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Historical sites of the village Mastara

Aragatzotn
Church - V c.

Historical Aragatzotn is rich with valuable monuments. One of them is the church of St.Hovhannes in the village of Mastara (Aragatzotn district). It stands out among central-domed cruciform (inside and outside) churches, like the big church in Artik, the church of St.Grigory of Haritchavank, St.Sargis in Voskepar and Arakelots in Kars (Xc).

In one of five epigraphic inscriptions at Mastara temple, Gregory Vanakan is mentioned as a builder, another one records the repair of the church in 891. Many points of view exist about the dating of the temple (V-VI, VI-VIIcc). On the S wall outside a fragmentary Greek inscription seems to mention the Sasanid king Peroz (reign 459-484), suggesting a 5th century date, but other building inscriptions indicate that the bulk of the church is 7th century with later repairs.

The composition of the scheme of the church in Mastara is cruciform inside and outside. The sides of the cross make half-rounded apses, which, with the exception of the eastern one (with two side-chapels), advance as five-bordered volumes of facades.

An absolutely new, more complicated constructive solution was applied for building the floor for the praying hall. This was realized by leaning the floor of the hall on carrying arches of half- rounded apses (here serving as persistent bays) the inward walls and big-sized tromps situated in corners. The drum of the dome turned out to be voluminous on the bearings of the described system. As a result of this, with the purpose of easing its visual looks the architect began using bays in the corners of the drum.

Still, these architectural means do not define the general, rather simply solved look of the temple. Its main merit is the interior, and of course the mighty monolithic outward volume.

The temple in Mastara testifies that the builders of ancient Armenia unflinchingly looked for and found new versions of central-domed, cruciform churches with constructive solutions corresponding to them. Owing to these qualities the temple in Mastara is worth having a special place in the architecture of Armenia of early medieval times, appearing to be one of its best works.

The village of Mastara is rich with other archeological and architectural monuments. Especially notable among them is a large free-standing khachkar on a rock covered thinly like a canvas with ornaments.

The church of Mastara constitutes an interesting variation of the cruciform plan and central cupola church. In accordance with its square plan, the four projecting apses, inward-facing circular and outward facing polygonal, offer the requisite supports to hold up the imposing polygonal cupola.

According to popular etymology, Mastara derives its name from Gregory the Еnlightener, who brought back from Caesarea the relics of John the Baptist, one fragment of which he enshrined beneath the church site.


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