Armenian art is the unique form of art developed over the last five millennia in which the Armenian people lived on the Armenian Highland. Armenian architecture and miniature painting have dominated Armenian art and have shown consistent development over the centuries. Other forms of Armenian art include sculpture, fresco, mosaic, ceramic, metalwork, engraving, textiles, printing and music.
The first Armenian churches were built during the lifetime of St. Gregory the Illuminator, were often built on the sites of destroyed pagan temples, and imitated some aspects of Armenian pre-Christian architecture.
Classical and Medieval Armenian architecture is divided into four separate periods.
The first period, from the 4th to the 7th centuries, began with Armenia's conversion to Christianity, and ended after the Arab invasions of Armenia. The early churches were mostly simple basilicas, some with side apses. By the 5th century the typical cupola cone in the center had become widely used. By the 7th century, centrally-planned churches had been built and the more complicated niched buttress and radiating Hrip'simé style had formed. By the time of the Arab invasions, most of what we now know as classical Armenian architecture had formed.
The second period lasted from the 9th to the 11th centuries. Armenian architecture underwent a revival under the patronage of the Bagratid dynasty with many buildings erected in the regions of Ani and Lake Van: these included both traditional styles and new innovations. Ornately carved Armenian khachkars were developed during this time. Many new cities and churches were built during this time, including a new capital at Lake Van and a Cathedral on Akdamar Island to match. The Cathedral of Ani was also completed during this dynasty. It was during this time that the first major monasteries, such as Haghpat and Haritchavank were founded. This period was ended by the Seljuk invasion.
Each culture possesses a certain original element which becomes a symbol of the entire national culture. In Armenia such symbol is “khachkar, the so-called cross-stones, the monuments of Armenia which are not found anywhere in the world. The word “khachkar” is formed by two Armenian roots: “khach” (cross) and "kar" (stone).
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