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Генезис хачкаров | Ранние хачкары | Хачкары XI столетия
Хачкары XII и XIII столетий | Хачкары XIV- XVII столетий | Литература
Summary | Иллюстрации 1 2 3 4 5 | Оглавление
A. L. Yakobson
ARMENIAN CROSS STONES (KHACHKARS)
Armenian cross stones (khachkars) are vivid, sanguineous phenomena in medieval art. Crosses, carved on stelae long ago beginning from the 5-6th centuries, serving as memorial or exhortational monuments in Christian countries, were known to Egypt, Northern Caucasus, Europe and northern Russia. In Armenia, however, khachkars are embodied with an especially rich artistic content and are valuable achievements in Armenian monumental art.
Khachkars developed from cross monuments, originally wooden and later of stone. In the 4-th century, as Armenian historians tell, they were erected on pillars or columns on the sites of ancient destroyed pagan sanctuaries and were evidence of the victor of Christianity. Such memorials reflected the deep-rooted ancient traditions of one- or twocolumned memorial structures, well-known in Assyria, a neighbour of Armenia.
Later in the Middle Ages, the pillar or column was replaced by a high massive stylobate. The architectural nature of structures dominated; the khachkar remained, in essence, a form of „minor architecture".
Khachkars were many-sided from the functional point of view. Their primary meaning was memorial. Later khachkars, in the form of stelae, were placed on roads to assist passers-by; they served as kinds of talismans. In the 11th century and later, when khachkars had been formed and their composition become classic, they had various functions, preeminently memorial in nature. Khachkars were prepared to note different steps in the building and economic activities of secular and religious feudals, as well as outstanding events in the life of the state.
In this work, khachkars are classified chronologically and typologically: they are analysed according to their artistic elements and rich ornaments. This study is based on chronological principles which permit showing the gradual progress in the artistic content of khachkars.
Chapter I. Forerunners of khachkars were early medieval circular or octahedral columns or squares of pillared sections with crosses carved in them and crowned with bulky crosses placed freely. Such pillars of the 6-7th centuries were found at
Garnahovit, Akarak, Arich, Talin and Mren. The surface of the pillars is decorated with winding vines and dangling clusters of grapes. The sides of the pillars are often framed by 3/4 columns giving the pillar an architectural effect. The bulky crosses crowning the pillars are often larger in size and stand out for their laconic style and are very elaborated along generalized lines, which conform to the placing of such crosses on high columns or pillars. These crosses were usually decorated; on the lower end there were wide, symmetrically cut palmetto leaves, gracefully curving and eaching the transversal arms of the cross
It was from such bulky crosses, i. e., crosses on stelae, that khachkars originated. That is evidenced by 9-10th century khachkars as the one in Khacharan of 898 and that of 952 from Ani, very laconic and almost identical with the free cross of Dvin.
Chapter II. The earliest khachkars of the 9-10th centuries, in the form of stelae and preserved near Talin, are varied and of different types. This is evidence of the fact that khachkars were just being formed.
A large, circular khachkar (diam. 1.8 m.) is most interesting for its high relief, tour-pointed cross with equal arms and wide split ends. The narrow hollow space between the arms of the cross are filled with palmetto leaves having folded ends; the drawings of the palmetto leaves being of the 9th century. The circular form of the khachkar was undoubtedly well thought out and deeply symbolic, as everything connected with worship That shape, it may be thought, reflects the ancient east-Christian idea of the cosmic circle — the sky, heavenly sphere in the form of which, as early as at the dawn of the Middle Ages, the heavenly firmament was conceived, in the dome of the temple of which the church fathers wrote as early as in the 4-5th centuries. Circular khachkars were unknown later on.
