Terms used on VirtualAni in relation to Armenian art, architecture, etc.

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In architecture, a flat slab that sits on top of a capital and beneath the architrave. It is also called an impost block. Also see: capital, column, cornice, Corinthian, Doric, entablature, frieze, Ionic, shaft, stylobate.

An Islamic Arab Dynasty. They succeeded the Umayyads in 750 AD, and maintained their power until the middle of the 10th century. They had their capital in Baghdad. The Mongols executed the last Abbasid caliph in 1258.

A thistle-like plant that has thick, fleshy leaves with serrated edges. It is native to the Mediterranean region. It has been used as a stylised decorative motif throughout history, with its most obvious use being on capitals of the Corinthian and composite order. The motif sometimes resembles the leaves of the dandelion, thistle or artichoke plants

A.H. or AH
When placed beside a year, it indicates that the year is in the Muslim calendar. It stands for Anno Hegirae, which is Latin for "in the year of the Hegira". The Hegira refers to the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in July 622 CE, marking the beginning of the Moslem era.

A long, narrow space that is located at the side of, and parallel to, the nave of a church. An arcade of columns or piers usually separates an aisle from the nave. It is sometimes referred to as a side aisle.

The individual "stalactite" elements that make up a muqarnas vault.

A structure on which to place or sacrifice offerings to a deity. In a Christian church the altar is usually a stone table or slab on supports, on which the celebration of the sacrament takes place. It is placed in the most prominent place in a church, usually at the eastern end of the nave.

Ambry (or Aumbry)
A niche within the wall of a church. It is generally used for storing various articles that are used in worship.

A continuous vaulted passageway or aisle that leads around a circular building, or around the apse of a church behind the main altar. It was probably developed to make it easier for large religious processions to move about inside a church. It is a feature that is not common in Armenian architecture, where the best known examples are in Zvartnots and its 10th century copy at Ani, the Gagikashen.

In Art, the depiction of the Virgin Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel who announces to her that she is to be the mother of Christ (as recounted in Luke 1:26-38). It is one of the most frequently depicted scenes in Christian art. She is usually depicted seated, or kneeling in meditation, or reading a holy book. Also see: Visitation.

In architecture, this is a space defined by a wall with a semicircular, or curved, or polygonal ground plan. It is usually vaulted with a semi-dome. When used in this sense, the word exedra (pl. exedrae) is an alternative term. Also see: trefoil, quatrefoil.
Another common definition of "apse" is a semicircular or polygonal recess at the eastern end of a Christian church that houses an altar. However, if an altar is present in an apse then a more precise definition would be "altar apse", or "east facing apse", or "sanctuary". The sanctuary is almost always in an apse, but most apses in Armenian churches are not sanctuaries since they do not contain an altar and do not face east.
The symbolic meaning of the apse is derived from the baldachin, the canopy which covered the statues of gods or the thrones of rulers and which was a symbol of the divine. In the altar apses of early Christian churches this symbolism was combined with that of the Roman triumphal arch to show the presence of God.
In medieval Armenian churches, apses may be visible externally in the form of a curved or polygonal extension, or they may be disguised within the thickness of the wall and indicated externally by v-shaped niches. Altar apses in Armenian churches always have one or more windows in them. A single window is the most common. Double windows are most often found in early churches. Occasionally, such as in the church of Saint Hripsime at Etchmaidzin, three windows are found - some think that this may be a reference to the Trinity. In general, the larger the windows in the apse of an Armenian church the earlier is the date of the building.

This is a form of ornamentation that is based on a complicated, intertwined, flowing design of stylised floral and plant motifs, often arranged in a geometric, two-dimensional way. This unrealistic representation of nature was consistent with Islamic beliefs that man should not imitate God's creations.

A linked series of arches supported by columns, piers, or pillars. Also, a roofed passageway or gallery, especially with shops along one or both sides. Also see: blind arcade.

A curved structural member that spans an opening or recess and supports the weight of the structure above it. It is usually of a masonry construction, and used as a doorway, window, or a portal. Freestanding monumental arches have been built simply for symbolic purposes. A masonry arch has a keystone surmounting and holding in place several wedge-shaped blocks, called voussoirs, that transmit and transform the vertical pressure of the structure above into lateral pressure. All arches require support from other arches or buttresses or adjoining walls.
Arches come in many different shapes, such as the flat arch, horseshoe arch, ogee arch, pointed arch, rounded arch, segmented arch, etc.

    Parts of an arch: keystone, soffit, spring line, springer, voussoir.
    Measurements of an arch: rise, span.
    Related architectural elements: arcade, cusp, hood moulding, spandrel, tympanum.

A work that dates from an early stage in the development of an artistic style, or a work which conveys, consciously or unconsciously, the characteristics of an earlier style.

Architecture qualities observed in objects that are not typically architectural ones. Something having design characteristics relating to architecture.

In architecture, the lintel or flat horizontal member which spans the space between columns. In classical architecture it is the lowest part of an entablature, resting directly on the capital of a column.

A band or moulding that surrounds an arched opening. Also see: jamb, tympanum.

Articulated / Articulation
An object, especially a building, that is visually defined, normally by using distinct architectural features.

Any small object that has been manufactured, used, or modified by humans.

Rectangular dressed blocks of stone laid in regular courses, usually with fine vertical joints.


A building used for baptism in the Christian church. Also spelled baptistery.

Barrel Vault
In architecture, a ceiling that is in the form of a semicircular vault with a continuous surface. It is the simplest form of a vault. So called because it resembles a barrel that has been cut in half lengthways. Compare with: groin vault.

A hard, dense, dark volcanic rock.

French term meaning "low-raised work". This, along with high relief, is known collectively as relief sculpture. Relief sculpture should be viewed primarily from one direction, as opposed to sculpture that is in the round.

During the Roman Empire this was a type of large public building with an open interior and usually with side aisles separated from the main space by rows of evenly spaced columns. The same form was adopted as a building type for Early Christian churches. Basilica churches have a rectangular plan on an east west axis and contain one to three aisles. Armenian basilicas generally have an apse at the eastern end of the church and the main entrance usually at the western end. In Armenia, the basilica plan was quickly superseded by centralised plans, but it again became a popular design for Armenian churches during the 19th century.

The general term for a defensive structure that projects from the main line of defense.

This is a subdivision, or unit, or compartment of interior space, within a building. It is visually, and sometimes structurally, marked off from the adjoining space by architectural divisions.

A wall face that inclines inward from the vertical plane. Often found at the base of a fortified wall.

Bearing Wall
This is a wall that supports the weight of a structure, and not simply its own weight.


Berd / Bert
The Armenian word for castle.

Blind Arcade
An arcade that has no actual openings and that is applied to the surface of a wall to enliven it or to articulate the design: i.e. the arches are not windows but are are part of the masonry face. It has no load-bearing function. Blind arcades are often found on the facades of medieval Armenian churches.

