Arsen E. Harutyunyan
Key words – Khachkar (cross stone), memorial inscription, church, arrangement, rosette, east, window, the front of altar bema, benefactor.
Khachkars (cross-stones) take a special place in a number of monuments of Medieval Armenia, about which numerous albums, researches and articles have been published. Our immediate reference is related to the khachkars placed on the walls of the churches dating from the 17-18th centuries and and created simultaneously with them. These khachkars have so far not been awarded any attention yet.
As shown by our research, the discussed khachkars are primarily distinguished by their compositional features. In particular, they are characterized by: simplicity of decorative ornaments, ornamental belt and cross in the form of braids, undecorated areas on the cross, the absence of a rosette at the base of the palmettes. The latter circumstance can be explained by the fact that the khachkars were usually built into the upper part of the church walls, and the church itself took the role of the rosette in this case. Similarly, the placement of the khachkars above the window is explained, when the window replaces the rosette forming the compositional unity with the cross, and, being conditioned by the semantics of light, obviously symbolizes Christ and the «star-light» coming of the cross.
The examined cross-stones primarily decorate the eastern walls of the churches, which symbolizes the idea of the direction of the Second Coming of J. Christ. Similar khachkars were also built in the central part of the outer walls, above the main entrance, into the base of the altar, etc. Apparently, this is explained by the perception of the khachkar as an intermediary between the God and the believer.
Some memorable inscriptions are often placed on the built-in khachkars. The latter transmit documentary information about the creation of the building, the customer and his relatives, the caretaker of the church, and sometimes the master-builder of the church.
The examined type of late medieval khachkars is distinguished mainly by its compositional, functional and memorable features, thanks to which the art of creating khachkars found its new and original manifestation also in the 17th-18th centuries.