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Architectural Tour

Country: Armenia
City: Yerevan
Duration: 8 Day(s) - 7 Night(s)
Tour Category: Archaeological Tours
Departure Date: Thu 01 Jan '99

Package Itinerary

Architectural tour

It’s said: “Armenian churches are the only language to talk to God”.

Armenian architecture is unique with its style which is typical to Armenia and is used principally by Armenian people. In the realm of Armenian architecture, churches and monasteries take pride in place.

Medieval Armenian architecture, and churches in particular, well known all over the world, has several distinctive features, believed by some to be the first national style of the church building.

It’s not a surprise that among the 7 wonders of Armenia 6 are architectural sites and most of them are inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage.

This program aims to introduce to the world the great architectural heritage Armenia has created during its history throughout the centuries up to nowadays.

Day 1: Yerevan city tour / Erebouni / Tamanyan Museum (Ancient period, Soviet period, Modern period)

Arrival. Meet and greet transfer to your hotel. Yerevan city tour. Start tour to Erebouni fortress considered the historical center of the capital Yerevan. Erebouni was founded by Urartian king Arghisti in 782 B.C. In the museum near the archeological site of Erebouni, you can find all the necessary information about the urban architecture of the Armenian pre - Christian period. It's important to notice that the Urartians were famous for their high standards in city building palatial complexes and richness of interior decoration. Excursion in Yerevan during which you will get acquainted with the traditions of both the Soviet period and modern period architecture.

Among the many sites of the capital, you will find a lot of buildings famous for their construction either in Armenia or in the world such as the Opera and Ballet Theatre building that won the Grant Prix in 1936 in Paris. Visit also the Tamanyan museum, Tamanyan was the greatest Armenian architect of the 20th century and the general architect of the main plan-map of Yerevan city. Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.

Day 2: History Museum / Echmiadzin / Zvartnots (Early middle – ages / Golden age)

The first highlight on this day is the visit to State History Museum where the important archaeological collections from Stone Age through the Medieval periods are dark and almost unlabeled, but should not be missed. Drive to Armavir to explore the main sites of the region. Today you will see the most important examples of Armenian early middle–age Christian architecture. It’s the period from the 4-7th centauries which is considered the Golden age of Armenian architecture. The first site is Echmiadzin Cathedral, the first Armenian church built in 301 – 303 A.D. The second church is St. Hripsime (7th c.) is known for its fine Armenian architecture, which influenced many other Armenian and foreign churches such as St. Satire in Milan. The church is built by the system of spatial and linear perception. In the valley, it creates a seeming view of a single-sided cliff, but the architecture used the way of refracting the huge walls with orderly famous Armenian niches.

The cruciform plan of the church is designed by special spherical niches on the corners of the flanks of the cross in an imaginary form of gradually bursting buds. Internally the whole greatness of the church is centered in the dome. Another site to visit today is St. Gayane church of 7th c. – a domed basilica, also an important example of an Armenian church built in the early middle – ages. The last stop is Zvartnots temple ruins - the biggest achievement in golden age architecture in Armenia and a unique masterpiece of the 7th c. After visiting these sites you will be convinced that the 4 -7th c. was really a golden age for Armenian architecture as almost all constructive schemes of Christian architecture have been used in this period, schemes that have been adopted by Europe later. Overnight at the hotel in Yerevan.

Day 3: Aruch / Talin / Mastara / Harichavank / Gyumri (Early middle – ages / Golden age, Developed middle - ages)

Start the tour to Aruch cathedral built-in 666 A.C. a three-nave domed basilica was mentioned as a winter shelter for the king's army in the 5 c. The half-destroyed monument was essentially restored (except the dome) in 1949-1950.

Drive to Mastara – another scheme of construction belonging to the same century. And finally the last site – the cathedral of Talin finalize your impression of Armenian architecture of the early middle – ages. Then proceed to the Shirak region by visiting Harichavank monastic complex (4-13th c.) in the village Harich. The developed middle –age begins with a new tendency in Armenian architecture and the first monastic complexes appear.

While enlarging the hall of the churches new buildings were added to the main church making the environment a little “clerical city”. With the monastic complexes appeared also Gavit (narthex) – the peculiarity of Armenian clerical architecture. These structures served as a vestibule to the church, as an outer church, and as a meeting hall. The most common plan is a simple rectangular one, with the interior divided into nine bays by the four pillars that hold up the roof. The central bay sometimes contains a dome with a lantern opening. Harichavank is mostly famous for its particular external decorations. Drive to Gyumri. Overnight at the Art Hotel in Gyumri.

Day 4: Gyumri city tour / Sanahin / Hagpat / Dzoraghet (Late middle – ages, Developed middle - ages)

City tour in Gyumri. This is the second-largest city in Armenia and in spite of the great earthquake in 1988 it has maintained its charm. In the historical center of Gyumri, one can see the charming style of urban architecture. The buildings are built in red and black tufa (Armenian stone) characteristic of Ani architectural school (Ani, now in Turkish territory, was one of the Armenian capitals in 11th c.).

Drive to the Lori region and visit two extremely important monastic complexes of developed middle - ages. In Sanahin you will find a unique type of gift called three-nave Gavit. Most of the buildings of these monasteries, which are the highlights of UNESCO, are inscribed in the golden depositary of Armenian architecture.

The developed middle – age is characterized also by bell towers which weren’t common for the architecture of the early middle – ages. In these complexes, you will find the most beautiful bell towers in Armenian architecture as well as the finest buildings of medieval libraries mostly characterized of cruciform arches. Overnight in at the hotel in Toumanyan.

