Aght'amar: Church of the Holy Cross
lt'amar, Akht'amar: S. Xac', S.
Lake Van, Turkey
AA Vol 1, Fiche # 074-083.
The Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross (S. Xac') is located on the Island of Aght'amar in Lake Van, Turkey, near the village of Gevas (Wostan) (coord. 39-19 / 43-00). It is the Palantine Church of King Gagik I Arcruni of Vaspurakan (908-943 AD). It was built by the architect Manuel between 915 and 921 AD. This date is based on information from a late-18th or early-19th century text and on an inscription, now hidden, on the west facade. The Cathedral was constructed of pink sandstone blocks facing a core of masonry rubble. The church is quadrefoil in plan with a central square covered by a dome buttressed by four vaulted aspes. On the axis are four narrow cylindrical niches and there are also small chambers on either side of the east apse. The present dome rests on a high circular 16-sided drum supported by pendentives. Above the south portal is a Royal Gallery that was once accessible on the exterior by a staircase whose decorated balustrade is now collapsed.
This Cathedral is significant because it is the only surviving medieval
Armenian church in which most of the wall paintings are still intact, although
in poor condition. The interior walls are covered with frescoes which are
contemporary with the sculptural decoratives found on the exterior. It
is the earliest medieval church extant in the Christian art of both the
east and the west to be entirely covered with sculptured reliefs.