Church at Mren

Date: 640
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Turkey
Description: In the early seventh-century, the church of Mren was on the shifting border between Armenia and the Byzantine and Sasanian empire. The large domed basilica, completed by 640, has tall barrel-vaulted cross-arms supporting a drum and a ribbed dome supported by semicircular squinches. Centuries later, commemorative or protective khatchkars were inserted into the facades. In 2008 the south wall of the church collapsed, and its condition is perilous.

The exterior features abundant inscriptions and relief sculpture over the west and north portals. On the west, archangels in the tympanum overlook a lintel with Christ flanked by Peter and Paul and by Armenian noblemen dressed in distinctive Sassanian fur coats. The north lintel, unusually, depicts a contemporary scene: the Byzantine emperor Herakleios humbly returning the True Cross to Jerusalem after recapturing it from the Sasanians.

Inside the church was extensive fresco decoration, now poorly preserved, that includes Christ, apostles, and medallions with busts of prophets. Around the arch apse is a painted inscription in Armenian, "Holiness adorns your house for endless days, Lord" (Psalms (93:5).

Relevant Primary Sources
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 3
Image Credits: Christina Maranci, Linda Safran, Dominik Matus, Navid Jamali

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