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Ani [Turk. Kemah]locked

  • Lucy Der Manuelian

Site (c. 162 ha) of an Armenian fortified city with religious and secular buildings of the 10th-14th centuries, situated on a high, triangular plateau at the confluence of the Arpa Chay and Alajai Chay Rivers near Kars in eastern Turkey, on the border with Armenia. It was founded as a fortress in the 5th century ad, and it became the capital of Armenia under the Bagratuni kings from 961 until 1045 when it fell to the Byzantines. Thereafter the city suffered many devastating attacks, and it was ruled consecutively by the Seljuks, their Shaddadid vassals and the Georgians; but in 1199 it was liberated by the Zak’arian princes. It flourished as an international trade centre on the route between the Far East and the West until the 14th century. In his history (1004) Matthew of Edessa describes Ani as ‘the city of a thousand and one churches’. It was said to have 50 gates and 100 palaces within its towered stone walls, and in the 10th century it had been reported to have 10,000 houses and a population of over 100,000—much larger than contemporary medieval cities in Europe.

Stores, bazaars, factories, hotels, baths, warehouses and artisans’ workshops were built on the surface of the plateau, while hollowed out of the cliffs below was an extensive underground city with approximately 400 dwellings, 30 churches, architectural complexes with chapels, storehouses, caravanserais, stables, tombs and 16 dovecotes. The original citadel on the southern edge of the plateau and the expanded part of the city to the north were protected by a fortification system built in the standard Armenian style in 961 by King Ashot III (reg 953–77) and reinforced by King Smbat II (reg 977–89) in 989. It includes double walls (h. 6–8 m), rounded towers (h. 8–12 m), which are incorporated into the wall system, and bent entrances. The city also had bridges with arch spans of more than 30 m, which were very advanced for their time. All buildings were of highly polished blocks of native tufa facing a rubble core. The walls, gates and towers are often ornamented with darker-coloured stone slabs forming checkerboard patterns, crosses and other geometric motifs. The inscriptions carved on all types of building in Ani are a rich source of political, religious, social, economic, commercial and juridical information, as well as of names, dates and events associated with building donations. Orbeli published more than 250, documenting about two dozen churches built between the 7th and 14th centuries.

Of the dozen or so churches that have survived, most were constructed in the 10th and 11th centuries. They are in varying states of repair. The most notable is the Cathedral of the Mother of God (Astvatsatsin) begun by King Smbat II in 989 and completed in 1001 (or possibly 1010) by Queen Katranidē, the wife of King Gagik I (reg 989–1020). Trdat (fl 989–1001), the architect who in 989 also repaired the dome of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, constructed a domed basilican-type church with pointed arches, clustered columns and stone vaults, features that prompted Josef Strzygowski and other scholars to claim Armenia as the source for similar features in Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The cathedral’s graceful exterior blind arcades on the drum and lower walls are a characteristic of the so-called ‘Ani school of architecture’, examples of which appear in various parts of the region.

Another church is St Grigor, the Abughamrents family church, which was built before 994 by Prince Grigor Pahlawuni (c. 990–c. 1058) or his wife Princess Šušan, and which is a domed round building with six radiating apses. The Pahlawunis also commissioned other churches, including the Holy Apostles (Arak’elots’), which was built by 1031 and is a rectangular structure with four apses, four corner chapels and possibly five domes, and the church of the Holy Saviour (P’rkitch), a round domed building with eight radiating apses, which was completed in 1035/6 by Abgharip Pahlawuni, governor of Armenia, to house a fragment of the True Cross that he had brought from Constantinople.

