26.7.11

Armenia 08 p2

Tzitzèrnakabèrd

Our very first visit was something of a pilgrimage, as it was to the Genocide Memorial on the hill of Tzitzèrnakabèrd (or Dzidzernagaberd, depending which brand of Armenian you speak). The site was once upon a time a temple to Astrig, the equivalent of Venus, whose messengers were swallows (dzidzernag), hence the name which means Swallow Fort (this is also why the nearby sports stadium is swallow-shaped.)

The Arrow of the Rebirth, with the stelae in the background
There is no need for me to write anything about the Armenian Genocide here, as by now most civilized nations are well-aware of it. Its shadow hung over every step of the trip, as it is hard to tour this lovely country without being constantly reminded that the greater portion of it has been devoured.

The 12 stelae stand for 12 lost provinces, and lean over a heart of eternal flame for all the tombless dead.


The third part of the monument, which was designed by the architects Tarkhania and Kalachian in the 60's, is a wall of mourning where the names of all the "martyr cities" are inscribed. A sobering museum completes the site. In the garden we saw two cedar saplings, gifts from Lebanese heads of state who had paid their homage there before us.

Matenadaran

One of the many museums of Yerevan, this one is particularly interesting in that it holds a collection of church manuscripts that survived both the Genocide and Soviet confiscation. It is "a sanctuary of the book and of memory", so it is befitting that upon arrival we are greeted by the figure of Mesrop Mashtots, creator of the Armenian alphabet (aka the 36 Immortals), which he is showing to his disciple Korun.


Climb the stairs, and the museum door proper is flanked by 6 illustrious representatives of medieval Armenian culture: Toros Taronatsi, manuscript painter, Krikor Datevatsi, philosopher, Anania Shiragatsi, mathematician, Movses Khorenatsi, historiographer, Mekhitar Kash, legislator, and Frik, contemplative philosopher.
A sampling of the manuscripts on display:




The largest and smallest Bibles of the collection
Yerablur

A cemetery for Armenian soldiers and heroes, this memorial site (involuntarily) produces a contrasting impression to that of Tzitzernakaberd. To put it simply, it holds the graves of all the country's "freedom fighters", some of which can definitely be placed on the more terrorist side of the spectrum.

At the top of the column, the symbol of the Army

A bullet-shaped church!
Sardarapat / Sardarabad

Much more uplifting was the spectacular site and museum of Sardarapat, commemorating a definitive 1918 victory that basically stopped the Turkish advance and saved what was left of the Armenian territory. Built in striking red tufa stone, it's made up of 5 elements spaced out to evoke the infinity of the Urartu (ancient Armenia) space.

The belltower, protected by 2 winged bulls, is made up of all the bells of the area that rang during the battle.


At the end of an alley lined with eagles turning their back on Turkey, a low-relief battle memorial wall.

Main hall of the museum
The domed restaurant was closed, but the Ethnographic museum was fantastic, and I wished I had an entire day to spend there and take notes. Architecturally, it is built like a medieval fortress, with vaulted rooms around 4 inside courts, and clerestory lighting on the first floor.