There is a very unique khachkar in Haghartsin unlike the others; the cross is completed with an elongated oval formed by thin palmetto leaves. At the upper end of the cross there is a presentation of the Almighty in a circle with two flying angels supporting him. That is a well-known, widespread early medieval composition of the Ascension of Christ. Just as this picture, so also the nature of the foliage show the date of the khachkar to be the 10th and beginning of the 11th centuries
At that time simpler khachkars of crosses with spreading ends are more frequently found. The space between some of tl:e crosses are filled with heavy clusters of grapes, overhung with vines growing from the upper and lower ends of the cross.
In the 10th century khachkars with a more complicated drawing appeared, the composition of which, clear-cut and elaborated, show how intensively the process of giving decorative forms to khachkars proceeded.
The structure of such khachkars was comparatively complex as if the khachkars were on the borderline of the following epoch, between the 10-11th centuries, when the composition of khachkars was finally established, becoming classic. In this respect the khachkar dated 996 from Noratus? is very interesting. The ornamented cross, vegetative sprouts surrounding the cross from above and below and ending with rosettes, form a regular rhombus in which the cross in carved. As for the external outline of this figure, it is an elongated oval. The vegetative decorations of the khachkar as a whole, keen and laconic, are penetrated by a unified, rigid rhythm and is very impressive.
Thus in the 10th century, the classic composition of the khachkar was formulated; the features of its basic composition were clearly defined. The most essential of
these were graphic clarity, rigidness and compactness of decoration to which vegetative ornamentation is completely subjected, attaining geometricized features.
Chapter III. It was these features that developed further in the 11th century; as a matter of fact this process was very intensive. Numerous khachkars are evidence of this fact, chiefly those in rich monasteries. Dated khachkars served as a starting point for analysis.
More characteristic of khachkar? are vertical orientation of geometricized foliage. Such khachkars are rather numerous; their composition was formulated undoubtedly as early as the 11th century, but they became especially popular in the 12-13th centuries.
In all these khachkars, the crosses are placed under a semi-circular arch, i. e., in the portal with narrow semicolumns. Horizontally spread palmetto leaves are placed under the cross. Stylobates are presented under all the khachkars Three beautiful large khachkars of the 12th-beginning of the 13th centuries with this very same decorative composition are to be found in Odzun. The architectural interpretation of all such khachkars is very vivid; later on they remained characteristic elements of khachkars.
Such a more widespread composition of khachkars was formulated in the 11th century and was completely adopted by masters of later centuries, the condensation and great use of ornaments became a more characteristic feature. The drawings of the lower (decorative) part of the cross acquired a geometrical nature and was more removed from the vegetative. Ornamentation and rigid graphic lines became inalienable features of the decoration. Later on, during the 12-13th centuries, these features developed even more. In addition the plasticity of fretwork developed more and more by means of deepening which led to a play of light and shade. The khachkar frame became wider, consisting of one or two vertical pillars, square or rectangular figures interlaced vertically or horizontally with ornamental carvings (mostly geometrical) or with palmetto leaves. In many khachkars their relations with architectural forms were underlined in the shape of portals with semi-circular completions, sometimes multi-spanned. In the 12-13th centuries, master-carvers continued to work out this artistic heritage.
Chapter IV. In the 12th century the art of carving khachkars entered a period of flourishment which continued till the 13th century. The number of khachkars created increased. They were placed everywhere, for the most varied reasons in the economic and political life. In addition the verious decorative elaborations of khachkars increased, becoming more and more unique, i. e., there took place that which occured in all the arts of Armenia (and not only Armenia) of that time. Prominent skilled masters appeared, fine carvers on stone; some of them immortalized themselves by placing their names on khachkars.
A large number of khachkars of the 12-13th centuries have been preserved, which may be divided quite distinctly into a few groups, according to their composition.
Group 1 includes khachkars with a decorative cross, the lower part of which is framed with geometricized foliage in the form of bundles of stalks, straight or slightly bent towards the cross.
This composition was basically formed as early as the llth century and developed by the 12th century. A more interesting example of such khachkars was the
khachkar by Khachadur of Djrvezh, dated 1173. full of carvings. The new element here is the sphere on which the cross in hoisted.
