THE MAUSOLEUM OF THE CHILD PRINCES

Structure: Marr-Orbeli site 110.
Other designations: the Mausoleum of the Princely Children; the Midjnaberd church;
the domed-hall church of the citadel.

History

The ruins of this church are located a little below and to the south-east of the citadel palace. No surviving identifying or dedicatory inscriptions were discovered on its walls, and the name of the church seems to have been a 19th century invention. However, on stylistic grounds, it can be dated with some certainty to the second quarter of the 11th century. The large quantity of fallen masonry pictured on old photographs indicate that a porch or narthex, from a later period, had once stood in front of the south entrance.

The engraving below, by Brosset in 1860, reveals that by the middle of the 19th century both the eastern and western ends of the church had collapsed, but the remainder of the structure was still largely intact.

The drum and the dome were still standing in the early 1960s, but are said to have collapsed during the earthquake of 1966. I have been unable to locate a plan of this church.

Description

The church had a short "domed rectangle" type of design that was very similar to the church of St. John in the monastery of Horomos. The dome was placed above a plain, cylindrical drum that was pierced with four narrow windows.

The church was built of a dark grey stone, and had no frescoes on its interior surfaces. The otherwise plain interior was articulated and enlivened using architectural features including engaged columns with cushion capitals, protruding cornices, and ribbed vaulting. The arches of all the vaults were slightly pointed.

The apse would have been at the eastern end of the church and, in addition to the entrance in the south fašade, there was probably also an entrance at the western end. The western arm of the church was slightly longer than the eastern one, and formed a short nave. There were bays to the north and the south of the nave that opened onto the nave. Corner chambers flanked the apse.

What was particularly notable about the church was its monumental south doorway. This was executed according to Classical models: a monolithic lintel and jambs bearing palmettes and "egg-and-dart" mouldings, and an architrave with acanthus leaves and dentils. As such, it was similar to the doorways of the Church of the Redeemer and the Church of the Holy Apostles, and was typical of the "School of Ani" architectural style. Other sculptural decoration on the exterior included basket-work mouldings on the bevelled edges of the roof cornices and, flanking the south doorway, v-shaped niches topped with conch-like mouldings.


1.   The ruins of the church - click for a larger photo


2.   A photograph from 1916: a view
of the church from the southwest


3.   A view of the church from the east


4.   A view of the church seen from the north-east


5.   The interior north wall of the church


6.   The north wall of the west arm and
the bay that opened onto the nave


7.   The remains of what was the southwest
corner of the central space under the dome


8.   Architectural details inside the church


9.   The south facade, photographed by Kurkdjian
in the early 1880s - click for a larger photo


10.   A small fragment of the acanthus-leaf frieze
that once ran above the south entrance