Soviet times, only 100 artists throughout the
entire Union were given permission to work in
gold and silver.
Arshak Manukyan, 46, of Echmiadzin was one of
those chosen. Now, the former State specialist
crafts articles for use in Armenia's holiest center,
the Mother See.
His work, a large cross, can be found in Antilles
and replicas, ordered by Vazgen I, could be found
on children baptized in Artsakh during the late
1980s. Similar crosses were presented to those
bringing humanitarian aid following the 1988 earthquake.
"Crosses which I made are spread all over
the world," Manukyan says, "and this
is a significant event for me by itself."
His work has been ordered by three Caholicoses.
His most prized piece is the cresset, made for
the 1700th anniversary of Armenia adopting Christianity,
and placed on the chancel, by order of Garegin
"While making a sketch I was thinking of
a thing which will symbolize something,"
the artist explains. "I choose pomegranate.
I divided the peel of the pomegranate on 12 parts
in the center of which there had to be fire. It
symbolizes Christ with 12 apostles around. The
Caholicos liked it very much."
cresset is lighted with a flame brought from Khor
Virap by the Catholicos and which then was divided
between 40 dioceses of the Armenian Church.
Manukyan also made 40 containers for distributing
holy water for the dioceses.
Manukyan graduated from the radio engineering
department of Yerevan Engineering University.
During the years of study he met Edik Isakanyan,
one of Armenia's best silver jewelers.
"When I found myself in the master's workshop,
I felt that I should be engaged in that work,"
Manukyan says. "To my surprise, he said that
I had a talent and would prove that in the nearest
Five months later the future master started working
on his own.
In 1988 in Moscow he participated in the All-Union
exhibition and got the right to work with precious
"In times of the Soviet Union I had no right
as a specialist to work with silver or gold, but
only with not precious metals," Manukyan
says. "I got the permission from the Ministers'
Council. There were only 15 or 16 of us from Armenia."
independence, Manukyan, like most artists, has
faced the difficulties of socio-economic hardship.
Mainly, he has had to battle the problems of inconsistent
electricity service. But an appeal to the mayor
of Echmiadzin helped him get full-time power.
The key to his craft, though is found in the
fingers, he says.
"Each person's fingers tell about his or
her inner abilities. Fingers suggest whether the
given person can be engaged in silver and gold
jewelry," says the People's Master. "This
art requires smooth flat fingers with similar
nails, and of course talent and diligence."
The master's workshop is on the ground floor
of his own house. If he gets big orders his wife
and daughter help him.
"I am an accountant, but I gave up my profession
and help my husband," says his wife, Gayane
Galstyan, 37, who talks like a trained specialist
when she describes her contribution, applying
Ani, 17, an apprentice to her father, complains
that he is a strict teacher, but his approach
has good effect. She is also working with enamel
creating works with her father.
A photo album in their home shows Manukyan's
work for Pope John Paul II, for Russian Patriarch
Aleksiy II, for Russian President Vladimir Putin,
"When I'm working for our Church I'm guided
by the national, traditional principles,"
Manukyan says. "For the foreign markets I
make works that correspond to those markets' demands
and I always research them. One should not remain
behind, otherwise you will choke."
This year Manukyan has been commissioned by the
Church to prepare special works to commemorate
the 1700th anniversary of the Holy See during
August and September this year.
Among the pieces he will produce is a large cross
that Manukyan says "is regarded as a great
new historical work."