The dominating quality of khachkars in the 12th century was their being replete with ornaments, which almost completely covered the stelae. The most outstanding in this respect, in the khachkar of Grigor Tudeort in Sanahin by master Mekhitar in 1184. A remarkable feature of this khachkar, not previously noticed, is the two- planed carvings; its lower layer fills the deep background of the cross. Thus the play of light and shade and plasticity of the entire ornamentation of the khachkar is strengthened. The play of light and shade, in other words, the artistic beginnings in carving khachkars grew and developed, although simpler khachkars may be found in the 12th century with the same decorative structure, free of secondary details. Some khachkars of this group differ in that they are crowned by bird-peacocks (symbols of immortality) heraldically placed oppposite each other; on one of the khachkars they are receiving wine from a high vessel.
Somewhat different are the series of khachkars in which the ends of the stalks in the lower space between crosses, slightly bent towards the cross, form not a strictly straight line but a curved one, which gives this type of khachkar a particular appearance. Khachkars of the same structure, without any changes, were to be found in the 14th century.
The art of khachkars was varied and many-sided. Besides the composition described, another one was worked out in the 11th century, with a different interpretation of the decorative part of the khachkar, i. e., occupying the lower space between crosses. Just such a structure was also very popular in the 12-3th centuries. Khachkars of that type are placed in the second group.
Group 2. The foliage of khachkars of this group is less geometricized. It has acquired the smooth curving lines of more or less grown, matured palmetto leaves, symmetrically placed in the lower space between crosses. This foliage is also decorative in nature but it is in drawings that such khachkars are differentiated, while as regards the other features such as ornaments, form of execution, frame, they are very close to khachkars of group one.
Among the khachkars of this group there are two similar masterpieces of 1211 and 1220 (probably created by the same master) on the tomb of the Ukanantz dynasty at Hakhpat. The crosses are placed in an 8-spanned arch, the spans of which seem to be inserted in a panel entirely covered with vegetative ornaments in the coiling of volutes and thin interlaced stalks. The second of these khachkars differs in that it has fine carving on a deep background, i. e., two-planed ornamentation generally characteristic of khachkars of the 13th century. A similar khachkar at Mshkavank is interesting in that it has portrayals on its base. In the triple portico there is a stocky figure in full face (perhaps Christ) under the central arch; a smaller figure in the left; and in the right, there are two miniature figures facing the central one (perhaps church wardens).
The composition of khachkars with stylicized foliage gracefully bending towards the cross seemed to be very popular in Armenia in the 12th century.
All khachkars from the same neighbourhood are very similar. They were probably all from the same monastery workshop in Hakhpat or Sanahin, where very likely, the composition described was worked out.
Later on, during the end of the 13th and 14th centuries, drawings of foliage in semipalmetlo leaves lost their previous gracefulness and previous rigidness, together with other ornamentation.
Khachkars of the second group with ornamental interpretation of palmettoes bending towards the cross, are outstanding in that this motif, in essence, arises from the composition of early medieval bulky crosses with very harmonious drawings of lacy palmettoes. In the 12th century, the palmetto motif was again completely worked out and acquired an appearance purely decorative and ornamental, losing its connection with vegetative forms. Such was the tendency of Armenian monumental arts in the 12-13 centuries, receiving a vivid expression in the khachkars of that period.
Group 3. By the end of the 12th century, still another composition of khachkars was worked out, more complex, new in structure and more imbued with ornaments. These stelae reveal a new borderline in the artistic content of khachkars. What is new in their composition is that the space between crosses is filled with thick ornamentation, leaving only a narrow strip between them and the cross. It is a strip deeply cut out and therefore giving the cross more distinctness.
