THE CHURCHES

  The church of Ghazanchetsots
  The church of Aghuletsots
  The church of Meghretsots
  Kusats vank
  Kanach zham
  Greco-Russian church


    The year 1805 became the breaking point in the building and urban development of Shushi. This was the year when Karabagh voluntarily acknowledged the Russian sovereignty, and the fact was fixed for all time in the Russo-Persian peace treaty of 1813 in the Karabaghi settlement of Gulistan.
    And, finally, one may not deny that the the population of the region, reduced through the feudal-khan period to extreme poverty and ravage, was happy to welcome the elimination of the khanate and me establishment of Russian rule. At least mis is when an end was to internal strife, wars and raids in Karabagh and stability was established. Life gradually settled into a normal pace, the refugees began to return to their homes, merchant caravans passed unimpeded, churches were founded, schools and clubs opened, books and papers began to get published. The Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church got established in Shushi.
    The status of Shushi was upgraded to a city in 1847 and, since it was strategically located in central Transcaucasia, the city took an intensive development and by the sixties of the last century Shushi had already become one of the significant cities of the entire Transcaucasia.
    In favorable socio-economic and political environment Shushi underwent a stage of intensive building in conformity with its own general layout plan. Only in the 19th century three successive general layout schemes were applied here, by virtue of which the crisscrossed plateau with a complicated relief was covered with a network of streets traversing it from North to South and from East to West. From the book by Mesrop Taghiadian, who had visited Shushi in the 1820s, we learn that the old wooden churches had been replaced by beautiful stone architectural complexes, new two and three storeyed detached houses were built that were full of light, inns and numerous retail shops, communal, educational and cultural centers were also built.
    The second general layout of the city was drawn in 1837, which had to be revised and adjusted due to unforeseen rate of the development. The creation of a system defence structures ran parallel to an increase civil construction. The next stage in the development of me city relates to the construction of the Tiflis-Baku railroad (1883) and the Yevlakh station in particular, which linked Shushi with the industrial centers of the country. The laying of a network of roads was of no less significance, including the roads from Askeran, Amaras (in the 1820s), and Goris (in the 1870s). By the end of the last century Shushi had become one of the business and cultural cities of Transcaucasia. It had 10 educational institutions, 485 retail shops, 5 printshops, theatres, hospitals, 2 libraries, numerous shops, mills, hotels and lodges.
    All civil and communal buildings, as well as the churches, were built in conformity with the traditions of Armenian architecture, many ideas were borrowed from the neighboring villages where the artisans and masons have migrated to Shushi from. The national touch is revealed in the buildings of Shushi distinctly and convincingly. As a result of intensive building in the 19th century the former lair of the khans had become the cultural and administrative centre of the region, adding to the centuries old Armenian architectural tradition. The 19th century, in a nutshell, became a brilliant period of maturation for the city.
    The division of the city into districts was in all likeness conventional. The highest in altitude from among major Armenian districts was called Gyavur khala (the fortress of the infidel). To its right stretched the district of Yerevanyan dmer (Yerevan gates). The Northwestern part of the city, overhanging the Haikadzor canyon, was called Verin or Kamu Aghatsi (Upper or the Windmill district). Farther down towards the cemetery lay the districts of Gulughi and Melikents, and on the Southeast they were flanked by the Hin hangstaran (Old cemetery). The districts of Bagants ogheri tagh, Jrabertots, Meghretsots, Daraznerin dzor, Mijin tagh, Nerkin tagh and Aguletsots tagh, where me church of Aguletsots was, were quite remarkable in their locations. The pearl of Shushi, though, was the central district of Ghazanchetsots, which was surrounded by me rest and flanked on the East by the Turkats (Azerbaijani) district.
    The Central district was traversed by three wide paved streets. The Armenian theatre of Khandamiriants was on the Theatrical street, the churches of Aguletsots and Ghazanchetsots were on the Aguletsots street, the Pochti street hosted the post office, the telegraph and the bank. Apart from these, the Central district had more than 400 dwelling houses, hundreds of retail outlets, a multitude of commercial and communal structure. The Armenia part of the city was characterized by regular planning and a perpendicular grid of the streets. By the second half of the 19th century, as seen in the third general layout plan compiled in 1853, several squares have already emerged in the Western part of the city. They were surrounded by impressive structures, among which five drum churches stood out.
    The fourth general layout plan of Shushi was drawn in 1912 by the city architect Armenak Kondakhsazian. But the First World War and the ethnic clashes in Karabagh instigated by the Turks-Azeris impeded with its implementation.
    Let us proceed now to the brief description of the monumental landmarks of Shushi.

