24 April 2012

Hidden Treasures of Yerevan

As today was Genocide Memorial Day and we were off work, we decided to get out and do a bit of local sightseeing to avoid the crowds in our neighborhood (We live very close to the Genocide Memorial, where tens of thousands march every April 24 to commemorate the 1915 Turkish atrocities).  Besides, it was a gorgeous day to spend outdoors, and I had been waiting for just such an opportunity to see some of the lesser-known churches of Yerevan.

First we drove northeast of downtown to Avan, a former village-turned-victim of urban sprawl.  We found the graceful ruins of a 6th century church hidden way down a winding, narrow lane, and set between picturesque family farming plots in a quiet neighborhood.  Its unique entryway, spacious interior, and high, arching walls clearly indicate that this was once a place of great power and beauty.

Thanks to Diane for our new profile photo!

Though completely roofless, 6th century Avan Church is still impressive.

 Fruit trees bloom alongside the tranquil ruins.

Next, we drove west into the neighboring district of Kanaker.  We were looking for a St. Hakop's Church, but got lost and came across Yerevan's only (as far as I know) Russian Orthodox Church.  It seemed they were in the middle of changing the domes from gold to blue.  We were dressed much too informally to enter (I really ought to keep a headscarf in the car for just such occasions), but we walked around the gardens and admired the exterior.  The ridiculously long English name of this church, in case you're wondering, is the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Mother of God.

I like how the laundry appears to be strung between the apartment building and the basilica.

Intricate ornamentation on the roof and even the rain gutters reminds me of  buildings in the historic district of central Gyumri.

After asking for directions from a couple of people, we found our way to what we thought surely was St. Hakop's, but now that I'm looking at Google Maps, apparently, that was St. Sargis Church.  Anyway, there were some beautiful frescoes inside, and Nathan lit a candle -- his favorite church-hopping ritual.  He also pointed out a "very fancy" chandelier, though I didn't take a picture of it.

Bonus: I got to add another St. George photo to my collection.

Marked on this map is St. Hakop (St. Jacob) -- we saw it as we were leaving St. Sargis, but kind of shrugged an "Oh, well" while driving away.  Guess we'll save it for another time! 

Our final destination for the day was the Zoravor Church, a truly hidden gem in the heart of Yerevan.  If you want to find it, go to the intersection of Pushkin and Parpetsi Streets, then walk up the small Parpetsi street behind the buildings between Pushkin and Tumanyan.  With the exception of the Surp Grigor Lusavorich Cathedral, I've never seen an Armenian church with such large windows.  A smaller building in the front sells candles, pamphlets, and religious trinkets, and there's also a long staircase going down under the church...I was curious, but as there was a service in progress, I didn't follow it.

I don't know the significance of the tiny "chapel" on the roof above the main entrance, but it sure is cute.

This new-looking plaque records the original founding date.

I love these very Armenian designs carved not only on churches, but on monuments and buildings all over the city, even featured on the cover of Jarred's Armenian-English dictionary.

For Nathan, the best find of our day-off adventures was a real surprise, and it was right next to Zoravor.  Believe it or not, he thought it was much more fun than having to whisper and control his silly behavior while lighting candles inside a dark church!

Discovering a real treasure: Nathan climbs a colorful staircase to reach a corkscrew tube slide.

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