A remarkable example of this new composition is the Sanahin Khachkar created in 1187 and dedicated to Zakharia Dolgoruki, which is perfect in its carving. Not only is the composition of the khachkar new but the drawing of the ornamentation itself approaching volute-like sprouts and almond-like figures with palmetto leaves at the ends; it is a motif formulated and very popular in the 13-14th centuries.
All khachkars with this advanced composition have difference which gives them originality. Among them, the 1233 khachkar of Grigor Proshian from Imirzek (at present in Echmiadzin) with 2-planed ornamentation, stands out for its fine mastery. The frame is decorated with 8-pointed stars and a deeply-carved background.
The khachkar is crowned with a portrayal of Deesis on the "peak" and in the lower part of the khachkar, a galloping horseman (to whom the khachkar was dedicated) is shown against the background of fine carving. This composition was traditionally preserved in the 14th century as well.
The full artistic content of khachkars of the third group is manifested by an abundance of ornamental carving, densely filling the upper and lower spaces between crosses. Their general composition, no matter how varied, is distinct and clear cut. Vegetative ornamentation in the form of a closely-spun spider web with winding and interlacing sprouts, carried out most skillfully, was elaborated by Armenian carvers very probably by the end of the 12th century. Since then it has become a favourite of Armenian monumental art.
Group 4. Finally the fourth group of khachkars is clearly different, being mostly spread in the 12-13th centuries up to the 16th century, though its development may be noted beginning from the 9-10th centuries. This refers to khachkars with three crosses of which the two smaller occupy the lower space between crosses. Together they form the threesectioned tree of life. The three crosses, however, was only a general feature uniting these khachkars rather large in number, since they themselves, especially in the 12-13th centuries, having the most varied motifs of decoration, are very different
Earlier such khachkars were of the 11th century as, for example, those in Kecharis and Odzun; smaller crosses are held in the palms of hands. The Odzun khachkar is interesting in that there are two sacred bulls under it, pagan images adopted by the Christian church. (Bulls were frequently placed on facades of Armenian churches in the 13th century. They had. perhaps, definite heraldic significance as a kind of dynastic symbol of the Armenian princes.)
A large number of khachkars with two smaller crosses are of the 12-13th
centuries; they are incomparably more elaborated. The upper space between crosses js occupied by heavy clusters of grapes. Such is the St. Karaglukh khachkar, famous for the probable figure of the church warden in front view with wide upper clothing, presented under the cross.
In the 13th century khachkars with smaller crosses often included elements of other compositions such as vegetative designs of winding stalks with almond-like figures filling the space between crosses, as in the khachkars of group three. Here this ornamentation occupies the upper space between crosses. On some 13-14th century khachkars, smaller crosses occupy not only the lower but also the upper spaces between crosses. Khachkars with assymmetric decorations may be noted as in the khachkar in Nor-Getik. (The left space between crosses is occupied by semi-palmetto leaves as in group two, while the right space consists of smaller crosses.) Assymmetry is one of the innermost qualities of medieval Armenian monumental art of the 12-13th centuries.
There Is a specific subgroup representing double khachkars of the 13-14th centuries, i. e., khachkars consisting of two large khachkars carved side by side.
Group 5. Finally in this special fifth group khachkars with figurative portrayal elements are separated as those of different evangelists, the Crucifixion, (Amenaprkich). Deesis, Ascension of Christ, George the dragon-slayer, as well as portrayal» of church wardens, and others. It must be stressed that such "fine art" khachkars are comparatively few in number, even rare. They were created almost without exception in the 13th century, some in the 14th century and rarely in the 15-16th centuries. Portrayals on khachkars are, in fact, additional elements, as if adding to compositions which have already been discussed.
This refers completely to the composition of Deesis (Christ in the centre, the Virgin on the left and John the Baptist on the right). A wonderful example of such bas-relief on the "peak" is found on the khachkar of Grigor Khakhbakian, 1233, in Echmiadzin, brought there from Imirzek. Another remarkable khachkar, 1308, with Deesis on the "peak" is from Noravank (created by Momik, the famous master of that time). There are other khachkars in Noravank which have similar portrayals. On one of them there is a bust of the apostles Peter and Paul above the frame of the khachkar and below it, there are the kneeling figures of church wardens Burtel and Bughda (?) in slight relief.