In architecture, a raised ornament, such as a projecting stone located at the intersection of the ribs of a vault.

Broken Pediment
A pediment in which a part of the cornice is discontinuous (deliberately missing). If the cornice is discontinuous at its apex then it is called an open topped or broken-apex pediment. If it is discontinuous at its base then it is called a broken-bed pediment.

A mass of masonry or brickwork that projects from, or is built against, a wall in order to give it additional strength. A pier buttress is an exterior pier that counteracts the thrust of an arch or vault. A flying buttress has an arch or half arch that transmits the thrust of a vault or roof from the upper part of a wall onto a buttress.


A very large metal container. Excavations in Armenia have uncovered many bronze caldrons that date from Urartian times and which probably had ceremonial uses. Medieval Armenian caldrons also exist, some of which were used for baptisms.

An Islamic title for a ruler. According to the Sunni doctrine, the Caliph was the successor to the Prophet Muhammad. Later Caliphs regarded themselves to be God's representative on Earth, and claimed to have comprehensive religious authority. The Ottoman sultans appropriated the title "Caliph" when they conquered Iraq. Republican Turkey abolished the title in 1924, two years after the sultanate was abolished.

A type of mosque. It is the modern Turkish spelling of the Arabic word Jami, meaning "he who gathers", In Turkey, when applied to a congregational mosque, also called a "Friday Mosque", the term Ulu Cami is sometimes used, (Friday prayers are the most important, and attract the largest congregations).

In architecture, a structural and decorative element that divides a column or pillar from the masonry that it supports. (From the Latin capitellum, "little head".)

Caravansaray / Caravanseri
A medieval lodging for travellers, located along trade routes. They are generally built around a large courtyard or vaulted chamber, and are lined with rooms and halls where both men and animals would stay. A caravansaray contained stables, secure storerooms, sleeping quarters, etc. Those located outside towns were freestanding structures that were either fortified or easily defendable. Many have large and richly decorated entrance portals. From the Persian karvan, "caravan" and saray, "house". In modern Turkish, spelt kervansaray. Also see: han.

The term cathedral refers to the function of a church, not its architectural style. A cathedral is the principal church of a diocese, and serves as a bishop's headquarters. The chair on which a bishop sits is called the cathedra. It is located in the chancel, often centred behind the altar.

The place where the Catholicos, the head of the Armenian Church, resides. There are currently two Catholicos' for the Armenian Church. One has his seat in Etchmiadzin, the other (the Cilician Catholicosate) is now based in Antilias, in Lebanon.

Central Plan / Centrally Planned
In architecture, a centrally planned building is one in which the parts of the building radiate from a central point. A centrally planned building may be square, circular, or polygonal. The most important feature is the open space at the centre of the building, arranged symmetrical around a vertical axis. Also see: basilica.

A surface formed by cutting off a square edge, usually at a 45 degree angle.

The chancel is the eastern portion of a church, reserved for the clergy and the choir, and often separated from the main body of the church by a screen or by steps. It is the area from which the service is conducted, as distinct from the nave, where the congregation sits. The chancel is usually an elevated platform, usually three steps up from the nave. The words chancel and sanctuary are often synonyms.
In ancient Byzantine churches and for several centuries thereafter the clergy and the people (representing respectively Heaven and Earth) were separated by a low wall about four feet high called a chancel screen. This was not a solid barrier, such as an iconostasis, but a low parapet set between taller, free-standing columns which carried an architrave at a higher level resting on top of the columns. This was not an attempt to exclude the faithful from a full view of the clergy celebrating the Holy Mysteries. On the contrary, the visual access through the chancel screen was actually improved by the elevated platform of the sanctuary, which provided the faithful with a good view of the proceedings behind the screen. Over many centuries the chancel screen eventually evolved into the iconostasis.
In the contect of church architecture in the TransCaucasus, the height of the chancel is sometimes interpreted as indicating the affiliation of those who worshiped within it. Chalcedonian churches can have raised chancels, and non-chalcedonian churches can have chancels level with the nave. For example, when excavating the 10th century Armenian church at site #101 at Ani, Marr discovered that its original chancel was at the same level as the nave, and that it had been raised to 0.7m at a later date. At Dortkilise, the the Ohta Eklesia, a three-aisle Georgian basilica from the 10th century, has a raised chancel about 1 metre above the nave. whim of the builder and the fashion of the time. in Georgia, many medieval churches have been damaged by the destruction of their original chancels to reduce their height to that of the nave. Chaucanistic reasons to remove what the aggressively nationalistic Georgian Church percieves as Armenian influences.

Either a small church, or an area or compartment within a larger church that contains an altar. Chapels have the same function as church buildings and are equipped the same way, but they are usually dedicated to special use. For example, a large estate might have a chapel in which worship services are held for family members, staff, and guests. If a church builds a new and larger sanctuary, but keeps the old one, the old one is often called a chapel. The side rooms that often flank the apse in Armenian churches are often called chapels, though their exact purpose may be unclear.

A zigzag or V-shaped shaped motif.

The area of the church between a transept and main apse. It is the area where the service is sung and clergy may stand, and the main or high altar is located. In some churches there is no choir, while in others, the choir is quite large and surrounded by an ambulatory.

A canopy, often free-standing and supported by four columns, that is erected over an altar. (pr. sih-bor'ee-um).

A shape with five-lobes, a plan with 5 apses. Compare with trefoil, quatrefoil, hexafoil, etc.

The religious practice of walking several times around a sacred place as a sign of veneration and piety.

A fortress that is within a part of a town but is isolated from it, forming a fortified town within a town. Sometimes it is known as an inner castle, ickale in Turkish.

A decorative, protective, or insulating layer that is attached to the outside of a building or other structure. It is not usually load bearing, but may serve to protect or enhance the actual load bearing structure.

Clustered Pier
A structural support in the form of a pier or large column that has several engaged shafts or pilasters that are attached to it on one or all sides. It is especially characteristic of Gothic architecture. Also known as a compound pier.

Recessed panels, usually square or rectangular, that decorate a vault, ceiling, or underside of an arch.

A row of freestanding columns that support a horizontal entablature called an architrave, or a series of arches. Also see arcade.

A small column. In Armenian architecture they are often found in blind arcades.

An upright cylindrical support, usually structural and often also decorative. Columns usually consist of a base at the bottom, a round shaft tapering toward the top, and a capital. The shaft may consist of several blocks of stone, called drums. A half-column is attached to a wall and does not bear weight. Freestanding columns are not often found in Armenian architecture.

An internal unit of a ground plan. Also see: bay.

Composite Pier
A type of pier that is not composed of a single member but which has shafts, half-columns, or pilaster strips attached to it.

Composite Capital
A capital that has acanthus leaves at the bottom and Ionic volutes at the top.

Compound pier
A structural support in the form of a pier or large column that has several engaged shafts or pilasters that are attached to it on one or all sides. It is especially characteristic of Gothic architecture. Also known as a clustered pier.

