Armenia or Mediterranean? On the Roots of Early Sub-Caucasian Monumental Images



Rok publikování 2021
Druh Vyžádané přednášky
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Filozofická fakulta

Popis Throughout the work of 19th- and 20th-century scholars, medieval Armenian art has been often considered as a provincial part of the Byzantine commonwealth. Recent studies have demonstrated that this perspective mainly arises from a Russian colonial viewpoint. While some kind of relationship with Byzantium cannot be denied, Armenian architecture and liturgy seem to be anchored in Mediterranean Syria. But, what about early monumental images in the sub-Caucasian region? The most widespread image in apses represents a standing Christ with his right arm elevated, holding a open rotulus in his left hand. This iconography is well-known from the Late Antique Christian Mediterranean, as we can see in Rome, Thessaloniki, and Syria. One could easily interpret this broad spread as a progressive migration of models from the Mediterranean to the southern Caucasus. However, the situation appears to be more complex. In seventh-century Georgia, in the church of Tsromi, dated to around 630, the standing Christ between the two angels is holding a rotulus with a quotation from the Gospel of Saint John: “I am the Light of the World…”. Around the year 1100, the exact same composition including this inscription is found in Rome, in the oratory of Saints John and Paul. It is difficult to imagine that this is a coincidence. The goal of this proposal is to investigate this surprising occurrence. Moreover, we will try to explain why a very old-fashioned image for the Mediterranean space is used in seventh-century Mren, Tsromi, and Aruchavank. We would like to explore the hypothesis that this older image should be seen as a manifesto of Armenian religious and cultural identity. This aspect appears even more important in light of the historical context of the seventh century, when historical Armenia found itself between the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires.
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