Armenian Studies Program
Type: Three aisled basilica
Location: Just east of Turkish border, about 5 Km from ancient Ani.
Date: Probably V c., but perhaps late IVth.
Evidence for date: No textual references or inscriptions from the paleo-Christian period, dated by style and type of building.
Important details: Remnants of wall paintings on the interior.
State of preservation: poor, but properly cared for
Reconstructions: 1928 and 1948 by Committee for the Preservation of Monuments, Armenia S.S.R.
Summary: The church of Ererouk is erected on a stylobate with six steps indicating that it may have been built over the remains of a pagan temple. During the 6th century, some additions and changes were made to the original structure. The inscriptions include one in Greek on the south facade probably dating from the 7th century. Another north of the apse mentions restorations dating between the 6th and the 10th century. Two on the south facade are dated 1038, and another is dated between 1201-1212. The apse inscription names the church as the Martyrium of St. Karapet.
The church was excavated by Marr in 1908. The roof had collapsed and only the perimetrical walls of the church remained. Restoration work was undertaken by the Armenian Commission for the restoration of Monuments in 1928, including work on the exterior and interior steps. In 1948, he commission, under the direction of Sahinian, did further work including refacing the lower elevation of the south facade, resetting the 1038 inscription, and clearing the stylobate. There are many unanswered questions regarding details of the original form of the church. However, further excavation work and on-site studies are difficult to undertake because of its location in a sensitive military zone.
Ererouk, one of the largest churches constructed in Armenia during that period, is a basilica with a nave and two aisles. Two rectangular chambers of more than one story flank the east apse, while the west end has two chambers above which there rise two towers.
The eastern chambers communicate with the side aisles while those on the west have two doors each which lead to the side aisles and narthex respectively. Both the southeast and northwest chambers have a niche on their east wall. The northwest chamber may have been used as a baptistery.
Three pairs of pilasters on the north and south walls indicate that the interior was divided into four bays. On the east and west walls, there are two pairs of pilasters. It is not evident whether the three sets of freestanding nave pillars were cruciform in section (T’oramanian), as at the basilican church at Dvin or T-shaped (Stryzgowski) as at Kasagh, Ciranavor, and Eghvard. A very important question is whether the church was vaulted (T’oramanian, 1948; Stryzgowski, 1918; Krautheimer, 1965; Alpago-Novello, 1977) or covered with a wooden roof (Tokarski, 1961; Khatchatrian, 1971).
The church has two portals on the south wall and one on the west. There were poticos on the north and south, each with a semicircular apse on the eastern end. On the south, the pilasters of the portico are aligned with the internal ones on the south wall. This is not the case on the north , indicating that the porticos may have been a later addition. Another question as yet unresolved is whether the porticos had a vaulted roof (T’oramanian) or a wooden one (Tokarski).
The west end of the church with its twin towered facade appears to have been preceded by a vaulted narthex probably constructed later (Khatcharian, Alpago-Novello). Khatchatrian indicates that the lower part of the west facade was thickened in order to support the vault.
The west elevation includes a central portal with a narrow niche on each side flanked by two wider niches framed by semicircular arches. Above the portal, two pilasters mark the division between the central nave and the side aisles of the interior. The windows on the right and left are framed with moldings similar to those on the south elevation. High over the portal, above the level of the pilasters is a mullioned window with three openings.
Khatchatrian considers Ererouk a transitional monument between the Hellenistic basilica and the Oriental type, and the only monument of its kind in Armenia. He states that the height of the Mullioned window indicates the nave was much higher than the side aisles. This would make the church a Hellenistic-type basilica with a clerestory and a wooden frame over the nave. He postulates a wooden yerdik (corbelled central opening) for each bay. Most Armenian basilicas are of the Oriental-type in which one roof covers the vaulted naive and side aisles of approximately the same height but at Ererouk, no other evidence exists regarding the presence of a clerestory. Also, Armenian church structures of this period and earlier demonstrate a preference for vaulted roofs (Paboudjian and Alpago-Novello, 1997). In addition the three Helenistic-type Armenian basilicas at Tekor, Dvin, and Tsitsernavank had vaulted roofs.
Ererouk has features resembling those in contemporary Syrian churches (Turmanin, Ruweha) such as the twin-towered facade, the east and west chambers, porticos and gabled portals. Some elements however, are considered to be later additions (T’oramanian, Khatchatrian) to the original form. Other significant differences include the fact that the towers project sideways and the nave and aisles were probably vaulted.
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