Temple of Zvartnots: The History of Foundation
Early medieval civil constructions of Armenia almost didn’t preserve. During wars in the first place were destroyed residential and public buildings. For that reason all the known massive secular constructions of Armenian architecture built from 4th to 6th centuries were found during the excavations. The most remarkable of the founding was the monastery complex of Zvartnots, which is located 5 km away from Etchmiadzin.
Zvartnots Palace Complex includes St. Gregory Temple, which is also known as the temple of Celestial angels and Vigil forces. According to some sources, the construction of the temple, the founder of which is Catholicos Nerses III (known as The Builder) started in 641-643 years and was conducted with intervals of 20 years.
Temple of Zvartnots: Architectural Characteristics
There is a reason why three-staged round temple of Vigil forces got its name “Zvartnots”. The word “zvart” means “decorated”, “joyfully-beautiful” in Armenian. From the stylobate to the dome the temple was decorated with sculptural panels.
Zvartnots remained standing for over 300 years, and was destroyed by earthquake between 925-1000, after which no attempts were made to reconstruct it. Excavations conducted in 1900-1907 discovered the architectural complex, where in addition to the temple, the palace buildings were found. The temple was erected in a center of a multi-stage seven-graded stylobate and in its planned composition the temple is represented as a cross inscribed in a circle.
The architectural ensemble of Zvartnots was lately reproduced, both in Armenia and beyond, although with certain differences. The impression of the temple was so great that Trdat, by the order of the king Gagik I Bagratuni, erected the temple of St. Gregory (Gagikashen) in the capital of the Armenian kingdom of Shirak – Ani, which repeated the architecture of Zvartnots Temple. On the analogy of Zvartnots some temples such as Banak in Tayk and Lyakit in Caucasian Albania were built in 7th century. The influence of Zvartnots is traced in many Armenian monuments up until the 11th century.
Today on the site of Zvartnots palace complex are situated an archaeological park and a museum which stores some reconstruction models of the temple, many sculptural details and an ancient gravestone, with a Greek inscription, which says: “Built by Nerses. Remember”. This inscription shows that Zvartnots Monastery was built by Armenian catholicos Nerses Tayetsi. In 2000 Zvartnots was added in the UNESCO World Heritage List.