THE CHURCH OF GHAZANCHETSOTS

    The most majestic monument of Shushi - Kazanchetsots Cathedral - suffered the most: in the 1940s it was used as a granary, in the 1950s its dome and part of the side walls were destroyed. The Cathedral was looted so much that its stones were used to build several prestigious houses in the Azeri part of the city. But this was not enough, and the bas-reliefs, the cross of the hell tower and the richly decorated tombstones were used as a target for shooting practice,At the end of the 1960s a garage was built here, but in view of numerous protests it was destroyed and the cathedral was once more left to oblivion. The barbarism culminated in 1970's when the walls were blown up and burnt, the bas-reliefs and engravings were erased, and the cathedral looked like it survived heavy shelling. However, the grandiose and powerful construction survived, and under public pressure reconstruction activities started in the 1980's.
When the restorative activities started, Baku "experts" used all means to hinder the full reconstruction of the cathedral to its original shape. The "gray wolves" grew restless since the cathedral dominated the entire the city. According to the words of an experienced restorer V. Babayan, the Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan cynically declared that "If the dome is put back on the cathedral, I would change my faith." We do not know if the honourable minister kept his word, but (he 17-meter high dome with the cross was restored. And the majestic and beautiful Kazanchetsots Cathedral reins not only Shushi, but the entire valley of Karkar.
    One of me most impressive religious edifices of Armenia, this church perfectly epitomizes the genius of the Armenian people in construction and points to the viability of the Armenian construction art in the 19th century, It is located exactly in the centre of the city and towers on the background of the green hills not only over the entire plateau, but also over the vast valley of Karkar.The solemn drum of the cathedral is resting on four hefty pylons. The church has a central-cupola space arrangement (dimensions: 34.7x27x42 meters) with multifaceted apses on each facade. It has three identical entrances from the West, South and Norm. The exterior is quite impressive, the ornaments of the portals and windows are particularly prominent.
    The upper part of the South portal contains an inscription: "By the blessing and grace of almighty God this miraculous sacred cathedral is built at the expense and with the donations of the parish of the church of Amenaprkich Ghazanchetsots of the city of Shushi, the construction has commenced in 1868 at the reign of the all-powerful emperor of all Russia Alexander 11 and the patriarchate of Gevorg IV and was completed in 1887 at the time of me coronation of the son of Ilis Majesty the blessed emperor Alexander III and Catholicos Markar I, on September 20, 1888."
Ghazanchetsosts church
Shushi. Kazanchetsots Cathedral as it looked in 1916
    The church of Ghazanchetsots has a certain affinity with the Cathedral of St. Ejiniatsin. There are numerous epigraphic inscriptions on its walls, one of which informs us that its archilect's name was Simeon Ter-Hakobiants. Ancient manuscripts and gilded reliquaries used to be kept in the cathedral. The belfry (1858) of the church is standing next to St. Amenaprkich.

THE CHURCH OF AGULETSOTS

THE CHURCH AGULETSOTS
Shushi. Fragment of the fence of Aguletsots Cathedral.
    Prior to (he construction of the church of Ghazanchetsots this church used to be the biggest in the city and for this reason it was called the cathedral. It rested on a step-structured plinth and had an oblong space arrangement on the inside and a cross-shaped exterior with a central dome. Two two-storeyed side-chapels flanked the allar from both sides, with their entrances opening from the altar. The gable roof had three rotundabelfries. Historian Malcar Harkhudarian informs us that the church of St. Astvatsatsin Agulelsols had its own estate and owned 27 retail shops. Being a significant architectural monument it had greatly contributed to the formation of the city center.
    The church of Ghazanchetsots, the theatre of Khandamiriants, the three-storeyed building of the city club, the city park and a number of beautiful buildings of commercial and educational significance were built around it subsequently. The church of Aguletsots itself (dimensions: 28.9x17,5 meters), according to its inaugural inscription, was "built by the noble princes and sons of... Ter-Matevissian-Tarumyants at his own expense... in the Summer of 1822 A.D." The church had three entrances two of which, the Southern and the Northern, has side-chapels. There were two belfrys on the roof over the Western and Eastern pediments. The cathedral had become the site for major representative and social gatherings, the center for religious and socio-commercial activity. In the 1960s the Azrbaijanis have razed the basilica (o the ground and built a school on its place.

THE CURCH OF MEGHRETSOTS

    Another remarkable monument is the church of Meghretsots, built along the same lines as the cathedral of Aguletsots. The inaugural inscription call it the St. Amenaprkich, it was built in 1838 at the expense of Mahdesi Hakhumiants. The space is arranged as an oblong hall with stretched proportions, (he centre of the gable roof is lopped with a small rotunda-belfry. Subsequently this architectural complex was rebuilt into an open-air film theatre. Only the Eastern wall with the big and small apses has been preserved in its entirely from the church, the other walls were pulled down with substantial difficulties.

