ARTAK GHULYAN
CASTLES (PALACES) OF MELIKS OF ARTSAKH AND SIUNIK



COMPARABLE EXAMINATION

A. BUILDING: According to the location in the building vicinity, melikal palaces are divided into two groups:
    1. palaces of fortresses;
    2. palaces of settlements.
    The palaces of fortresses have been built as citadels forming a continuing part of defence and other buildings of the melikal residence-fortresses and become the compositional kernel of the architectural complex. In the preserved two monuments (Jraberd, Gulistan's fortress) being involved in the common system of the defence structures of the fortress, the citadel-fortresses are not independent and complete complexes with very certain borders and have combined the roles of the melikal palaces and foothold-stations of troops.
    The citadel-castles had minimal conditions and had no relation to and were far from the houses of the people and spiritual cult centers. And since in the everyday life the meliks were communicating with the people's mass strata and church, their house-palaces have been built mainly in settlements.
    As palace-fortresses of the local ruler, the palaces have been built in the central part of settlements, not far from the main roads and a church building and have been separated from the houses of peasants with their prominent location. The public center of the melikal settlement has formed around the castle-church architectural complex and melikal family cemetery, source, bath-houses, trade and entertainment squares (Avetaranots, Horekavan, Gulistan, Mokhratagh, Kaghakatagh) were not far from the public center. Sometimes a few castles forming a palace and defence complex, have been built in the same settlement (Horekavan, Shushi, Avetaranots). The melikal palaces have mainly been the defence point, the special citadel of the residence-center, and they have also been called fortresses for this reason (Kashatagh, Kaghakategh, Mokhratagh, Horekavan, Gulatagh, Shushi).
    B. COMPOSITIONAL PECULIARITIES: As a rule, the castles built on eastern inclined slopes of the settlements have been enveloped complexes and their major facades are directed at the ravine and the back sides are deepened into the slope, their interior eminence yards are built with a brace wall. The general plan of the complexes has mainly been enveloped in rectangular or quadrangular walls which have been fastened by hollow towers. The complex is circumferential, the interior yard has been surrounded by semi-underground and wall-attached rows of rooms, the entrances of which are from the vestibules. The castles mainly are one-storied and sometimes have a two-storied part, they have been enlightening through apertures or small windows looking onto the yard and they mainly had stone roofs.
    Architectural-compositional communities of melikal palaces are emphasized especially in typological resolutions of separate compartments - glkhatuns, halls, vestibules, upper halls, open halls -and of other elements.
    Considering the type of the general hall forming the applicable and compositional kernel of the complexes important among their common peculiarities, the monuments may be divided into three groups:
    a. Palaces having two-storied halls (Kashatagh, Khnatzatzk, Khndzoresk, Togh);
    b. Palaces having glkhatuns (Akanaberd, Horekavan's second castle, Mokhratagh, Gulistan, Tegh, two castles of Avetaranots, Tokhnakal);
    c. Palaces of other types (Kaghakategh, fortress of Gulistan, Jraberd, Horekavan's first castle, Shushi's two castles, Gulatagh).
    a. The palaces having two-storied halls have been built in Siunik in 15th -16th cent., then they have partly been applied in the Artsakh's complexes of the 18th cent. Kashatagh's, Knatzakh's and Khndzoresk's castles-palaces are characteristic of it - the architectural compound of the complex of the three castle-palaces, formed of the combination of two and one-storied buildings and the arcade and an elevated open vaulted upper hall are stressed in the general facade and volume silhouette. The two-storied hall is especially typical which is the compositional stress of the palace with a melikal flat on its first floor and reception-throne hall on its upper floor. Being the most ancient ones among the melikal palaces, these monuments markedly bear the direct influence of rich traditions of peasants' houses and have simplest features of a defence structure.
    The compositional peculiarities of a two-storied reception-hall are specifically displayed in the palace of Togh (1737) and in a fragment of the castle of Mokhratagh (1771). The solemn-palace nature of the entire building is stressed in the castles having a double-storied hall or an open upper reception-hall which was based on the comparably legal high position of their owners in the political life of the country.
    b. The palaces having glkhatuns are the most over-spread monuments of the 18th cent. and they mainly have an exact dating. The stone glkhatun, i. e. the central stone vaulted hall with a quadrangular plan and being enlightened through an aperture, has oblong and vaulted halls on its two sides and an arched hall on the frontal side, as a rule, and it is the pivot of the plan and volume-spatial compositions of the complexes of this type. Besides the castles having one glkhatun (Mokhratagh, Gulistan, Tukhnakal), castles having two attached similar glkhatuns have been built (Akanaberd, Horekavan's second, Aveteranots's first castles, Togh), as well as there are mentions about attached three glkhatuns (the second castle of Avetaranots). By the way, in one case the glkhatuns and halls have separate vestibules and in the other case they have one united arched hall in the front of them.
