The Zhamatun of Horomos: The Shaping of an Unprecedented Type of Fore-church Hall

  • Armen Kazaryan (Autor/in)


The complex of monastic buildings of Horomos is one of the largest in medieval Armenia and the whole Christian East. In the course of the study of Horomos, I paid particular attention to a number of buildings which marked the shaping of new architectural types: the fore-church hall called zhamatun; the entry arch with two chapels above the pylons; the two-story mausoleum with tree chapels above the liturgical hall; and hall-reliquaries. Such creativity was extremely rare for the medieval architectural tradition in Armenia, with its well-established typology and a limited number of architectural plans. In Horomos, however, there were not less than four new building plans, each of which initiated a new architectural type. The largest church of the monastery and the zhamatun are both dated to 1038 by an inscription that mentions the patron, Hovhannes Smbat Shahinshah Bagratouni. Like other twelfth- and thirteenth-century 'copies' of the Horomos zhamatun, most of which looked like covered cemeteries, that building may have had a funerary function, and was, probably, built as a royal mausoleum. The article analyzes the architecture of this 16-column hall. I will focus on the origin of this composition and to the carved decoration. Unlike traditional concepts of this architectural type's development from local domestic architecture, I offer some architectural models that were based on new concepts: among these were the late antique churches of Armenia, such as Ejmiatsin cathedral and Zvartnots, and the Anastasis Rotunda. This research brings us closer to an understanding of the conceptual architectural idea that was shaped in the last years of the so-called "Armenian renaissance" of the end of the tenth and the first half of the eleventh century.