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Index of Armenian Art: Armenian Architecture

TEKOR: St. Sarkiss

Type:Three aisled basilica with dome.
Location: In the region of Kars, Western Turkey.
Date:IV or V c. foundations. VI or VII present form.
Evidence For Date: Stylobate indicates very early origins for foundation. Inscription at Western entrance.
Important Details:Free standing T-shaped piers and dome added in the 6th or 7th c. Portico on three sides. Small apse at end of north porch.
State of Preservation: Now completely destroyed. In photos taken before World War I, it was standing complete with dome.
Reconstructions: Conversion from a basilica to a domed basilica in 6th or 7th c. Dome exterior reconstructed in 10th century.
Summary: The Church of St. Sarkiss, Tekor is located in the village of the same name in Turkey, southwest of the ruined Armenian city of Ani (coord. 40-24 / 43-25). It is dated to the 5th century on the basis of archaeological evidence and its architectural style. There are also three inscriptions on the tympanum of the west portal that provide historical information on the Church. The inscriptions are considered copies of the original ones; however, are the subject of controversy regarding the name and dating of the original form of the Church.

The updated inscription is by the 5th century Prince Sahak Kamsarakan and states that he was the donor of "This Martrium of S. Sargis". It also includes the names of a contemporary bishop Hovhannes of Arsarunik' and the Catholicos Hovhannes. Most scholars accept the inscription as an authentic late 5th century document but the paleography indicates otherwise (Hovsepian and T'oramanyan). T'oramanyan also considers the inscription to refer to another Church, a smaller, more appropriate form for a moratorium. An added problem is that the Church is referred to in the inscription of 1008 by Queen Katranide, King Gagik I's wife, as S. Erordut'iwn (Holy Trinity), not S. Sargis. According to Marr, this means that Tekor had a change of name, while T'oramanyan thinks two different Churches are being mentioned. The third inscription is by Asot and dated 1014.

Preserved until 1911 when the cupola collapsed, Tekor was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1935. In 1964 (according to the Thierrys, 1965), all the facing stones had been removed from the site of the ruined Church. There was no evidence of their reuse on neighboring structures, as is often the case in Turkey.
Tekor was originally a construction in basilican form with two pairs of cruciform pillars on the interior supporting cruciform vaults. According to Tíormanian, it was originally a pagan monument that had been converted into a Christian edifice. Shortly after its construction in the late 5th century, significant changes were made to the structure. A cupola was constructed over the enlarged square bay. A semicircular apse and two transversal chambers were built at the east end. The chambers projected to the north and south and abutted the portico.

The stone dome of Tekor was among the earliest to be constructed in Armenia, and until its destruction, Tekor was the oldest extant domed Church in Armenia (T'oramanyan). The dome was supported by enlarged free-standing pillars. The domeís early date is indicated by the fact that no pendentives or squinches were used to make the transition from the square bay to the circular drum of the cupola as in other Armenian Churches. Instead, four walls extended upward and inclined toward the center. Four slabs were placed diagonally on the corners of the pyramidal form at the base and top to make an octagon on which to rest the cupola. From the exterior the drum appeared to be a massive square crowned by a cornice. Above it was a narrow octagonal zone surmounted by the conical roof. The drum exterior is attributed to reconstruction work undertaken in the 10th century by the Bagratide as indicated in one of the inscriptions. The conical roof was umbrella-shaped.

The west facade contained figural relief sculpture (T'oramanyan and Marr) which appears to be the earliest example of a donor portrait of its type not only in Armenia and the Caucasus but in Christian art in general (Mnatsakanyan, 1971). The cruciform window under the gable with three circular arms and a rectangular base had a human figure with a headdress carved on either side of the opening. Above these two busts were two peacocks biting fruit from a cup at the top. The figures are identified as Sahak Mamikonian and a woman (T'oramanyan), although they were in ruinous condition when they were reported and photographed by T'oramanian and Marr.

There were two decorated portals on the north and one on the west elevation. The west portal had a horseshoe-shaped archivolt supported by two square pillars, each with four columns. Floral motifs on the capitals of the piers are similar to those in other Armenian basilicas (Kasal, 4th century and Ereroyk', 5th century) and in 6th century Syrian Churches (S. Serge of Dar Qita, and Churches at Kimar and Meez). Tekor had large windows with extended arches characteristic of 5th-7th century Armenian Churches. During reconstructions between the 10th and 12th century, many of these were narrowed and splayed in accordance with the style of the period. Red stone was used in earlier parts of the structure and yellow in later sections, offering evidence of changes.

Other indications of renovations include the ribbed, umbrella-like form of the pyramidal roof. The 10th century Churches of Xc'kawnk and Marmasen have somewhat similar coverings. Also, the lining of the pyramidal roof had preserved some tiles typical of roofs earlier than the 7th century.

Subsequent restorations occurred in the course of the 11th to the 14th centuries.

Texier 1842-52, I, 120-121.
Alisan 1881, 131-135.
Strzygowski 1918, I, 335-341.
T 'oramanian 1942-1948. I, 185-220; II, 66-71, 148-156.
Harutjunian & Safarian 1951, 36.
Sahinian 1955, 87-91, 157-161.
Eremian 1955, 80-82.
Sahinian 1964, 110-115.
Krautheimer 1965, 230.
Thierry 1965, 171.
Architettura Medievale Armena 1968, 84.
Der Nersessian 1970, 102.
Khatchatrian 1971, 36-37.
Mnatsakanian 1971, No. 4, 206-216.
Harouthiounian & Hasrathian 1975, 36-37.
Manuchíarian 1977, 25-26, 38-44.
Der Nersessian 1977, 51.
Lafadaryan 1963, 115-136.
Khatchatrian 1971, 43-49, 51-53, 56-58, 62, 64, 69, 71-71, 89,96.
Medieval Armenian Architecture 1972, vi, xiii, 3, 17, 30, 36-43, 46-47, 50, 52, 58.
Cueno 1973, 104, 110, 121-122.
DíOnofrio 1973, 79, 81, 88-89, 91, 95-97, 101, 115, ills. 46, 162
Gandolfo 1973, 148-154, 157, 166, 174, 179-80, 184,-86, 192, 195-7, 203, 207, 214, 225-6,
232, 234, 237, 248-9, 252.
Kouymjian 1973, 15.
Cone 1947, 18-20.
Kouymjian 1974, 1.
Hovhanesyan 1978, 6, 8.
Kouymjian 1978, 20.
Vysockij 1978.
Zaryan 1978.
Gandolfo 1982, 20-27.
Cuneo 1988, 642-644.
Kouymjian 1992, 22.



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