THE HEXAGONAL CHURCH IN THE ANI CITADEL

Structure: Marr-Orbeli site 114.
Other designations: Church of Abu'khanm; Monastery of the Citadel; Church of Saint Eghia.

History

This church stands on a spur of rock at the extreme southern end of the citadel. From a distance, and in its current state of preservation, it looks rather like a fortified tower. The church has no surviving identifying or dedicatory inscriptions. Orbeli mentions a fragmentary inscription that once existed on it, bearing the name of a "Prince Abu'khanm" and the date 1026.

The church has a radiating centralised plan based on a hexagon. It is rather plain in appearance, and it was probably built during the second half of the tenth century, perhaps a little earlier, or maybe in the early eleventh century. It also seems to have been substantially restored at a later date, perhaps in the thirteenth or fourteenth century: the stones used in the lower courses are lighter in colour, larger in size, and show more signs of age due to weathering.

Its design, especially its interior, is very similar to the church of Aragats, located about 40km south-east of Ani and thought to date from the late sixth or early seventh century. It is possible that the architect at Ani was consciously reproducing this earlier church.

The Exterior

The entire dome and most of the circular drum have fallen, but most of the lower structure is still intact. More of the drum and a small part of the roof of the dome were standing at the start of the twentieth century: photograph 3 reveals that the dome had a steeply sloping, conical-shaped roof.

Externally, the church is irregular in shape and is ten-sided. Six v-shaped niches further divide the fašade and indicate the position of the apses. These niches have arched tops that are decorated with grooves having semi-circular or angular profiles.

There is a single entrance into the church. This doorway has a monolithic rectangular lintel that is off-centre in relation to the doorjambs. The lintel has a decorative frame compose of a twin-corded interlace pattern. Curiously, this pattern is unfinished. The pattern is also off-centre in relation to the door jambs - suggesting that the lintel is actually a re-used block of stone originally intended for another purpose, perhaps as a gravestone. Most of the right hand doorjamb has fallen, and without its support the lintel has cracked.

Above the lintel is a tympanum with a four-centered pointed-arched shape. In the middle of this tympanum there is carved an equal-armed cross set within a circle. Similar crosses are carved on various other parts of the fašade, and they are all similar to the cross on the west facade of the cathedral. The tympanum has a hooded frame that is plain except for a series of shallowly carved semi-circles.

The traces of concrete that adhere to the face of the tympanum indicate that some sort of porch was once attached to the front of the entrance.

The Interior

The interior has six apses that are arranged around a circular central space. The entrance is through the south-western apse. Side-chapels flank the east-facing altar apse; these may be later additions. Unusually, there is no window in the altar apse.

Each apse has a semi-dome, with a second, shallower, pointed-arched semi-dome directly above it. The junction between the outer edge of the lower semi-dome and base of the upper semi-dome is, visually, rather unresolved. It takes the form of a small squinch. In the centre of each squinch there is a protruding block of stone that appears to have been carved into the shape of a head. All of the surviving protruding blocks are very eroded, and it is not possible to tell if they were human or animal heads.

A plain strip of stonework, ending in a rectangular capital, separates each apse. These capitals have a single volute.

The transition from the six apses to the base of the cylindrical drum is accomplished using pendentives. In the Aragac church squinches are used and the drum is hexagonal. The drum was pierced by windows; there were probably four of them.

On the slope of the citadel hill between the hexagonal church and the palace there is a pile of fallen masonry. This is probably the remains of the fragment of another ruined church which was noticed and photographed by Lynch in 1893 (see figure 84 in his account of his visit to Ani).


1.   The church has been constructed at the southern edge of the citadel hill - click for a larger photo


2.   The church overlooks the Kizkale peninsula


3.   The church at the start of the 20th century, from
a photo by Aram Vruyr, sent in by Missak Kelechian
- click for a larger photo


4.   The west side of the church


5.   The top of one of the v-shaped niches


6.   Equal-armed crosses carved on the west facade


7.   This cross is carved to the left of the entrance


8.   The entrance to the church


9.   The monolithic lintel and the arched tympanum


10.   Inside the church, looking to the north-east


11.   A similar same view, but seen from higher up


12.   The interior viewed from the base of the drum


13.   Head-shaped carving within a squinch


14.   One of the voluted capitals between each apse