A supportive architectural bracket or block that projects from a wall, and which sometimes supports (or appears to support) a structural member such as a shaft.

Corbel Vault
In architecture, a vault built on the same principle as a corbelled arch.

Corbelled Arch
In architecture, this is a "false arch" that bridges a gap by means of overlapping blocks of masonry. Also see corbel.

The most elaborate of the three classical orders of Greek architecture, distinguished by a slender, fluted column, and a bell-shaped capital that is decorated with a design of acanthus leaves.

In architecture, it is the projecting upper section of an entablature. Also a term for any crowning projecting moulding that runs around the top of a building or the wall of a room.

A layer of stones laid in the horizontal plane within a wall.

Also called a battlement. This is a parapet (a low wall) constructed at the top of a larger wall for defensive purposes, behind which defenders can shelter or fight. It has alternating openings (crenels or embrasures) and raised sections (merlons).

The space in a cruciform church formed by the intersection of the nave and the transept.

Cross Section
In architecture, a schematic representation of a building, showing it as if it had been cut at right angles to the ground plan. Compare with ground or floor plan

Cross vault / Cross-barrel vault
In architecture, two barrel vaults intersecting each other at right angles. Also called a groin vault.

Cross-shaped. It is usually used to describe the plan of a church. Examples include the letter "t" and the typical plan of Gothic churches. Some small Armenian chapels were cruciform.

A crypt is a chamber beneath the main floor of a church, usually containing graves or relics. It is typically vaulted, and wholly or partly underground. In medieval churches, it was usually under the apse.

The wedge-shaped depressions made by the ancient Mesopotamians into clay in order to inscribe the characters of their written language. It was in Mesopotamia, around 3100 BCE, that writing appeared for the first time in the world. The Urartians also used a similar lettering style.

A cupola is a dome, especially a small one. It is sometimes surmounted by a lantern. Also see: dome.

Curtain Wall
In castles or other fortifications, the surrounding fortified walls. Also any large stretch of wall that is not load bearing.

Cushion, Block, or Cubic Capital
A simple cube-like capital with the bottom corners tapered.


In architecture, a hemispherical vault or ceiling over a circular opening. Usually, and almost always in the case of Armenian churches, the dome is elevated further by being placed on a circular or polygonal base, called a drum. A dome's external silhouette may be hemispherical, pointed, or onion shaped. If it is very shallow, then it may not be expressed externally at all. At the top, or crown, of the dome there may be an opening or occulus, above which there may be a lantern. Also see: cupola, lantern.

This is a term for the person who paid for, or commissioned, a building or other structure. In Armenian churches donor portraits are sometimes found in frescoes, but more common are the examples of relief sculpture that depict donors, often holding a model of the church they commissioned.

Double Apse
A church with a single nave and two altar apses that are symmetrically placed side by side. Although rare in Armenian architecture, it is a design that is known to exist in at least 14 churches, (J. M. Thierry has published 12 examples, I know of another 2). The reason for this arrangement of apses is not certain, one interpretation (by Thierry) is that these churches had a funerary purpose and were memorial structures intended for a couple.

The earliest of the orders of classical architecture.

A cylindrical or polygonal wall which supports a dome. Also called a tambour. Also used to describe the cylindrical sections of stone that make up the shaft of a column.


Egg and Dart
A repetitive decorative motif often used in classical antiquity and copied in the Middle Ages. It consists of oval (egg-shaped) motifs alternating with dart-like motifs.

In architecture, this is an alternative word for façade: the vertical organisation of the face of a building. Also, an architectural drawing in the form of a geometric projection of a building on a vertical plane, showing any one side, exterior or interior, of that building.

Originally an Arabic title (amir) for a military commander, later a Muslim provincial governor sometimes appointed by the Caliph, sometimes gaining his position through inheritance or conquest. In most cases he was the de-facto ruler of a region.

Engaged Column
In architecture, a column that is attached to a wall and which is therefore not completely cylindrical. It may not be load bearing, and may exist only to visually articulate the wall. Another term for an engaged column is an attached column. Also see: pilaster.

In architecture, this is the upper section of a classical building. Resting on the capitals, it consists firstly of the architrave, then the frieze, and then the cornice at the top.

An Armenian word for a type of roof that has a central opening.

These were the four writers of the Gospels in the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They are frequently represented in works of art by their conventional symbols: an angel (Mathew), a lion (Mark), an ox (Luke), and an eagle (John). These symbols are very common in manuscripts, sculpture and wall paintings.

See apse.

The upper and / or outer vertical surfaces of arches and vaults. Also see: intrados.

A votive offering, typically an object, presented at shrines, sometimes pinned to images of saints, etc. They are used to wish for a cure by a particular saint or to give thanks for a cure after having prayed to a saint. It is Latin for "out of thankfulness".


The front of a building, and any other sides of a building when they are emphasised architecturally. A façade usually accentuates the entrance to a building and prepares the visitor for the architectural style to be found inside.

In architecture, relating to the design and arrangement of windows.

Any piece of artwork that represents the form of a human, or an animal, or a thing, is figurative art.

Figured or Historiated Capital
A capital that is decorated with figures of animals, birds, or humans, used either alone or combined with foliage. The figures need not have any meaning, although they may be symbolic or part of a narrative sequence. Historiated capitals were most commonly used in Romanesque architecture from the late eleventh to mid-twelfth centuries. Also see: foliated capital.

A small, decorative appendage that finishes an architectural element, especially at the tip of a pinnacle, spire or other tapering vertical element. From the Latin finis, meaning "end".

Floor Plan / Ground Plan
In architecture, a schematic representation of a building comprising a horizontal cross-section of the building as it would look at ground level. A ground plan shows the basic shape of a building and, usually, the outlines of other interior and exterior features.

Flute / Fluted / Fluting
Grooves or channels which are roughly semi-circular in cross-section. They are found repeated vertically in columns and pilasters, and are also used in frames and other mouldings.

Foliate / Foliated
Decoration that is shaped like leaves. A foliated capital is decorated with leaf-like elements.

A receptacle for water that is used for baptism. Inside late medieval Armenian churches it is normally located within a niche set into the north wall, close to its eastern end.

Free-Standing Sculpture
A type of sculpture that is surrounded on all sides by space. This sort of sculpture is intended to be viewed from all sides. Also called sculpture in-the-round. It is the opposite of relief sculpture.

A method of painting onto either wet or dry plaster. In the former method, pigments are applied to thin layers of wet plaster so that they will be absorbed and the painting becomes part of the wall. In frescoes, blue paint is often used in the clothing of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Frescoes are not particularly common in Armenian churches, and are generally seen to have come about because of outside influences from the Byzantine world or (during the 18th and 19th century) Catholic Europe.