Tympanum
The only thing left of Meghretsots Church was a tympanum currently held at Stepanakert lokal musem.


KUSATS VANK

    Also called Anapat (the desert), this was the oldest religious edifice in the city. Its foundations were laid in 1816 with the assistance of the pious virgin Hripsime. The internal space was arranged as a rectangular hail built from white limestone blocks. The walls were covered with frescoes. A three-storeyed belfry was attached to the Southern facade. Thanks to the belfry the Kusants vank towered over (he neighboring houses and left a lasting impression. The monastery had a number of auxiliary structures, including the vernatun - the common hall. A cannon cast in Torino in 1813 was standing in the courtyard. The Armenian volunteers under the command of archbishop Khoren had defended the canyon of Khonut with this cannon in 1826. The cannon was used for the last time by the Armenian militia in 1905 during the massacre of the Armenians of Shushi. The monastic complex of Kusats vank (kusats - virgins') included a two-storeyed residence for the virgins. It had cosy rooms with balconies, as well as cellars, a kitchen and a refectory. The monastery was famous for its three gardens with flowers and fruit trees and vegetables. Beautiful alleys were laid out in die gardens, the tombstones of the virgins with their touching laconic epitaphs were placed in these alleys. All this was ruthlessly destroyed by bulldozers in the 1960-1970s.

KANACH ZHAM

Kanach Zham
Kanach Zham Church
    The Kanach zham church, also called St. Hovannes Mkrtich, is of remarkable interest among the monuments of Shushi. It is more widely known as the church of Karahaghtsots, since it was built by former farmers from the villages of Karahagh. The name Kanach zham (the green church) came from (he domes that used to be painted green. This beautiful well-preserved church is situated on an elevation in the Western amphitheater, wilh a view opening on the panorama of the entire city. According to the inaugural inscription the church was built in 1847. Us layout is cross-shaped. The belfry is attached to it on the Western side. The internal decoration is quite distinguishable, setting this monument apart from other similar architectural exercises. Some details not characteristic of Armenian church attract attention in the architectural design of Kanach zham, that have to some extent enriched the building. By virtue of the slender dome and the belfry Kanach zham is well seen from almost every district of the city. Through the last years of the Azeri regime the church was turned into a gallery of mineral waters. A metal cistern was stored on the altar and its frequent overflow damaged the walls of the church.
    Following the liberation of Shushi the church was returned to its rightful owners. It was restored and in 1995 the holy mass was served there in the presence of the newly elected Catholicos of all Armenians Garegin I.



GRECO-RUSSIAN CHURCH

    The Greco-Russian church (this is the name with which it is referred to in archival documents) had remained intact from 1830 to 1970 in the vicinity of city walls in the Northern part of Shushi, in one of the Armenian districts called Humlugh. According to a floor plan drawn on November 25, 1940, as well as to the commentary of Staff-Captain Gladyshev, the church also used to he called Saint Martyr Triumphant Georgi.
    The church was a three-nave basilica with internal dimensions of 28x9.5x9 meters. It had a gable or, rather, envelope-shaped roof resting on the coarsely cut walls as well as on 12 double-row round wooden columns of the praying hall. The church had two archway entrances from the South and the West, as well as eight large windows with accentuated edges. The large altar was rectangular.
    The remarkably high belfry towered on the Western end of the roof, it had a finish typical for classical Russian belfrys. The stairs to the belfry began at the Southwestern comer of the hall. There were spheres on the Eastern part of the roof and on the belfry.
    It can be clearly seen from the photograph (date unknown) that was preserved that the church and especially the belfry had been restored. The old belfry lacked expression and was not in tune with the rest of the church, so it was pulled down and replaced with a stylistically completely new one at the main entrance on the Western facade. The new belfry resembles the Armenian belfry of the Armenian monastery of Kusants vank in Shushi.
    The rebuilding was a substantial success and rendered special charm to the complex, making it dominate the park and the square in same neighborhood.
    The existence of this church left the Azeri rulers sleepless throughout the Soviet times. Il was used as a grain silo for some time, then it was converted into a cattle-shed. In the beginning of the seventies the church was pulled down and a house of culture was built in its place. The courtyard of the church, that had the preserved tomb-stones of many a famous Russian, was used to build the regional committee of the communist party. Until recently the Azeris used to brag that the ideas of Marxism-Leninism were being taught on the site of a sanctuary.

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