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 July 11 , 2003 




Concern for Culture: Echmiadzin's unique museum in need of attention, repair


Fans of the minatures hope they'll be restored by autumn.

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 years.

Today, however, memories and reality don't match.

Scratched and dirty glass make viewing the replicas difficult.

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."

 


According to Agnes
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  Photos of the week
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The National Chamber Orchestra made a tour of Karabakh last weekend, including an open-air performance at the College of Applied Sciences in Shushi. THe Orchestra is back from a recent tour of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

 

 





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