This is a continuous, decorative, horizontal band usually placed along the upper parts of a wall. Used to decorate the interior or exterior of a building. In classical architecture it was the part of the entablature between the architrave and the cornice. From the Latin frisium "fringe".


An Armenian word for a hall. Popular in monastic complexes, they served as meeting rooms and vestibules, and were intended for both civil and religious use. In most occasions they are placed in front of a church. Also see: zhamatun.

Any shape or form that has a more mathematical than organic design. Geometric designs are typically made with straight lines, or geometric shapes including circles, ovals, triangles, rectangles, squares, pentagons, hexagons, etc. Examples of geometric forms include spheres, cones, cylinders, tetrahedrons, pyramids, cubes and other polyhedrons.

Greek Cross
This is a cross shape in which all the arms are the same lengths. In architecture, used as a term to describe a church whose ground plan resembles this shape.

A framework or pattern of horizontal and vertical parallel lines that usually cross at right angles to each other. When applied to street layouts this is called a grid-plan.

Groin vault
A vault formed by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults. Sometimes the arches of groin vaults may be pointed instead of round. Also see: barrel vault.

An ornament consisting of interlaced, curving bands. Also see: key pattern.


A public bathhouse. It usually takes the form of a central, domed, hot room surrounded by smaller domed rooms. There will also be ancillary rooms, including a disrobing room and a cool room.

An alternative word for a caravansaray, used particularly in Turkey. In an urban context, it can also refer to a structure for shops, warehousing, or various kinds of manufacturing.

An Armenian word (meaning "with a thousand beams") for a type of roof that is built up from a series of horizontal wooden beams that are laid one on top of another in order to form a sort of polygonal vault. Sometimes there is an opening at the top of the vault for air or light. It was found mostly in traditional Armenian domestic dwellings. The same sort of roof is also found in traditional Turkish dwellings in eastern Anatolia (in which it is called a tandirevi, or kirlangiç örtü) and in Georgian dwellings (in which it is called a darbazi). The hazarshen type of roof has been used occasionally in churches and zhamatuns. An especially large Hazarshen roof can be seen in the Ulu Cami in Erzurum.

A six lobed structure. In Armenia, such buildings often use the six walls to support a dome. See also: quatrefoil, trefoil.

Ornamented containing representations, such as plants, animals, or human figures, that have a narrative function. This is distinct from a purely decorative function. Historiated initial letters were a popular form of manuscript decoration in the Middle Ages.

High Relief
In relief sculpture, a form that extends at least halfway out of the background.

Hooded Moulding
A projecting moulding on the wall above an arch.

Horror Vacui
The compulsion to make marks in every space. Horror vacui is indicated by a crowded design. In Latin, literally means "fear of empty space" or "fear of emptiness".

Hypostyle Hall
In architecture, this is a hall with a roof supported by many columns.

Horseshoe Arch
An arch shaped like a horseshoe. Although seen to be associated with Islamic architecture, this form of arch actually predates it. Horseshoe arches are common in Armenian churches that predate the Arab conquests.

Hripsime Plan
The 7th century Saint Hripsime church in Etchmiadzin is a textbook example of a radiating plan, so much so that any church with that sort of radiating plan is often referred to as a Hripsime plan. The plan is characterised by an interior tetraconch with three-quarter cylindrical niches located at the intersections of each apse. This creates an octagonal base that supports a tall drum. Side chambers usually lead off the corner niches. It is considered to be the most uniquely Armenian plan of all Armenian churches, although it is also found in some churches in Georgia. The famous church on Aght'amar island has a Hripsime plan.


This is a panel with a painting, usually in tempera, of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or another religious subject.

Pictorial material relating to or illustrating a subject, especially a religious or legendary subject, and containing traditional or conventional images or symbols that are associated with that subject. Also, the study of the changes and developments of these compositional elements over time. Also, the symbolic meanings in a work of art.

Iconoclast, Iconoclasm
An iconoclast is a person who, for religious reasons, opposes the display and veneration of figurative images in a religious context. It also means a person who destroys sacred religious images, especially icons.
Within the Byzantine Empire the so-called Iconoclastic Crisis officially began in the year 726 when Emperor Leo III delivered a sermon warning against the veneration of icons, saying that it was tantamount to idolatry. In 730 he issued an edict banning all icons. This led to the wholesale destruction not only of icons, but also of figurative mosaics and frescoes within the empire. The Iconoclastic period lasted until 843, when a synod of the Greek Church declared the restoration of icons.

In Art terminology, iconography is the pictorial representation of a subject, or the collected images illustrating a subject.

A feature of the interior design of Eastern Christian churches. An iconostasis is a screen or partition, with doors and many tiers of icons, that separates the sanctuary (the area within which the clergy celebrates the Holy Mysteries), from the main body of the church (the area occupied by the congregation). Also see: chancel.

The prayer leader in Muslim communal worship, also the most senior leader in a Muslim community.

Impost Block
In architecture, a stone slab with the shape of a truncated, inverted pyramid that is placed between a capital and the architectural member above it.

A surface (typically metal, stone, or pottery) that has been cut into, often to create lettering or decoration.

Any object that is in its natural, original, or appropriate position.

In-The-Round Sculpture
A piece of sculpture intended to be viewed from all sides, which is freestanding, surrounded on all sides by space. The opposite of relief sculpture. It is not common in Armenian art: the only known example that came close to being a full in-the-round sculpture was the now destroyed statue of King Gagik, found in the cathedral of Saint Gregory at Ani.

The underside of an arch or a vault. Also see: extrados.

A decorative motif consisting of threads passing over and under each other, like threads in lace.

The second of the three orders of classical Greek architecture. Ionic columns are taller and more slender than those of the Doric order. Ionic columns have fluted shafts and rest on a moulded base. At the top of the shafts are ionic capitals with laterality positioned volutes.
An Ionic capital has a volute, or a spiral scroll-like carving, on each side as its major decoration. In the medieval period, including in Armenia, the Ionic capital was often used without a strict adherence to the rest of the order. Also see: capital.

Islamic Architecture
How widely the term 'Islamic' should be applied in discussing cultural, material and social life in regions with large Muslim populations is a topic of much debate. In general, it can be said that the term "Islamic architecture" is used to describe too many things.
Fundamentalist Islam sees itself as a universal value system which must include the secular as well as religious aspects of life. Under such a view if a government is Muslim then every structure constructed under it must be Islamic or be made to be Islamic. Such an outlook has obviously no basis in reality. However, it would be equally unrealistic to limit Islamic architecture to religious structures that do nothing more that provide the basic functional necessities of Islamic prayer. For example, the Muslim way of life could be seen to have influenced the design of houses: a Muslim household might wish their house interior to be private and secluded from invasive eyes and to have separate male and female sections. (But it could also be argued that such social custons have nothing directly to do with Islam.)
Islamic architecture was strongly influenced by pre-existing cultures: Byzantine, Persian, Roman, Indian, etc., and forms and features that may be generally perceived as being Islamic (such as horseshoe arches or muqarnas mouldings) are often actually not. Since this is not a website that is specifically about Islamic architecture, no hard and fast rules have been used, and you will sometimes see loose terms such as "Islamic influences".
Extreme Islamic orthodoxy has often led to the destruction of structures, including Islamic ones from earlier periods, that are percieved to be in some way "un-Islamic".

