Sunday, April 13, 2008

Holy Lance Church in Armenia

Many people know that the discovery of the Holy Lance in Antioch saved the First Crusade. Today English Russia posted several pictures of an alternate site for the Holy Lance, at a church in Armenia. I've also heard the Lance was at Constantinople (which led some churchmen at Antioch during the crusade to doubt the reality of the just-discovered one).

This rather odd art looks strangely familiar to me. What am I thinking of? Readers?

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Anonymous Colin said...

These images are extremely beautiful. Unfortunately I don't know other locations with similar engravings, though they do look rather familiar. I wish the article would have more information on the church than it does, but the images alone are satisfying.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

Phil Paine says:

This is the Aght'amar Church of Sourp Khatch [or Holy Cross] located on the island of Aght'amar in Lake Van, Turkey. It was built between 915-921. These dates are given in an Armenian chronicle that I read in 1993,

7401. (Thomas Artsruni) History of the House of Artsrunik’ [doc. 1303AD]

which describes the reliefs and tells a story about how they came to be created. The church was intended to glorify the reign of Kagik (or Gagik) Artsruni, King of Vasburagan, a buffer state between the Byzantines and the Buyahid fragment of the Caliphate. Local craftsmen were Muslim, and ustomarily built in wood. Also, they would not sculpt reliefs
representing humans or animals. So Kagik commissioned a local monk named Manuel to build the church. It is an asymmetrical etraconch, decorated with frescoes and sculpted bas-reliefs. The sculpted reliefs are described in the chronicle, and attributed to his hand. Animal figures, real and
fabulous, dominate the portions of the church associated with the Artsruni family. They are much the same animals that later appear in the Animal Fables of Mxit'ar Gosh, a major intellectual figure in Armenian life of the late 12th and early 13th centuries (he codified Armenian law). Other portions of the church relate tales from the bible, such as Daniel in the Lions' Den, and The Burning Fiery Furnace, as well as the Four Evangelists.

This unique individual creation is a fine example of a local, folkloric art style escaping the dominant metropolitan influences of Byzantine. Persian and Abbasid art. The style established itself locally, and persisted over several centuries.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

Phil Paine writes:

Just thought of something that might explain the sense of familiarity.
I'm pretty sure the church, and perhaps the art, appear in a music video for the excellent electronica group Juno Reactor, which had pretty heavy play on Muchmusic around, I think 1998. It might also have appeared in the Adam Egoyan film "Ararat".

5:59 PM  
Blogger Steve Muhlberger said...

That's not why I think they look familiar. I'll keep thinking.

6:00 PM  

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