The number of sacred monuments (churches, monasteries, chapels, shrines and Khachkars, or stone crosses) is truly mind-boggling. There are more than 5,000 churches, monasteries and chapels in Armenia, and over 20,000 Khachkars in the small territory of the Republic alone!
After a while, seeing all those churches and stone crosses can make the visitor kind of bleary-eyed, especially those who don’t understand their special meaning, and the traditions from whence they came. Basically all the same in central design, none are the same in their details, and it possible to detect earlier Urartian, Hellenistic, Roman, Persian and Arab influences on the design over successive centuries, which make them living museums of the past, and a lot more interesting to see. There are even holdovers’ from Armenia’s most ancient past, in stone carvings representing the zodiac, sun dials, and iconography from her animist and sun worship pagan traditions making their way into the church ornamentation.
But a little architecture primer is required to better appreciate the distinct character of the churches. And believe me, with this primer you will know more than the average local Armenian, and very likely more than even visiting Armenians from the outside world, about the sacred architecture in Armenia. Nothing like being able to knock off a few facts to impress the rest of the group, eh?
Sacred Geometry and Armenian Architecture
Early Christian Architecture and Design
Symbolic Forms in Armenian Design