The ruins of Yererouk Basilica
|Location||Anipemza, Shirak Province,
|Affiliation||Armenian Apostolic Church|
|Height (max)||100 feet 0 inches (30.48 m)|
Yererouk (Armenian: Երերույքի տաճար, Yereruyki tachar), also Yereruyk or Ererouk, is an archeological site characterized by the presence of an ancient Armenian church near the village of Anipemza in the Shirak Province of Armenia. Yererouk was built on a plateau near the Akhurian River which defines the frontier with Turkey, about 5 km southeast of the ancient city of Ani.
Because the basilica of Yererouk is one of the earliest surviving Christian monuments in Armenia, it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on August 25, 1995 in the Cultural category.
The Basilica is considered one of the ancient examples of Armenian architecture referred to the Paleo-Christian epoch (IV–VI century) even if it was initially started in the 4th century, then was postponed in the 5th century and finally in the 6th century because the Basilica isn't mentioned in any source, so the datations are hypothetic. However the most recent studies have analysed the architectural characteristics with the stratigraphic exams, the study of the sculptural decoration and epigraphy, the comparation with similar churches in Syria.
Etymology and history
Yererouk means quivering in the Armenian language. According to popular tradition, the name of the temple was derived from its unique architectural solution of the structure which seems quivering on its 6 columns for viewers from a distance.
Yererouk is one of the earliest examples of the Armenian church architecture and one of the greatest structures of the early medieval ages that partly survived. According to Toros Toramanian, Yererouk is a clear and perhaps the earliest example of the basilica style of the Armenian church buildings that are constructed on pillars. The church was surrounded with thick walls. From the surrounding buildings, underground rooms and the water reservoir, it becomes clear that the church was the centre of a developed residential community.
Yererouk dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries. It is located in the Shirak canton of the Ayrarat province of Ancient Armenia. Not much is known about the founders of the basilica. However, the church was renovated during the 11th century by the efforts of King Hovhannes-Smbat's wife.
The building, with three aisles, structured with thick lateral walls, is one of the biggest Armenian churches of the period. With arcades on the north, west and south sides, two little chapels near the apse and two absidal niches at the end of the lateral arcades, the basilica in origin could be covered wooden trusses. The north-east chapel keeps the most part of two superimposed vaults which the superior is inclined (taller near the nave).
With Tekor (end of 5th century) and Zvartnots, Yererouk Basilica is one of the rare Armenian churches totally built on a base of 5-6 steps like a crepidoma. The archeological excavations revealed the lack of a continuous platform under the building which foundations are directly on rock.
The Basilica was a martyrial sanctuary: an inscription on the pilaster at the north-east corner of the apse says: "martyrion [...] of the Precursor and the Protomartyr", that are Saint John Baptist and Saint Stephen.
The west facade is characterized by two windows like the ones on the principal facade, with different decorative elements and, in the high part of the facade, with a three-mullioned window that lights the nave.
The sculptural decorations, realized with the technique of bass-relief on the architrave and capitals in the apse and on the head of the arcades, give importance to the emblematic and apotropaic motive of the Maltese cross (with 4 identic limbs) inscribed in a medallion, sometimes decorated with animals and/or trees. The central crossed medallion is often completed by two lateral medallions made like rose-windows or daisies.
The Basilica had to be equipped with a painted decoration but now we could see them only on the apse window and on a composition on the west portal architrave in the south facade.
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- Rensselaer Digital Collections: Photos of Yererouk
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