Astghik A. Babajanyan
The study refers to Armenian Christian relics and especially reliquaries. After legalization of Christian worship ecclesiastical architecture started to flourish with wide impetus, in which the construction of sanctuary-martyria at sites of martyrdom occupies a significant place as relics are an important aspect of the medieval Christian cultural heritage. First of all, the role of relics is important in the organization of holy space of the sanctuary which is comprehended as a monumental reliquary. Later the role of relics increased at such an extent that portable reliquaries were made to keep relics. Their forms became important source of studying the medieval iconography.
Armenian Apostolic church also adopted the tradition of keeping relics in reliquaries. The main forms of reliquaries in Armenia were rectangular boxes, cross shaped, right hand shaped.
A comprehensive research of relics and reliquaries is impossible to introduce with one report that’s why the research is going to be continual. In this article I emphasize on the cult of John the Baptist in Armenia and the geography of spreading of his relics, introducing a unique example of a reliquary which is kept at a special treasury of the St Etchmiadzin cathedral. It was created in Adana in the 14th century and was furbished in 1670.
The uniqueness of this reliquary is in its conformation; the three forms of reliquaries accepted in Armenia – the casket, the cross and the right hand are concentrated in one. As we know, in the medieval period everything had to correspond to canonicity, thus allowing nearly no deviations.
The great interest of John the Baptist’s Reliquary is not only of its form, symbolism, inscription with important information, but it is also a wonderful piece of art, adorned with precious gems, which create harmonic coherence of subtle color shades.