The composition of Deesis on the khachkar of paron(sir) Prosh, end of 13th century, is more complex. On the sides of Deesis, there are angels; the entire composition Is framed by apostles. All these are placed against a background of fine geometrical ornamentation. The frame of the khachkar consists of a vertical row of apostles (only one being preserved) included In an eight-pointed star.
Khachkars presenting the Crucifixion are only from the second half of the 13th century. They are the so-called Soviour (Amenaprkich) khachkars. Some of them, especially two, stand out for their mastery. One of them, 1279, is from Djingula (now in Echmiadzin) and dedicated to paron Grigor and Mamkan, the father and mother of Mamikon. The lower part of the khachkar presents a galloping horseman (Mamikon) slaying a large beast with his spear. Similar horsemen-warriors are frequently found on other khachkars of the 13th century (from Khachen), not hunting but in a state of rest. On an interlaced background in the upper part of the khachkar, there are symbolic presentations of the sun (a human face with rays) on the back of a fantastic bird and the moon (a human face without rays) on the back of a sacred bull, remnants of ancient pre-Christian cosmic symbols.
The fact that the figures on the sides of the cross are placed absolutely assymmetrically is striking; it was obviously done so for the purpose of giving extensiveness to the composition. (The larger figures are placed in the foreground below, while the smaller figures that seem to be farther from the spectator, are behind.)
Similar Amenaprkich khachkars of the end of the 13th century are known from other sites of Armenia.
Another remarkable Amenaprkich khachkar was created in 1273 at Hakhpat. A unique feature of the khachkar includes the portrayal of the twelve apostles, one under the other, thus forming the frame of the khachkar (similar to the Prosh khachkar). This khachkar is completed by a "peak" which presents a scene from the Ascension, significantly differing from that of the early medieval composition in the Hagharisin khachkar.
Some khachkars with scenes of the Crucifixion are interesting for their portrayal of church wardens as, for example, the khachkar in the narthex at Geghard. The figures with a staff are not large very similar to the relief figures on the slab spreading over the gavit at Haghartsin from the beginning of the 13th century. Such figures may also be found on many other 13th century khachkars. This was a significant phenomenon reflecting the stressing of the secular element in feudal Armenian art during its flourishment. The secular spirit penetrated Armenian art of that time. Along with carving on stone, it was equally vividly expressed in architecture and in miniature paintings as well.
Finally, the. numerous expressions of birds on khachkars must be noted, usually placed symmetrically on the sides of the cross. The bird is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, of immortality, In keeping with the significance of khachkars as memorials. Presentations of sunny, anthropomorphous birdsirens on 15-16th century khachkars are worth mentioning. They embodied the concept of the soul of the dead — an idea very popular all over the East, among Christians and Mohammedans.
These are the main groups of khachkars of the 12-13th and the beginning of the 14th centuries. Naturally this doesn't exhaust the artistic content of khachkars which are unlimitedly different; almost each khachkar of that time is a unique creation in itself. Especially outstanding for its unusual mastery and fine carving is the khachkar on the northern side of the St. Grigor church, 1237, at the Nor-Getik monastery.
It was completed in 1291 by master Poghos. The khachkar, 3-planed and with fretwork, belongs to the third group.
The equally perfect khachkar in Noravank created by Momik in 1308 is much like this khachkar. It is also in 3-planed carving with seven 8-pointed stars on its framework and finely interlaced background.
Thus in the art of carving khachkars in the 12-13th centuries, all these regular phenomena were completely revealed, characteristic of Armenian art of that timefirst and foremost in architecture which was considered the main art. Khachkars were, in a way, "architectural miniatures". Their rather essential artistic qualities were quite regular.
