of the minatures hope they'll be restored
About 14 years ago, Soviet authorities decided
to create an open-air museum in Echmiadzin with
replicas of famous Armenian churches and monasteries.
Since, 12 miniatures have been an attraction in
the city square.
But it has also been 14 years of decay, causing
some now to worry that the unique cultural attraction
might soon vanish.
The dome of the St. Cross Church of Aghtamar
Island is completely wrecked, the lower part is
full of empty and dirty bottles of soft drinks.
The famous temple of Zvartnots sits on damaged
grounds with broken windows winking and the other
10 churches share common disrepair.
When the museum was first opened it was not only
a monument to Armenia's spiritual heritage, but
to its artistry.
"Replicas followed the originals down to
the smallest details, even the number of stones
used during construction. It is a unique museum,"
says deputy mayor of Echmiadzin Robert Sharbatyan.
Echmiadzin residents say many people who visited
the replica museum have been inspired to go see
the originals spread throughout the country.
The replicas are placed on pedestals several
meters apart and are encased in transparent glass.
Their lower parts hold mirrors so that all angles
can be seen and they are illuminated by tiny spotlights.
The little churches are the art of several artists
who used special glue, Armenia tuff (stone) and
basalt during the construction. Like its real
churches in the Holy See, residents of Echmiadzin
have valued their special attraction over the
Today, however, memories and reality don't match.
and dirty glass make viewing the replicas
Rain has caused damage, and in some cases, vandals
have taken glass and mirrors. The inner part of
almost all replicas' pedestals is seriously damaged.
Glasses are either broken or are completely removed
and garbage and rust replace them today. Dirty
glass makes it difficult to enjoy the subtle work
of the churches' construction.
"Years ago everything was at least bearable,"
says one of the city's residents, "people
used to care for the replicas and in case of damages
the reconstruction works had been immediately
carried out. These days it seems that nobody cares
about that problem at all and the replicas that
were once our pride become our shame because of
such treatment. Today I can't explain anything
to my grandchild. I can't explain why the glasses
are broken and why they are in such a condition."
Sharbatyan says that the replicas have been forgotten
for more than three years. Recently, however,
a project endorsed by the Catholicos has begun
to have the little churches repaired by autumn,
when Echmiadzin celebrates its 1700th anniversary
as the Holy See.
Former architect of Echmiadzin Gagik Harutyunyan,
who participated in the creation and implementation
of the original project, is hopeful that repairs
will be long-lasting.
"Before, if there was even a small damage,
everything had to be completely reconstructed.
But these days the situation is different,"
he says. "I think that if it is reconstructed
even once, people will notice this beauty again
and won't damage it any more. Anyway, these days
there are so many new and wonderful materials
in the world that can replace the glasses and
never again return to this condition."