In 1000 Trdat completed the church of St Grigor the Illuminator (destr.), a domed, three-level, aisled tetraconch based on the 7th-century cathedral at Zvart‘nots and commissioned by King Gagik I, whose portrait statue (untraced) holding the church model was discovered by Marr. One of the most innovative churches was the small three-level chapel of the Shepherd (Hovvi; probably 11th century; destr. 1966). Its ground plan was star-shaped and was surmounted by an ingenious sytem of vaulting in which six arches terminated in a hanging keystone at the centre of the building. Among the other churches from the Bagratid period are several in the citadel, including the Palace Church, a tetraconch church, two hexaconch churches and the church of the Princely Children, while in the city proper are Ashot’s Church (or Tomb) and the so-called Georgian Church. Another 10th- or 11th-century structure is a vaulted building that may have been a council hall, customs house, garrison or gavit (assembly hall next to church façade) but is now known as the Mosque of Manuč’e (Turk. Minuchihr); in 1072 the Shaddadids built an octagonal minaret beside it. In the 13th century the wealthy merchant Tigran Honents’ commissioned a church dedicated to St Grigor the Illuminator (completed 1215) and decorated it with lavish relief sculpture of birds and animals on the exterior walls and extensive frescoes on the interior. He also founded the Monastery of the Virgins (Kusanats’), of which only a round church survives (probably 13th century).

During the 14th and 15th centuries Ani suffered several severe earthquakes, and with the shift southwards of important trade routes, the town was gradually abandoned and fell into ruin. Brosset’s descriptions of the site published in 1861 revived interest in Ani in the late 19th century. The excavations of Marr and T’ōramanyan followed in 1892–3 and 1904–17. In addition to architecture, the excavations produced thousands of such small finds as metalware, tools, glass, bricks, arms, coats of mail, coins, textiles, high quality silks, rug fragments and cotton goods.


  • M. Brosset: Les Ruines d’Ani (St Petersburg, 1861)
  • G. Alishan: Shirak (Venice, 1881)
  • G. Alishan: Ayrarat (Venice, 1890)
  • J. Strzygowski: Die Baukunst der Armenier und Europa, 2 vols (Vienna, 1918)
  • K. J. Basmadjian: Les Inscriptions arméniennes d’Ani, de Bagnair et de Marmashen (Paris, 1931)
  • J. Baltrushaitis: Le Problème de l’ogive et l’Arménie (Paris, 1936)
  • T’. T’ōramanyan: Nyut’er haykakan tchartarapetut’yan patmut’yan [Materials for the history of Armenian architecture], 2 vols (Yerevan, 1942–8)
  • G. Levonian: ‘Tchartarapet Trdat Anets’in ev ir gordserê’ [The architect Trdat of Ani and his works], Ēdjmiadzin, 1 (1949), pp. 55–66
  • V. M. Harut’yunyan: Midjnadaryan Hayastani k’aravanatnern u kamurdjnerė [The caravanserai and bridges of medieval Armenia] (Yerevan, 1960)
  • M. Thierry and N. Thierry: ‘Ani, ville morte du Moyen Age arménien’, Jardin des arts, 65 (1960), pp. 132–45
  • S. Barkhudaryan: Midjnadaryan hay tchartarapetner ev k’argords varpetner [Medieval Armenian architects and sculptors] (Yerevan, 1963)
  • V. Harut’unyan: Ani qaghaqê [The city of Ani] (Yerevan, 1964)
  • H. A. Ōrbeli: Divan hay vimagrut’yan—Corpus inscriptionum armenicarum, 1 (Yerevan, 1966)
  • P. Cuneo: L’architettura della scuola regionale di Ani nell’Armenia medioevale (Rome, 1977)
  • A. A. Manutch’aryan: K’nnut’yun hayastani iv–xi dareri shinararakan vkayagreri [A study of building documentation in Armenia during the 9th–11th centuries] (Yerevan, 1977)
  • L. Der Manuelian: Armenian Architecture, 1, ed. K. Maksoudian, 7 vols (Zug, 1981–) [in microfiche]
  • P. Cuneo and others: Ani (Venice, 1984)
  • P. Cuneo: Architettura armena dal quarto al diciannovesimo secolo (Rome, 1988)
  • L. Der Manuelian: ‘Ani: The Fabled Capital of Armenia’, Ani Millenium Symposium, New York, 1989 (in preparation)

See also


Early Christian and Byzantine art, §I, 1: History