Type: Domed Triple-Nave Basilica
Location: Mirini-Karabagh within the Kars region of Turkey.
Evidence for date: Inscription engraved on
western facade that states that Mren was built from 631-639.
Important details: Figural relief sculptures.
State of preservation: Interior in poor condition,
southwest corner has fallen in.
Reconstruction: Rivet partially restored during the 13th
Summary: The Cathedral of Mren is located in Mirini-Karabagh
within the Kars region of Turkey, about one kilometer from the Armenian
border (Coor. 40-14 / 43-40). The church stands on a hillside overlooking
the Arpa River.
It was constructed by David Saharuni (Mnac' Akanyan, Sargsyan, and
M. and N. Thierry).
The Cathedral is in good condition with the exception of the Southwest
corner. It is 26.51 X 45.72 meters in size. The interior and exterior
of the walls are of smooth surfaced stones. It is a three-aisled
basilica, with the central cupola supported by four piers. The east
apse, polygonal on its exterior, is flanked by two square chambers.
The entrances along the south, west, and north elevations. The drum
of the central cupola is octagonal on the exterior, while its interior
has eight ribs in low relief similar to those at Mastara (A=0029).
The church is notable for the figural relief sculpture over the
north and west portals. On the west portal tympanum, two angels
stand holding a globe. On the lintel below, the adoration of Christ
is shown with Christ flanked by Sts. Peter and Paul, with bishop
Theophilus and Prince David Saharuni of Armenia shown on the right,
and Nerseh Kamsarakan of Armenia on the left, in contemporary dress.
The north portal lintel contains a unique religious composition
showing three personages taking part in a scene interpreted as the
dedication ceremony of the church (Sargsyan) or a commemoration
of the recovery of the true cross by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius
(M. and N. Thierry).
Other sculpture includes a pair of lions and a figure which may
be Daniel carved over one window on the east elevation, and two
serpents carved over another window.
Mren is sometimes referred to as the, "Church of the inscribed
cross." During the Middle Ages, Mren was incorporated in a
13th century village that surrounded a palace. There is an inscription
engraved on the western facade of the church, that states that the
church of Mren was built between the years of 631-639 AD The inscription
names the builders of Mren, Saharuni, the governor of Armenia and
Kamsarakan, the lord of the region.
The rivet of Mren was partially restored during the 13th century.
There are khatchkars that can be found on the western facade of
the church. Nothing remains of the zhamatun, which seemed to have
been fixed in the facade. Since the beginning of the 20th century,
the church of Mren has been deteriorating, especially on the interior.
The southwest corner has fallen in.
Mren is supported by four free-standing pillars. The form of the
supports stretch from the west to the east and the pillars of the
basilica resemble a T structure. In the church of Mren, two square
rooms are arranged next to the apse with pentagonal projection.
The cupola is in the center of the nave, but it is not in the whole
part of the edifice.
The ensemble of the church of Mren's sculpted decor is of sobriety
in conformity with the style of the first half of the 7th century.
On the exterior of Mren, there are rows of small arches on the cornice.
The apse of Mren contains three windows that are surrounded and
joined by a continuous band. In the church of Mren, the decorations
consist of ornaments of vines rows of rosettes with four flowers
and diamond points.
Above the entrance of Mren, one observes the relative importance
of figurative decoration. On the keystone on the west door of Mren,
Christ is sculpted standing up, accompanied by the Apostles, Peter
and Paul. Peter can be recognized in the sculpture by the keys that
he is holding. Paul can be recognized by his beard and baldness.
To Peter's right side, a bishop is standing on the extremities.
Two princes can also be seen, turned toward the center, kneeling
in prayer in this scene. The princes are dressed with heavy coats,
embossed by Transcaucasian and mountainous regions of the Orient
The identifications of the sculpture can be facilitated by inscriptions
mentioning the builders of the edifice and the bishop, Theophilus.
Alisan 1881, 136, 141
Strzygowski 1918, 182-184, 506
T'Oramanyan 1942-1948, 295-296, 47-48, 128, 186-190
Clement & Williams 1917, 102, 354
Jakobson 1950, 39-40
Arutjunjian 1952, 42
Sahinyan 1955, 106-124
Tokarskij 1961, 96-99
Arak'elyan 1964, 151-152
Thierry 1965, 171-173
Krautheimer 1965, 230
Sarkisian 1966, 208-212
Sargsyan 1966, 241-250
Architecttura Medievale Armena 1968, 86
Thierry 1971, 43-77
Ricera 1978, 43-45
Bauer 1981, 80-81
Thierry & Donabedian 1987, 70, 73, 76, 80, 470, 484, 556
Cunneo 1988, 408
Kouymjian 1992, 20, 22