enough, secondary figures such as church wardens and shepherds are depicted in low relief. Finally; the very special and quite localized group of khachkars, 16th to the beginning of the 17th century, in old Djugha (on the Araks River in south Armenia) must be taken into consideration. Djugha's economic prosperity was due mainly to the flourishing silk trade with western Europe. In the cemetery of the now extinct town about 3500 khachkars have been preserved. They used and made variations of old traditional and more popular motifs in a unique way. These motifs, however, were basically elaborated. This refers to the composition of the khachkars themselves, like khachkars of group 2 and 4 and their proportions which were very elongated. The drawings of the carvings also changed; they were more stylicized and higher in relief, rigid and exact. The high relief of carvings brings about strong light and shade and thus the plasticity of khachkars. The rigidness of drawings imparted the Djugha khachkars a certain dryness but with that a vividly expressed peculiarity. That was the final concluding page in the history of khachkars. That the Djugha masters bravely elaborated old motifs Is shown by certain khachkars. Compositional variations of Djugha khachkars with one cross or two, double-tiered (with 4 crosses) and with three niches in each tier are numerous. There are khachkars with pillared friezes. Djugha ornamental khachkars are interesting in their presentation of Christ, kneeling church wardens below him, the Virgin and child, scenes from the Ascension. A horseman is depicted in the lower part of many khachkars and alongside him there are scenes of a feast with one to three figures seated cross-legged. They were probably the personages to whom the khachkar was dedicated. In the upper part of khachkars there are often double presentations of anthropomorphous winged griffons, fused in their chests, with one head and dragon heads at the ends of their tails. They are apparently sacred images having the function of talismans. This image was deeply traditional, being known since the 11-12th centuries. It is worth mentioning that the upper presentations (secred in content) were of high relief while the lower ones, secular in content (church wardens) were planed. The contents, It may be seen, corresponds to its artistic expression. Such are these complex khachkars from Djugha imbued with carvings in (he form of traditional elements but stylistically elaborated in appearance. Khachkars are likewise plastic and artistic in their execution as were their outstanding forerunners of the 12-13 and beginning of the 14th century. These are, nevertheless, creations of a new, late medieval art, far from the Armenian monumental decorative classic style. In this lies the historical significance of the Djugha khachkars of the late Middle Ages. These khachkars are convincing evidence of the creative rise which appeared in that far corner of our country during the decline of Armenian medieval culture. More…

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