1. The basic feature of most khachkars of the 12-13th centuries in their compositional structure, is their architectonic nature, their relation to architecture. Many
khachkars reproduce portals in a very clearcut manner, as arches on double, thin semi-columns. On many 13-14th century khachkars, the cross is placed under a multispanned arch, a purely decorative motif, genetically connected with architecture itself, with "earrings" popular at that time, encircling the upper triangular niches of church facades.
2. An intensifying of decorations is peculiar to 12-13th century khachkars and its role in their structure. Carvings became more abundant and perfect, especially skillful fretwork. The decoration of khachkars is distinguished for its plasticity, a quality which gradually intensified and developed further. This was expressed by deepening the background with 2-planed and later 3-planed carvings, in other words, intensifying light and shade and thus stressing the artistic beginning of carving khachkars. The most brilliant examples are the khachkars from Noravank.
3. These features elaborated in the field of monumental art, in architecture and thus being characteristic of it, were first of all transferred to khachkars. Such decorative elements as stars and rhombuses were transmitted from architecture to khachckars. This was likewise a specific architectural motif.
4. A more developed and expressive aspect in the decoration of 12-13th century khachkars is vegetative ornamentation in the form of volutes, curving stalks with thickening (petals close to the stalks) and with branches, as well as sprouts forming . almond-like figures. Such ornamentation is characteristic for all Armenian monumental carvings of the 12-13th centuries as well as for applied arts jewelry, miniatures, etc.). This ornamentation is very specific, it being formulated perhaps in Armenia itself. Its roots lie in antiquity.
5. The extensive complex of ornamentation of khachkars consists of geometrical ornaments; they are verious rectangular and oblique-angled interiacings, quite veried in drawings, especially in the khachkar frames. This was undoubtedly borrowed from monumental architecture. Usually they had one or two vertical pillars on the sides of the cross, consisting of interlacing squares and rectangles filled with geometrical ornaments, sometimes with palmetto leaves in unrepeated drawings — a feature characteristic of Armenian art. Unrepeated drawings seem |o disturb the symmetry of the composition and bring about a peculiar kind of movement. This is one of the treasured qualities of Armenian (and not only Armenian) monumental art of a "new" style.
As may be noted, khachkars reflect the artistic achievements of the times in all their features. Thus they do not extend beyond the limits of regularities in Armenian monumental art of the Middle Ages. Khachkars seem to verify these regularities.
Chapter V The following period of the 14-17th centuries was a period of incessant enemy attacks on Armenia and a decline in the life of the country. Khachkars continued to be created in not small numbers, especially in Vayots Valley and Syunik, on the estates of the Orbelian and Proshian noble families which under the rule of the Mongols, had autonomy and independence to a certain degree. Undoubtedly this favoured the artistic creativity of Armenian architects and sculptors. Among them the outstanding master Momik created beautiful khachkars in the beginning of the 14th century at Noravank.
In referring to 14-15th century khachkars, tradition was very influential, to which Armenian carvers on stone of that time adhered. Their khachkars followed
old, established classic compositions (of group 1, 2, 3, 4 and the artistic 5th) while group 4 (with smaller crosses in the space between crosses) of the 14th century became especially widespread for its simplicity. Along with these, some deviations of this composition using carvings of different ornamental motifs must be mentioned. These khachkars seem to acquire a compiled effect which reveals a certain regress from artistic carvings. Khachkars may also be found on which the general composition with semipalmetto leaves bending towards the frame became a scheme far from the live, plastic drawings on 13th century khachkars.
A new element of additional small crosses appear on 14th century khachkars which began to be included in khachkar frames as well. In some such khachkars, they are found in great numbers. The beautiful khachkar in the village of Dsegh stands out for its fine carvings of winding volutes like stalks and almond-like figures. That was the reason it was called "sirun" (beautiful). This khachkar is imbued with carvings often found on other khachkars of the same time. The result is that separate elements of the composition seem to blend with the ornaments about; thus the clearness of compositional structure of the khachkar is lost. In addition a reduction of the relief and its denseness is very characteristic for 14-15th century khachkars.
