A study of Armenian architecture requires a look at the influence of Christianity in the nation, with 3,000 years of history providing remarkable originality in design and variety through its institutions.
Thousands of beautiful churches and monasteries cover Armenia’s mountainous landscape, often built next to one of its many lakes. These churches and monasteries, many built right into the stone mountains, can be small and simple, with external sculptures, or large and formal. The Church built many types of structures that provide a wide variety of exterior shapes and interior volumes.
Ancient Armenian architecture, especially when it comes to the country’s many churches, has many distinct features and is said to have influenced Western church architecture as well. Some characteristics of church architecture in Armenia include pointed domes, stone vaulted ceilings, tall structural arches, the use of stone — particularly tuff — as material; sculptural decorations on walls and the emphasis on an extension upwards, with the height of many churches often exceeding its length.
With many ethnic Armenians now living outside of their homeland, but still seeking the traditions and comfort of their mother nation, Armenian communities throughout the globe still put a heavy emphasis on traditional Armenian architecture when building “Armenian Quarters” in their new homes. Cities like Zamosc, Poland and L’viv, Ukraine have been transformed into “Little Armenias” because of this testament to traditional Armenian architecture. Designs abroad have emulated the historic cathedrals of Ani, Zvartnots and Etchmiadzin, to name a few.
Still emphasizing the importance of the Christian experience among Armenian architecture and structures, khachkars, or Armenian cross stones, are also a big part of the country’s culture. Carved from stone, elaborate crosses emerge from a slab of stone and are seen near and far in Armenia.