Iwan / Eiwan / Eivan
A Persian/Farsi word, (spelt "eyvan" in Turkish), used to describe a vaulted hall whose façade is open at one end, usually opening onto a courtyard. It appeared in Near-Eastern architecture, particularly in Sassanid Persia, from the late classical period onwards. It is used in both religious and secular buildings. The four-iwan plan can be found in numerous medreses in Turkey from the Seljuk period. In later developments it can take the form of a large niche. When it takes the form of a monumental entrance it is called a pishtaq.


The vertical sides of a door or window opening. Sometimes used as a surface for sculptural decoration.


This is the Turkish word for castle, e.g.: "Kars Kalesi" which means Kars castle.

Key pattern
A geometric ornament consisting of horizontal and vertical straight lines repeated to form a band. Also called a fret.

This is the highest block of stone (voussoir) in an arch. In vaulting it occurs at the intersection of the ribs of a rib vault. A keystone cannot fall out of place because it is wedge-shaped, with the widest part of the wedge at the top. By pressing equally on either side it holds the arch together. Also see: voussoir, rib vault, boss.

An Armenian word meaning "cross stone".
It refers to a type of monument that is unique to Armenia. A khatchk'ar is a monolithic slab of stone, on which is carved various motifs but always with a cross as the central motif.
The earliest known examples are from the 9th century. The largest and most ornate examples date from the 13th century. They were used for commemorative as well as funerary purposes. Sometimes they were coloured. Some stand on elevated platforms. Khatchk'ars are also found built into the walls of churches: sometimes they are carved there as new, sometimes they are there as a result of re-use (there may have been a symbolic reason for the use of such spoila).
If in-situ, a khatchk'ar should face west, so that the faithful would face east when contemplating it, (i.e.: it is intended to be like an open-air sanctuary). Khatchk'ars are, in many ways, the Armenian equivalent of Byzantine icons.

This is the Turkish word for church, e.g.: "Akdamar Kilisesi" means the church of Aght'amar.

A small, open sided or partially enclosed pavilion set within a garden or courtyard or rooftop location. Derived from the Turkish word "Koshk".

A style of Arabic script, named after the city of Kufa in Iraq, popular in early Islamic times. It is characterised by its angular forms. A type of surface decoration also exists which was inspired by and seems to resemble Kufic script, though it is actually only an indecipherable pattern.

This is an Islamic funerary monument. Often used interchangeably with the term turbe, a kumbet is almost always a free-standing, centrally planned, domed structure. There is generally a funerary chamber in a partially underground basement and a prayer room on an upper level. Although they arose independently from each other, there is a visual and structural similarity between kumbets and the domes of Armenian churches that has influenced the later evolution of each in regions where they have culturally overlapped. Also see: turbe.


A small circular or polygonal structure, often decorative, with windows all around, constructed above an opening in a dome or roof. In some Armenian churches it is also used as a belltower.

Latin cross
A cross in which the vertical member is longer than the horizontal member - i.e. there are three short arms and one long arm. Usually used as a term to describe a church whose ground plan resembles this from. Compare with Greek cross.

In churches with a traditional floor plan there are often two speaker's stands in the front of the sanctuary of the church: one is called the pulpit and the other is called the lectern. The one on the right (as viewed by the congregation) is the lectern. The word lectern comes from the Latin word meaning "to read", because the lectern primarily functions as a reading stand to support a book. Three ornately carved wooden folding lecterns were found during Marr's excavations at Ani.

A flat horizontal beam that spans an opening between two supports and that carries the weight of the structure above it.

The rites, observances, or procedures of the Christian Churches. Any prescribed form or set of forms for public religious worship.

Living Rock
Rock that is carved into or that is in some other way used in situ.

In architecture, a gallery that has an open arcade or colonnade on one or on both sides.

longitudinal barrel vault:
A barrel (or tunnel) vault which follows the main longitudinal direction of the nave. Usually when a vault is referred to simply as a barrel (or tunnel) vault, it may be assumed to be a longitudinal barrel vault. Also see: barrel vault, groin vault.

Low Relief
Another name for bas-relief. It is a type of sculpture whose form extends only slightly out of the background. Also see: bas-relief, relief sculpture.

A lozenge shape is a four-sided two-dimensional figure with a diamond-like shape.

A semicircular panel, often above a door or window, usually having some sort of decoration.


In the architecture of fortifications, an overhanging gallery projecting on brackets and built on the outside of towers and walls, with openings in the floor through which defenders could drop missiles and boiling liquids onto attackers. Also see: crenelation.

A church or other building erected on a site sacred to Christianity, symbolising a place of martyrdom or marking the grave of a martyr.

Masjid / Mescit
This is a mosque that is intended to be used every day. Compare it with Ulu Cami.

In Turkey, an Islamic school for the teaching of the doctrine of the Koran and Islamic law, (from the Arabic word "madrasa"). Traditionally, other subjects such as mathematics, medicine, literature, and languages were also taught. Medreses were developed by the Seljuk Turks in Iran and Anatolia as a way of training state officials and administrators. They were also used to promote and enforce Sunni orthodox dogma.
Within Turkish territories they generally followed a similar design: an open courtyard lined with cells for the pupils, one or more iwans as a teaching area, and a prayer hall. Most have a monumental entrance flanked with one or two minarets.

Objects that are collected for their historical significance. Examples include old posters, advertisements, postcards, packaging, tickets, leaflets, and other ephemera.

In Islamic architecture, this is a niche or indentation in the wall of a mosque. It indicates the direction of the Kaaba (the house of Allah) in Mecca, towards which the worshiper should face when performing the ritual prostration involved in Islamic prayer. It is an important element in any mosque (though not essential: if a worshiper doesn't know in which direction the Kaaba is, then he is permitted to pray in any direction, the reasoning being that God is omnipresent). Its form may have been derived from the niche used to store the Torah in synagogues, plus some influence from the apses of Christian churches. A mihrab can come in various shapes (semicircular, polygonal, rectangular, etc.) and they are often richly decorated with geometric or foliated sculpture or tiles.
Certain symbolic meanings are sometimes assigned to a mihrab: it can be thought of as a doorway to heaven, a door that can be opened by prayer; the empty space within the niche symbolises an omnipresent, formless force, i.e. God.

In Islamic architecture, this is a tall tower that is attached to or built next to a mosque. At the top of every minaret is a balcony from which the muezzin (a Muslim crier) calls the faithful to prayer five times a day. The Arabic form of the word is manarah, meaning "place of light". Most minarets in Anatolia are cylindrical in nature and have spiral staircases inside.