As it may be seen, 14th century khachkars added very little to the variety of compositional and decorative richness of khachkars from the period of the flourishment in Armenian art. Repetition of the past was, perhaps, more characteristic of Armenian artistic plasticity of that time. A brilliant exception of creative inspiration was the work of Momik and his school during the first half of the 14th century at the Vayots Valley monastery in Noravank. Momik's art and that of his school belonged, in essence, to 13th century art, too.
Khachkars of the 15-16th centuries are undoubtedly very interesting. They likewise, have their roots in traditional compositions and traditional ornamentation. Yet they do not lack uniqueness; on the contrary, many khachkars are quite original. In many khachkars the ornamentation is not only arranged differently but is also given another stylistic form, differing from 12-13th century ornamentation. Some 15-16th century khachkars may be classified in group three. They are full of carvings, have wide frames in which crossses are included, blending with the ornamentation and not differing from it in any way.
Two khachkars in Kamo, created by masters Arakel and Melikset, are worth mentioning. On one of them, in the lower spaces between crosses, there are flourishing stalks from each side of which there appears a talisman in the form of a siren — an anthropomorphous girl-bird. This bird is sunny and heavenly, embodying the soul of the dead. Such an image was very popular in the Christian and Mohammedan East, especially during the 12-14th centuries, although its roots were early medieval. The siren was known in Armenia (Akhtamar church) beginning from the 10th century up to the 15-16th centuries.
As a whole late medieval khachkars which may be classified into groups two and three and have become traditional, clearly show that master-carvers of that period followed the old compositions only externally but departed from them, trying not to limit themselves in the choice and arrangements of ornaments. This is what gives 15-17th century khachkars a unique quality.
No less characteristic and symptomatic is another feature of khachkars of that time — being immensely imbued with ornaments, often subduing the compositional structure of khachkars, thus losing clearness and vividness. Its separate elements were dissolved. It is in that overloading with decorations that Armenian carvers of that time, it may be thought, expressed the richness of their works.
In the 15-16th century khachkars with a simpler composition, those with smaller crosses (group 4) were more popular. Many khachkars express this composition in a not-so-complex form. However each such khachkar has original features peculiar to it. A great number of late medieval khachkars of group four, similar to khachkars of group two and three, differ in that the smaller crosses are organically included in the ornamentation and blended with it. Five khachkars from Noratus of the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century by master Kiram are examples of this type; two of those khachkars are dated 1582. Smaller crosses are held in the palms of the hands. All five khachkars of Kiram have some common features: extremely fine geometricized ornaments, completely covering the area of the khachkar without free spaces. Low reliefs, as a result of which clarity and vividness of composition is lost, is a feature distinguishing khachkars of the period of nourishment, that of the 12-13th centuries. The relief is expressed by only the basic crosses and stars.
Such a unique feature is also characteristic of many other late medieval khachkars (16-17th cent.) of group three and four.
Late medieval decorative khachkars are very interesting. They are few in number and mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries. Among them, the 16th century khachkar at Kamo must be noted, which has a representation of Christ on the "peak" with secred animals beside him and anthropomorphous creatures behind; there is a griffon on the right and a bird (probably a siren) on the left. The purpose of these images, connected with the heavens, is to serve as a talisman, protector.
The multi-sectioned khachkar at the monastery on the island of Sevan, 1653 (master Trdat) is extraordinarily imbued with presentations of the Crucifixion in the centre; at the bottom of the cross there are kneeling church wardens, while below the cross there is a scene from "Descent into Hades". In the frame there are representations connected with the theme of the "Nativity".
