Armenian Culture - Khachkars
Each culture possesses a certain original element which becomes a symbol of the entire national culture. In Armenia such symbol is “khachkar”, the so-called crosses-stones, the monuments of Armenia which are not found anywhere in the world. The word “khachkar” is formed by two Armenian roots: “khach” (cross) and "kar" (stone).
Khachkar is an art - decorative-architectural sculptures based on the ancient national traditions and made in a variety of shapes. Khachkars originated in the beginning of the 4 th century right after the adoption of Christianity. Instead of the pagan altars and in the places allocated for churches and monasteries wooden crosses were installed. Since wood was not durable, they were replaced by stone ones, and starting from the 9 th century with the images of crosses on stone rectangular slabs. At the same time khachkars were installed on various occasions: to commemorate a victory or completion of another temple or bridge, to thank God for a plot of land. They served as landmarks and very frequently as sepulchral monuments.
The central symbol of any khachkar was a new-born, growing like a tree or a flower, cross - the symbol of new eternal life. Under the cross they cut a circle: the circle with the cross on it symbolized celebration of Christian faith. Above the cross they usually placed common Christian faiths symbols of four evangelists - an eagle, a lion, a bull and an angel. For Armenians they were four beginnings of the universe - fire, water, earth and air.
The stone-cutters who made khachkars were called varpets. Their art is alive and is in demand even now. Khachkars keep the spirit of Armenian people, the entire divinity of Armenian Apostolic Church.
The biggest cemetery with ancient khachkars in Armenia is near the settlement of Noraduz. A millennium of Armenian history is embodied in the khachkars there; the most ancient stones are dated the 8 th century.