    The most characteristic peculiarity of these monuments is the totally stoned roofs and the peculiar forms of the roofs of glkhatuns are prominent among them. The roofs of the glkhatuns have sizes of 7x7m and are upon the walls forming a base quadrangle. They have a view of closing vaulted pyramidal domes in Gulistan and Tukhnakal and the tromp variant of the dome with semi-circular and cathedral-tower vaults are applied in Horekavan and Mokhratagh (probably in Akanaberd). The glkhatuns are enlightened through apertures and have no other gaps, besides the entrances.
    The two halls of the glkhatuns which are adjoined from the two sides and are often linked by the entrance have nearly similar and typical construction.
    The balconies have a simplest resolution and have one-arched, two-arched or three-arched facades (Gulistan, Mokhratagh, Tukhnakal) and the most complete variant is the arcade (NP) adjoining the four-side pylons (Horekavan, Tegh, Avetaranots). Glkhatuns, halls and balconies are the dwelling part of the melikal palace and in large complexes (Horekavan, Mokhratagh) in the opposite of them there is an open hall for reception and other solemn ceremonies which has two attached halls on its two sides.
    c. Palaces of other types: These castles distinguish themselves with emphasized defence peculiarities and some of them have wood covers (fortresses of Gulistan, Jraberd, Kaghakategh). Fortresses of Gulistan and Jraberd have a simple lay-out by the reason of the conditions of the place and for defence objectives.
    Thanks to the high brace wall in width of a ravine in Kaghakategh the resolution of the lay-out of the citadel-palace is in the rectangular form with evenly arranged rooms around the yard. The windows and balconies of the rooms look onto the valley of the ravine.
    The four-tower palaces having a rectangular lay-out form a peculiar sub-type (first palace of Horekavan, palaces of Shushi, Gulatagh, small fortress of Gulistan) and with their stressed defence peculiarities, grouping of rooms covered with stone and adjoined by walls, as well as volume resolutions do not differ from the complexes having glkhatuns.
    C. MEANS OF ARCHITECTURAL DECORATION are very scanty and the architectural expressiveness of the monuments is very simple and is mainly created with volume-spatial composition, characteristic of some monument covered by stone, with contrasting composition of roughly hewed walls and smoothly hewed arched embrasures, application of the simplest ways of portals and silhouette harmonious to the vicinity.
    To emphasize the legal-political, public and social high position of meliks, their castles have been built on the prominent places of the residence-settlements, and with their exclusive sizes and number of rooms, regular planning resolutions and processing of facades they have differed from the houses of usual peasants. The disposition of household niches and fire-places has been considered important.
    D. BUILDING ART
    Organization of Building Works: Building inscriptions witness that the meliks, the owners of the palaces have borne the whole building expenses of the palaces (Togh, Gulistan, Mokhratagh, Tegh, Avetaranots). As it is known, the subjects of the melik were obliged not only to pay taxes and tributes, but also a few days to sow, mow and carry out the works free of charge for the melik. Thus, both the paid work of the mason-craftsmen and of the subjects' free of charge participation in the voluminous works (preparation of the locality, supply, conveyance of the building materials, etc.) not demanding special skills should be understood under the "to build" or "to be build" words. The architectural and constructive communities of the monuments show that building work has been specialized during the construction of the melikal palaces. That means that the work has been carried out by separate groups of craftsmen. This phenomenon is also characteristic of the cult architecture of the late Middle Ages.
    The duration of the construction of palaces is unknown, but their defence nature and the unstable situation of the country assumed that they had been built in a short period of time which is characteristic of the late Middle Ages.
    As the data obtained as a result of measurements of the monuments find out, units of measure (foot, inch, cubit, step, etc.) known in the Middle Ages have been used sometimes (thickness of wall, bay of vaults, base sizes of halls and glkhatuns, sizes of entrances, windows, niches and of other elements).
    Building materials: The basic building material of the palaces is the stone -different kinds of vordzakar (a kind of stone) have been used in Artsakh and basalt -in Siunik. The masonry has been mainly carried out with roughly hewed stones and only the stones of embrasures, niches, fire-places (bukhari), tromps and corner parts are smoothly hewed which was dictated by constructive and artistic reasons. Wood, as a material for cover, has also been largely used (Kashatagh, Khnatzakh, Jraberd, Kaghakategh, fortress of Gulistan). The wood has also been used in construction decking, for centring of arches, vaults, domed vaults, the traces of which are even now noticeable. In the walls and stone overhead covers high-quality mortar has been used as a uniting material. The firmness and solidity of the rough masonry was provided mainly on account of the solid concrete which has turned the masonry into a monolithic mass, coming out through chinks of the stones.