Mimber (Arabic "Minbar")
In Islamic architecture, a raised pulpit that is reached via a stepped structure. It is located usually to the right of a mosque's mihrab. It is used by the imam (prayer leader) for sermons and prayer. A mimber can be made of either wood or stone, and is usually richly decorated.

A module is the basic unit of which the dimensions of the major parts of a work are multiples. The principle is used in sculpture and other art forms, but it is often most employed in architecture, where the module may be the dimensions of an important part of a building, such as a column, or simply some commonly accepted unit of measurement.

A monastery is the collective dwelling place of persons living under religious vows and a set of rules. Males and females (monks and nuns) would normally inhabit separate communities. The collective dwelling place of nuns is sometimes referred to as a nunnery.A place where monks lead a more separate, solitary life is called a hermitage.

This refers to a way of life in which individuals voluntarily join together in communities called monasteries, isolated from the outside world, where they spend their days in prayer, manual labour and self-denial.

A term used to describe enormous stones that are of one solid piece of rock.

A picture or design made of tiny pieces (called tesserae) of coloured stone, glass, or tile set into a surface of plaster or concrete. It is used to decorate walls, ceilings, vaults, or floors.

An Islamic place of worship. "Mosque" is a French word derived from the Arabic word "masjid", meaning a place of prostration. The term "masjid" ("mescit" in Turkish) refers to mosques that could be used every day. A mosque where the important communal Friday worship is held is called a "masjud-i jami"; in Turkey it is called a "ulu cami", "great mosque". The covered part of a mosque is called the prayer hall, most mosques also have an outer courtyard. Also see: medrese, mihrab, minaret, mimber.

A consistent or recurrent element. In an architectural or decorative pattern, a motif is either employed as the central element in a work, or it is repeated either consistently or as a theme with variations.

The official of a mosque whose duty it is to call the faithful to prayer. Also see: minaret.

This is an Arabic word ("mukarnas" in modern Turkish) for a form of vaulting. It is the geometric subdivision of a squinch, or cupola, or corbel, into a large number of miniature squinches, producing a sort of cellular structure. Also known as a honeycomb vault.
The Muqarnas vault is purely decorative and has no loadbearing function. The individual elements are called alveoles. Muqarnas ornamentation was freely used in domes, entrance portals, niches, capitals, and decorative surfaces. If the divisions of the vault are shaped into free-hanging, icicle-like structures then it is also called a stalactite vault. Although mainly found in Muslim buildings, it became adopted into Armenian architecture, initially in secular buildings and later in churches.


In architecture, a porch or vestibule of a church, preceding the nave. In Armenian architecture this sort of structure is known as a gavit or a zhamatun.

In architecture, this is any longitudinal area within a covered building. In a church it is the central area where the congregation gathers when attending religious services. It leads from the main entrance up to the chancel or altar. A church may have a single nave, or the central nave may be flanked by smaller ones, called side aisles, which are separated from the main nave by columns or piers.

A narrow moulding at the bottom of a capital that masks the junction between the capital and the shaft of the column.

Any recess within the thickness of a wall.


In architecture, a circular opening in a wall or dome.

An eight lobed structure where the lobes (walls) create a supporting base for a dome above them.

An edge or molding that has the profile of an S-shaped curve. An ogee arch is formed by the intersection of two such S-shaped curves.

Is a form of surface decoration; something that decorates, adorns, or embellishes. Ornamentation is the class of things that are ornamental.

Orthodox / Orthodoxy
Adhering to or agreeing with an accepted, traditional and established doctrines, or an established religion. The opposite of orthodox is heterodox.


An ornamental form based on the palm leaf. It is made up of plant leaf motifs arranged in a symmetrical configuration.

A support or base, such as for a column or a sculpture.

A wide, low-pitched gable surmounting the façade of a building. It is formed at the end of a building by the sloping roof and the cornice. Also, a triangular decorative element placed above a window or entrance. Also see: broken pediment. Contrast with: tympanum.

A concave, triangular piece of masonry placed at the corners of a square bay and used to make a structural and visual transition from the square bay to the circular base of a covering drum or dome. It is actually, a triangular section of a hemisphere. Contrast with: squinch.

The representation of something inanimate or abstract as having the personality or the qualities, thoughts, or movements of a living human being. For example, the ideals of liberty portrayed as a woman holding a torch, or the identification of the ruins of Ani as a mournful woman.

A vertical, solid, massive, masonry support. A pier is generally square, rectangular, or composite in cross section. Also, a section of wall that is used to support an arch, vault, or other kind of roof, or, the solid masonry between openings in buildings, or, the supporting structure at the junction of the spans of a bridge. Compare with: column, pilaster.

In architecture, a flat, rectangular column (sometimes fluted) with a capital and base, that is attached to or set into a wall and which projects only slightly from that wall. It may be used decoratively as an ornamental motif, or used to buttress the wall. Contrast it with: column, pier.

A free-standing load bearing support, such as a column. Sometimes it is an isolated member erected for commemorative purposes.

A Persian / Farsi word that literally means "front of arch". It applies to a type of monumental entrance to a building such as a mosque, palace, caravansaray, or medrese. Such portals are characterised by having a large rectangular frame, often with ornate dercoration, that surrounds an iwan-like niche containing the actual doorway opening.

Many of the place-names mentioned on VirtualAni are artificial names in the sense that they are modern names forced onto the inhabitants because the original place-name is deemed by the State to be politically unacceptable. In Turkey, place-names that are perceived by officials to be "Armenian", "Greek", or "Kurdish" in origin have been replaced by "Turkish" ones. In Armenia, place-names that are perceived by officials to be "Turkish" or "Persian" in origin have been replaced by "Armenian" names. On VirtualAni the current official name for a settlement or place is the one that is generally used. This is not done to condone the distasteful practice of name-changeing, but is simply because that will be the name which will appear on current maps and road signs.
When a place-name change has been recent then it will be indicated in this way: "Tunckaya, formerly Gecivan", or "Gecivan, now called Tunckaya".
If the current name has been in use since at least the 19th century then it will be given as: "Muradiye, historical Berkri". If the old name has not been used for many centuries then it will be given as: Van ancientTushpa.
If what has changed is the spelling of a place-name rather than the actual name then current spellings are (for the most part) used, i.e. Mus, rather than Mush, or Moush.

The horizontal arrangement of a building. Also, a drawing, diagram, or map of this arrangement, shown as if seen from above.

A block of wood or stone placed beneath a sculpture or a column; a narrow, vertical, rectangular stone base. Also, one or more courses of masonry that project forward at the bottom of a wall. Also see: pedestal.

Pointed Vault
A vault with a cross section resembling a pointed arch. Contrast with: barrel vault.

A doorway or entrance, especially one that is large and imposing.