Day 5: Toumanyan / Haghartsin / Goshavank / Sevan / Noraduz / Yerevan (Developed middle – ages)

Drive to Haghartsin monastic complex. The combination of natural and architectural beauty is very impressive in this region and most of the visitors do notice it. Neither Haghardzin, nor Goshavank has walls, and their structures are surrounded with verdure and peasants' homes. Haghartsin complex was built by the architect Minas in 1248 and is a structure of rare composition.

The structure is divided by pillars into two square-plan parts roofed with a system of intersecting arches. Among the highly artistic memorial khachkars is the so-called embroidered one created by the carver Pogos in Goshavank in 1291 khachkar with the maker’s name carved in the bottom left star. This is a unique and highly artistic work.

The finely carved lacy ornaments are arranged in layers in which the basic elements of the composition - across on a shield-shaped rosette and eight-pointed Starr filling the corners of the middle-cross section - show clearly. Drive to Noraduz is considered an open-air sanctuary. It is a medieval cemetery full of khachkars - Armenian "cross-stones". A khatchk'ar is a monolithic slab of stone, on which various motifs are carved and the main motive is the cross in the center. The earliest examples are dating back to the 8th century. Drive to Yerevan.

Day 6: Karmravor / Sagmosavank / Hovanavank / Amberd / Yerevan (Early middle – ages, Developed middle - ages)

Today one can explore one of the smallest churches of Armenia. This church belongs to a series of small churches built as free crosses. Karmravor in Armenian means red … for the red color of its tiling dome. The next stop is at the monastery of Saghmosavank (Monastery of Psalms) which was built in the 12th – 13th centuries: main church of St. Sion, built-in 1213 is famous for its cylindrical barrel, a Gavit (narthex), St. Astvatsatsin church, and library (built-in 1255 CE) and a small chapel with the same dedication. Hovanavank monastery (5 – 13 century) is proud of its rare Gavit that has rich decoration both in internal and in external parts. It’s also rare for its open-shaped dome.

Drive to Amberd fortress located 2,300 meters above sea level on the slopes of Mount Aragats. The fortress was founded in the 7th century AD as a possession of the noble House of Kamsarakan.

Four centuries later it was purchased by the House of Pahlavuni and rebuilt by Prince Vahram Vachutian Pahlavuni. Vahram fortified the complex with thicker stone walls and added three bastions along the ridge of the Arkhashyan canyon. The fortress is built according to the military building constructive criteria of the Middle –ages. In fact, it was very important to choose, a naturally well-defended place to reduce the dimensions of the fortifications.

The domed church was built in 1026 has one of the earliest examples of the “umbrella” type of dome. A bathhouse built in the same period and quite unusual for a military installation has also remained moderately intact along with the water supply system. Return back to Yerevan and overnight at the hotel in the city.

Day 7: Khor Virap / Noravank / Yerevan (Late middle – ages, Developed middle - ages)

Visit Khor Virap monastery built on the side of one of a chain of low hills looking out across the border to Turkey and Mt. Ararat. The central church, S. Astvatsatsin, dates from the end of the 17th c. The smaller S. Gevorg church was originally constructed in 642 by Catholicos Nerses the Builder but has been repeatedly rebuilt. In this second church, there are two deep stone cisterns, the further of which, then garnished with serpents, is said to have been the pit in which Gregory the Illuminator (first catholicos of all Armenians) was imprisoned for 13 years by the cruel king Trdat III. After taking photos of the panoramic view of the biblical Mt. Ararat drive to Noravank – the so-called “swam-song” of the developed middle-aged architecture.

Noravank is important for many features: the most remarkable miniature painter and sculptor Momik worked here in the latter part of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries; The Gavit is quite different from other Armenian monuments of the same kind due to reconstruction made by Momik; The exterior of all buildings is rich of bass-relieves such as the pointed tympanum of the twin window over the door of Gavit that is decorated with a unique relief representation of both Old and New Testaments. Drive to Yerevan. Overnight in Yerevan.

Day 8: Matenadaran / Garni / Geghard / Yerevan (Ancient period / pre-Christian period, developed middle - ages)

Start the tour to Matenadaran which contains historical documents from all over Europe and Asia throughout many centuries. There is also the first copy of the Bible in Armenian and the Gospels that fascinate with their beautiful miniatures. Drive to Garni Temple (I c.). This is the only pagan temple either in Armenia or in the whole Caucasus. In comparison with Roman and Greek temples, Garni is built of basalt stones. The temple’s proportions differ somewhat from the proportions of other antique structures. Its composition is based on the contrast between the horizontal divisions of the podium and the entablature and the vertical columns which rose sharply against the background of the sky.

The temple makes an impressive sight from many remote and close observation points. Another interesting building in the complex is the bathhouse of Garni. In its composition, it had rooms with various temperatures with the hypocaust heating system. Drive to Gueghard is another incredible ancient Armenian monastery, partly carved out of a mountain. Gueghard is famous for its incredible cave churches and Gavit ornamented with stalactites varying in shape – the most beautiful Gavit in Armenian medieval architecture. Gueghards rock premises show that Armenian builders could not only create superb works of architecture out of stone but also hew them in solid rock.

It’s impossible to describe the mysterious beauty of this complex so one should visit it by no means to understand its artistic beauty and its divine mystery. Drive to Yerevan. Farewell dinner in a folkloric restaurant. Overnights in Yerevan.

Day 9: Departure

Transfer to the airport. Departure

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