East Facade
Zone C - Figure 5

Part of the vine-scroll relief. Surrounded by a grapevine, a male figure sits cross-legged on (or with his back against) a patterned cushion. He is wearing a crown and has a nimbus halo. He is gracefully holding the stem of a goblet in his right hand, and is raising his left hand to pluck at a bunch of grapes that hang from the vine.

Because of its prominent and central position in the vine-scroll, many commentators have tried to identify the crowned figure depicted with a specific person. Armenian commentators (Nersessian, Mnatsakanian, etc.) suggest that he is the founder of the church, King Gagik. Turkish commentators tend to disagree, keen to assert a "Turkish-Islamic" cultural aspect to the carvings. For example, Otto-Dorn believes him to be the Abbasid ruler Caliph Muktadir. Muktadir had recognised Gagik's authority in the Van region and had sent King Gagik a crown on two occasions. Öney takes this thesis further and proclaims that the entire vine scroll is actually a tribute to Muktadir, and that it recreates scenes from Abbasid palace life. The unanswered question is why a Muslim individual is depicted with a halo. Davis believes the figure to be King Trdates, the first Christian king of Armenia.