In architecture, a porch or walkway with a roof - either open or partly enclosed - supported by columns and often with a pediment. A portico usually leads to the entrance of a building. Porticoes can be one or more stories high, and may be as narrow as a door or as wide as an entire building.

A secondary door.

Potsherd or Potshard
A fragment of broken pottery that has been discarded by an earlier civilisation. It is likely to have settled into earth firmly stratified over time and thus provide an archaeological chronology to a site. A potsherd whose resting-place is unknown is said to be "out of context" and has thus lost most of its archaeological value. At Ani, most of the activities of Professor Karamagarali seem to consist of making sure that every object on the site is placed out of context.


An form that has four lobes or foils, resembling a four-petaled flower. In architecture, a quatrefoil plan is a four lobed structure in which the walls represent four leaves or petals with a dome on top. It is a common plan in Armenian architecture. Also known as a tetraconch. Compare with: cinquefoil, hexafoil, octafoil, trefoil, triconch.

In architecture, large, sometimes rusticated, and usually slightly projecting stone blocks that form the corners of the exterior walls of masonry buildings to provide structural strength.


The arrangement of panels of related frescoes into a series of rows and columns. They often have a consistency in their colour scheme and scale. If a story is depicted then they follow the conventions of reading: the frescoes run clockwise around the interior of a church and, if in columns, they run top to bottom.

An object of religious veneration, especially a piece of the body of a holy person, or of an object associated with that person. In the Christian tradition, relics were especially important throughout the Middle ages. Relics of the Apostles, saints, and other holy persons, as well as bits of the Crown of Thorns, the True Cross, and objects associated with holy persons, were all highly prized. Also see: reliquary.

Relief Sculpture
A type of sculpture in which the form projects out from a background. Relief sculpture should be viewed primarily from one direction, as opposed to sculpture that is in the round.
There are three degrees or types of relief sculpture: high, low, and sunken. In high relief, the forms stand far out from the background. In low relief, also known as bas-relief, they are shallow. In sunken relief, also called hollow or intaglio, the points in highest relief are level with the original surface of the material and everything else is cut into the material.

Relieving Arch
In architecture, an arch which is located above a window, arch, or other opening. It helps relieve some of the weight being pressed on the lower arch or opening.

A container or receptacle, such as a casket, coffer or shrine, for keeping or displaying sacred religious relics. Usually made of a richly decorated, precious material such as gold or silver or ivory. Often reliquaries containing human relics were shaped like statues or like life-size body parts (such as hands or heads). From the Latin reliquiae, sacred relics. Also see: relic.

A wall or other construction built to support and define a slope, such as the edge of a moat.

A slender arch of masonry, often moulded, that projects from the under surface of a vault. It forms part of the framework on which the vault rests.

Rib Vault
A type of masonry vault whose relatively thin skin is set within a framework of ribs.

The vertical distance between the spring line of an arch or vault and the keystone or boss.

Rock-Cut Architecture
A building technique in which a room, chamber, or complex of chambers, have been entirely or substantially hewn out of the living rock. These structures often use a combination of rock-cut and constructed building techniques. The shapes and details within rock-cut chambers often mimic stone-built architecture. The word troglodyte is sometimes used as alternative term.

This describes any circular work of art or other object, or a circular element within a work of art or other object. Also used to describe a small round window. Sometimes spelt "rondel".

A painted or sculpted ornament having a circular or radial arrangement of parts resembling rose petals.

In architecture, this is a round building, or room, usually with a domed roof.

Rusticated / Rustication
In architecture, a masonry construction using large stone blocks, separated from each other by deep joints, which have rough surfaces and bevelled edges in order to give an eroded or rustic appearance to the construction. It is used especially at the level lowest level of a building.


In a Christian church, this is the room where the priests vestments and sacred vessels are stored.

When used precisely, this is the part of a church that houses an altar. Practically every church contains an altar. Although the sanctuary is often located in an apse, the term "apse" only denotes a space defined by a wall of semicircular or curved or polygonal ground plan. If the apse does contain an altar then the terms "altar apse", or "eastern apse" could be used as an alternative to sanctuary. The word sanctuary is also sometimes used to mean "chapel", or "church", or sometimes even an entire monastery.

Saray / Sarai
This is a palace building within the Islamic world.

A Persian dynasty that reigned from 224 AD until 651 AD. They were the principal rivals of the late Roman and early Byzantine Empires. Throughout their existence they exerted a considerable political and cultural influence in Armenia. They were destroyed by the invasions of the Muslim Arabs, who took over many of their cultural traditions. Also see: Abassids.

An area in a monastery, or at a royal or princely court, where books and documents were written, copied, or illuminated. In most cases the scribes were monks.

Segmented Arch
An arch that is not a full semicircle, but is a segment of one.

Seljuk / Selcuk / Seldjuk
A dynasty of sultans that were of Turkish Central Asian origin. The name "Seljuk" comes from the name of the dynasty's founder, a late 10th century Oghuz army chief who converted to Islam. One branch of the dynasty reigned over Persia and Mesopotamia during the 11th and 12th centuries. They were known as the 'Great Seljuks'. A separate branch ruled over much of central Asia Minor, after defeating the Byzantine Empire at the battle of Manzikert in 1071. They were known as the 'Seljuks of Rum' and had their capital in Konya. It was a Seljuk-led army that captured Ani in 1064.

A half dome. Compare with dome.

In architecture, the shaft is the part of a column between the capital and the base. It may be monolithic, or constructed out of several cylindrical elements called drums.

This is a Persian title meaning 'King of the Kings'. It was used in pre-Islamic Persia and continued to be used into the Islamic period. The later Bagratid rulers of Ani often called themselves Shahanshah.

The individual pieces of broken pottery vessels. Also called potsherds.

Side Chambers
Many Armenian churches have small chambers located on each side of the altar apse. In most cases these chambers seem to have served a liturgical purpose since they often had their own apses.

A hall church with a single nave, no aisles, and an apse at one end. Sometimes called a mono-nave church.

The underside of an arch, an opening, or a projecting architectural element.

A small archaeological excavation. It usually takes the form of a deep pit dug within a limited area, sometimes within a larger trench.

The horizontal distance between the two supporting members of an arch or vault.

In architecture, this is the roughly triangular space that is enclosed by the curves of adjacent arches and a horizontal member running between their apexes. It is also the name for the space enclosed by the curve of an arch and an enclosing right angle.

Splayed Opening
An opening in a wall that is cut away diagonally so that the outer edges of the opening are farther apart than the inner edges.

Spoila / Spoils
The recycled use of structural or sculptural elements, such as columns, capitals, relief carvings, etc. This was mostly done to save money or time, or because of a shortage of building materials, or because the builders were no longer skilled enough to work large blocks of stone. However, there was sometimes a symbolic element in the re-use of old materials - such as piety, or a statement of victory. A new Armenian church would often incorporate old khatchkars or stones taken from an older church. Muslims would sometimes use as doorsteps what had previously been religiously significant stones removed from churches, (a variation on this is the story that the cross from the dome of the Ani cathedral was later sealed under the entrance of a mosque so that it could be continuously tramped upon).

