Armenian Culture - Architecture
The mountainous landscape of the country defined the lines of its architecture. Powerfully and monumentally, like the mountains surrounding them, stand the monuments of medieval architecture. The stony soil, the jags of surrounding ridges and the outlines of architectural monuments merge into a uniform image.
The traditional architecture of Armenia is reflected in temple architecture of churches, monasteries and so forth. The early Middle Age architecture (5 th – 6 th centuries) is represented, basically, by basilicas. A basilica is a structure of rectangular shape divided, as a rule, into three parts by rows of columns; the central part towers over the others. In the end of the 6 th – 7 th centuries appeared Greek-cross and central-domed samples of temple architecture. The symmetrical cross-shaped facade of a temple was decorated with the side arches and crowned by a huge dome visible from distant corners of the temple. Later the temple shapes changed; simple and strict church structures become more elegant and complex. The shapes were improved; new elements such as domical drum were added. But in whole, traditional temple structures possess common basic features.
Monastic complex is a special type of temple architecture. It consisted of a number of elements – a temple, chapels, belfries, household buildings - refectory, library, vestry etc. The complex was often surrounded by a wall with adjacent dwelling houses. A little church was sometimes erected above the main gate. The first monasteries originated in the 7 th century; the 12 th century saw the prosperity period of their construction.
There are a lot of feudal castles across Armenia – fortresses, palaces, castles, caravanserais and bridges. Armenia is often referred to as “the open-air museum”. The magnificent Hellenistic structure Garni, the Sun Temple (3 rd – 2 nd BC), domed Echmiadzin temple (4 th century), Zvartnotz (7 th century), and the medieval jewel – Gegard (4 th – 13 th centuries) are known all over the world.