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ARMENIANS AND HAGIA-SOFIA
Culture

ARMENIANS AND HAGIA-SOFIA

We know very little about the biography of Trdat the Architect (Ճարտարապետ). The years of Trdat's life fell at a time when Bagratid Armenia was at the peak of its cultural development, and the Architect himself played an important role in that. His most significant and large-scale construction was the Mother Cathedral in the capital of Armenia, in the city of Ani.

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The scale of the Armenian capital can be visualized based on the data on the population, which by the 11th century exceeded 100,000 people. For comparison, in the same period, the population of London did not exceed 40,000 people. Also, this city remained in history as “the city of one thousand and one churches.” Indeed, in connection with the transfer of the Armenian Church Catholicosate to the capital, the rapid construction of Christian churches began.

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Fragment of the Ani Cathedral

The construction of the Cathedral lasted for twelve years, from 989 to 1001. And just at that time (in 989) an earthquake occurred in the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, which caused significant damage to the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia. Trdat the Architect was invited to manage the reconstruction, in particular, he was engaged in the restoration of the dome, which gave the cathedral its majestic look.


Trdat is notable not only for constructing significant buildings, but also for making a great contribution to the culture of his time, bringing a new style to architecture.

Polish and Austrian art critic, a specialist in the field of Byzantine art, Josef Strzygowski, speaks about Armenian architecture and directly indicates that it was the source of such architectural styles as Gothic and Romantic:

“From there, from the land of two rivers and the plateau of Ararat,” he writes, “there is an evolution that deprives the ground of its Hellenistic predecessor. The movement, which we all call Romanesque and Gothic, is based on one direction, on a different one, which, however, appeared throughout the Middle Ages - the Renaissance (...)”


The famous French historian and archaeologist Charles Texier (1802-1871), based on the results of his expedition to Asia Minor and Armenia in 1833, also claimed that the Gothic style came to Western Europe, in particular, to France from Armenia.

Let’s remember that Gothic was the dominant style in European architecture for three centuries: from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 16th century.

Sketches of the Ani temples of Charles Texier after his expedition

Armenian culture is much more original than we can imagine, and the world community has yet to appreciate its contribution to the European civilizations. In this regard, a quote by the Austrian historian Elisabeth Bauer is noteworthy:

“Despite the fact that little is known about Armenia, Europe, in terms of cultural heritage, owes a lot to it. At the dawn of history, Armenia was one of the cradles of civilization ... In the first millennium BC, Armenia's economy, arts and traditions were so developed that its culture stimulated Egypt, Greece and Rome, both materially and spiritually."

Caucasian scholar David Leng, who wrote a book about the history of Armenia, called them “Armenians. Creative People ". Indeed, creativity is the main characteristic of the people, which made a great contribution not only to the formation of their culture, but also to that of neighboring nations. So, it is quite natural that the destruction of the Christian heritage in Turkey, in particular, the transformation of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, does not concern only Greeks, but also Armenians, who are not just sympathetic fellow believers, but who also contributed to the construction of the main Christian symbol of the East.

Armenia stands against those who turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, those who do not appreciate art and architecture, or steal it, passing it off as their own or “gifting” it to the peoples enslaved by them.

Author: Artur Maghakyan

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