Springing / Springer
In architecture, this is the lowest voussoir of an arch. The point where the vertical support for an arch (or vault) terminates and the curve of the arch (or vault) begins is called the spring line.

An architectural device constructed across the corners of a square bay and used to make a visual and structural transition from that square bay to the polygonal or circular base of a dome. It may be composed of lintels, corbels, or arches. Contrast it with a pendentive.

A slender, upright stone block, or slab, or pillar. It is generally monolithic, and generally decorated with an inscription or with relief sculpture on one face. The plural form can be either stelae or steles.

The layers of soil deposits, or sediments, or rocks, revealed after excavation or through natural weathering.

The study of layers of strata deposited sequentially over time. Archaeologists use this to understand the way in which soil layers, structures, etc., were built up on a site over time. Lower layers will usually be earlier than those above them, but features such as pits or ditches may be cut into early layers and therefore be later. During an excavation the individual soil layers, features, and structures can be given identifications known as context numbers, and the interaction between two of these is called a stratigraphic relationship. Dating evidence such as pottery, coins, and dendrochronology can be used to establish the chronology of the stratigraphy.

String Course
A continuous horizontal band of masonry set within the surface of a wall. When used stucturally it is intended to provide a stable foundation for inferior masonry (such as rubble work) to be built upon. It is also often used for exclusively decorative effect, especially by projecting from the wall face and being embellished with ornament.

A material made of a mixture of gypsum, lime (often from marble), sand, water, and other ingredients. It is a versatile medium for both sculpture and architectural decoration. For the latter, it can either be applied straight onto a building or used in prefabricated panels. The ornamentation can then be either carved into the wet plaster, or impressed into it using moulds or stamps.

In architecture, this is the platform or foundation for a row of columns. On the Parthenon, the top step of the three-step platform is known as the stylobate. On the stylobate rest the bases of the columns which support the entablature.

The recording of the man-made and the natural features of a site in order for it to be represented as a plan or section. Can take two forms, a measured survey, in which actual dimensions are taken, or a sketch survey, in which the eye is used to estimate sizes, or a combination of both techniques.


A type of plan in which four interior apses that are joined together to form a clover shape, with each apse having a semi-domed vault. The clover shape is often used to support a dome. Compare with: cinquefoil, hexafoil, octafoil, quatrefoil, trefoil, triconch.

Tie Rod
A wooden or metal strut that connects the imposts of an arcade to brace the structure and ensure its stability. It was a building technique that was very common in medieval Byzantine architecture, but not often seen in medieval Armenian architecture. However, tie rods are almost always found in Armenian churches constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries.

A transept is a rectangular area that cuts across the main axis of a basilica-type church and projects beyond it. The transept gives a basilica the shape of a Latin cross and usually serves to separate the nave of the building from an apse at the eastern end.

Transverse Arch
A supporting arch that runs across a vault from side to side, dividing it into bays. The arch usually protrudes a little from the surface of the vault. If the projecting bands are narrow then it is called a transverse rib; these ribs are usually structural, but sometimes purely decorative.

An ornament, or symbol, or architectural form which has three lobes or foils. Also called trilobed. If it is the plan of a building then the term triconch can also be used. Also see: triconch.

In architecture, a building whose plan has a trefoil shape with three apses, one of which is axial and the other two which are to the right and the left. This plan became a characteristic of the audience chambers in the palaces of the early Byzantine Empire. Compare with: cinquefoil, hexafoil, octafoil, quatrefoil, tetraconch, trefoil.

Triple Apse
This is sometimes, and incorrectly, used as an alternative term for triconch. On VirtualANI it means a row of three altar apses arranged side by side. This is an arrangement that is common in Armenian churches from the 19th century.

Tuf / Tufa
A volcanic stone that was the primary building material used in the construction of Armenian churches. Tufa is lightweight, easy to cut into, and has the property of becoming harder and more durable when exposure to air and the passage of time. Tufa is found in many different colours including shades of pink, red, orange, and grey.

A Turkish term for a mausoleum, generally consisting of a cylindrical or polygonal drum surmounted by a conical dome. A turbe always contains a funerary chamber and often has an integral or attached prayer hall. Also see: kumbet.

In architecture, the semicircular area that fills the space between the lintel and the arch over a doorway. It is often the location for a panel decorated with relief sculpture or (especially on Armenian churches) for a building inscription. The plural is tympana.


Upper Lights
This is a type of window that is found in traditional buildings in various parts of the former territory of the Ottoman Empire. They are small windows that are located above the main windows in a room. At Ani, the small windows located above the main windows within the Minuchihr mosque could be classed as "upper lights".


This is the Armenian word for monastery.

In architecture, a vault is an arched roof or covering of masonry construction, made of stone, brick, or concrete. There are several type of vaults. A barrel (or tunnel) vault is semi-cylindrical in cross-section. A groin or cross vault consists of two barrel vaults that intersect each other at right angles. In a cross-barrel vault, the main barrel vault is intersected at right angles with other barrel vaults at regular intervals. A dome is a hemispherical vault. A quadrant vault is a half-barrel vault. In a ribbed vault there is a framework of ribs or arches under the intersections of the sections of the vaulting.

This is a passage, or hall, or room that is located between the outer door and the inner parts of a building. It acts as a lobby.

After the event known as the Annunciation, Mary paid a visit to her cousin Elizabeth who had miraculously conceived Saint John the Baptist. They embraced and "when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost" (Luke 1:41). It is a frequently depicted scene in Christian art.

Votive, Votary
A votive object or votary is an object that expresses or symbolises a wish, prayer, or vow. Votive pictures and sculptures, for instance, are intended to inspire devotion to a saint or deity, or are used in an act of religious worship, reverence, or supplication. It may also refer to certain candles, prayer cards, or offerings. Also see: ex-voto.

A spiral or twisted formation or object. In architecture this spiral ornament is found especially on the capitals of the Ionic, Corinthian, and composite orders.

The wedge-shaped stones that form the curved portions of an arch or a vaulted ceiling. Also see: arch, archivolt, keystone, springer.


Wall Arcade
In architecture, this is an arcade that has no actual openings, but that is applied as a decoration to a wall surface. It is also called a blind arcade.


An Armenian term for a meeting hall. These structures, most of which are from the middle or late medieval period, are most often found in front of Armenian churches, especially those in monastic complexes. They served as a vestibule to the church, as an outer church, and as a meeting hall. The most common plan is a simple rectangular one, with the interior divided into nine bays by the four pillars that hold up the roof. The central bay sometimes contains a dome with a lantern opening. Outer walls are usually massive and contain a few small windows. The term zhamatun is used interchangeably with that of gavit.

This is an object or decoration that is in the shape of, or has the attributes of, an animal.