Presentations are simplified and schematic. The figures are carried out in the tradition of Armenian monumental sculptures of the Middle Ages. As can be seen, however, they are the work of an untrained artist, since his work lacks the plasticity and mastery characteristic of khachkars of previous times and also its contemporaries.
In this respect, the 17th century khachkar in Echmiadzin is contrastingly different in the way it is executed. The khachkar consists of three parts. The main cross with two smaller ones is in the centre, above that there is a scene from the Nativity. There are church wardens on the base of the khachkar.
The reliefs of this khachkar are executed in a very traditional manner and don't go beyond the limits of such artistic standards worked out in 12-13th. century Armenian sculpture. The figures are presented in movement; they are generalized yet very dynamic and expressive. These reliefs show how high the masters of that time evaluated their artistic heritage. Interestingly enough, secondary figures such as church wardens and shepherds are depicted in low relief.
Finally; the very special and quite localized group of khachkars, 16th to the beginning of the 17th century, in old Djugha (on the Araks River in south Armenia) must be taken into consideration. Djugha's economic prosperity was due mainly to the flourishing silk trade with western Europe. In the cemetery of the now extinct town about 3500 khachkars have been preserved. They used and made variations of old traditional and more popular motifs in a unique way. These motifs, however, were basically elaborated. This refers to the composition of the khachkars themselves, like khachkars of group 2 and 4 and their proportions which were very elongated. The drawings of the carvings also changed; they were more stylicized and higher in relief, rigid and exact.
The high relief of carvings brings about strong light and shade and thus the plasticity of khachkars. The rigidness of drawings imparted the Djugha khachkars a certain dryness but with that a vividly expressed peculiarity. That was the final concluding page in the history of khachkars.
That the Djugha masters bravely elaborated old motifs Is shown by certain khachkars. Compositional variations of Djugha khachkars with one cross or two, double-tiered (with 4 crosses) and with three niches in each tier are numerous. There are khachkars with pillared friezes.
Djugha ornamental khachkars are interesting in their presentation of Christ, kneeling church wardens below him, the Virgin and child, scenes from the Ascension. A horseman is depicted in the lower part of many khachkars and alongside him there are scenes of a feast with one to three figures seated cross-legged. They were probably the personages to whom the khachkar was dedicated.
In the upper part of khachkars there are often double presentations of anthropomorphous winged griffons, fused in their chests, with one head and dragon heads at the ends of their tails. They are apparently sacred images having the function of talismans. This image was deeply traditional, being known since the 11-12th centuries.
It is worth mentioning that the upper presentations (secred in content) were of high relief while the lower ones, secular in content (church wardens) were planed. The contents, It may be seen, corresponds to its artistic expression.
Such are these complex khachkars from Djugha imbued with carvings in (he form of traditional elements but stylistically elaborated in appearance. Khachkars are likewise plastic and artistic in their execution as were their outstanding forerunners of the 12-13 and beginning of the 14th century. These are, nevertheless, creations of a new, late medieval art, far from the Armenian monumental decorative classic style. In this lies the historical significance of the Djugha khachkars of the late Middle Ages. These khachkars are convincing evidence of the creative rise which appeared in that far corner of our country during the decline of Armenian medieval culture.
We have arrived at the end of our work. The purpose of our research was to study the formation and development of khachkars, to set up artistic groups and to follow their fate during many centuries from the 9-10 to the 17th centuries, when the history of khachkars came to an end. We tried to show how instructive, rich, varied and diverse in content was the material available, stressing its historical-artistic aspect. The material presented permits penetrating the nature of this form of "minor architecture" relations with which were never forgotten by Armenian master-carvers on stone and thus the relation with Armenian monumental art. Due to such features, khachkars are important in understanding the entire process in the development of Armenian medieval culture. The great, complicated path of this development is illuminated by khachkars with their bright, undying light.
А. Л. Якобсон. Армянские хачкары. Издательство «Айастан»1986 г.