    Building constructions, in general, do not differ from constructive forms of the civil architecture of the late Middle Ages and are simpler in comparison with resolutions of the former centuries.
    Walls are erected on the ribbon bases the great part of which is disposed on the mountain masses. The ruins show obviously that the bases are laid like the walls, while they are a little wider. The walls are erected by traditional method -regular rows of stones from the outside and rubble concrete from the inside. The height of the hewed and arched stones is 25-30 cm which have diverse grades of processing and hewing. The width of the walls is nearly 0,8-1,2m , depending on the forms of covers and the material, constructive burden, etc.
    Pylons and pillars in melikal palaces are used absolutely in arched halls. The pylons had been square and rectangular and were stacked like walls (Horekavan, Mokhratagh, Tegh, Gulistan). The pillars erected of a few pieces of stone are also rectangular and their edges are smoothly hewed (Kashatagh, Khndzoresk, Mokhratagh). Pilasters are used in vaulted arches and in piers adjoined to the wall of arched halls.
    Embrasures are built very carefully and according to the form of the tympanum, they have two resolutions -horizontal or arched completion. Windows of a few palaces (Kashatagh, Khnatsakh, Tegh, Mokhratagh) have horizontal stone tympanum and windows and entrances of a few castles-palaces (Jraberd, Kaghakategh, fortress of Gulistan) have wood beams. Arched entrance embrasures are applied most and most of them have sizes of 0,8-1,0 m, the width of their saliences is 20-30 cm which bear the stone of the tympanum and a hewed arch on its edge. The gates with arched bays of 2,5m have the same resolution (Togh, Shushi). The one-bay arches of the balconies have been stacked with two-stepped masonry (Kashatagh, Khnatzakh, Gulistan) and in colonnade halls having comparably little arched bays the second row of the arched masonry has been sometimes stacked with roughly hewed stones after the smoothly hewed arches.
    Vaults are the basic resolution of stoned overhead covers. In halls the bay of the vaults is 3,6 -4,6m (bay of 4m is applied most). There are no vaulted arches in the vaulted covers the reason of which is the small size of the buildings (the reception-hall of Togh is an exception) and the vaults are on the longitudinal walls. Mortar has been used much during the building of the vaults.
    Domed vaults have been used in glkhatuns which have square plans of 7,0x7,0m at the average and with their construction technique they nearly do not differ from longitudinal vaulted covers. The covers are mainly tetrahedral and pyramidal and have closing vaults (Gulistan, Avetaranots, Tegh, Tukhnakal) and have also been largely used in the civil architecture of the late Middle Ages. In regard to the building art of the era tromp domed vaults erected on the square base of the same size are resolved boldly. In the houses of meliks the system of tromp passage has been used with a peculiar contrivance -from lower corners of walls of the square the arched tromps immediately (without a drum) pass on the domed vault that is semicircular in Horekavan's two glkhatuns and octahedral, pyramidal in Mokhratagh.
    Roofs are mainly flat and a little inclined. They have two slopes in their two-storied parts and are pyramidal in glkhatuns. Being used for everyday and defence necessities, these roofs have been covered by soil -the rubble concrete filling of covers are rammed and covered with wattle and daub layer and the walls have been completed with simple cornice.
    Seismic steadiness of the complexes has been provided thanks to the creation of one united, monolithic and hard constructive system.
    Unlike the medieval architectural complexes where the buildings adjoined to each other were separated by seismic junctions and each of the buildings had central or symmetric composition, the complexes of castles-palaces are integrated in common quadrangular lay-out and have constructive unity created with combination of different parts.
    So, the glkhatuns with central composition together with a pair of adjoined halls and a general gallery form one compact and symmetric compound. The rows of rooms do not have saliences upsetting the frontier and volume community.
    The two-storied buildings are separated from one-storied parts and thanks to mass pylons the wall system is protected as much as possible. The vaulted covers are adjoined to each other and the buildings are not stretched horizontally or vertically, etc.
    The building technique and constructive resolutions of the castles-palaces of meliks supplement the building traditions characteristic of the era and there is a close likeness between them and the building art of Artsakh and Siunik of the late Middle Ages.
    E. ROOTS AND PARALLELS OF COMPOSITIONAL GENESIS: The architectural-compositional principle of melikal palaces is chiefly linked to general architectural forms of houses of Armenian peasants. There is a plan likeness between all compartments of the castle-palaces and usual people's houses, their wood covers do not nearly differ from each other and stone covers obviously bear the influence of prototypes of wood covers. In particular, it is obvious that the vaulted and arched halls are built after the example of traditional houses and colonnade balconies of peasants, and in domes of glkhatuns with apertures wood forms of octahedral, stepped and pyramidal covers without interim piers of peasant glkhatuns are incarnated.
    The architectural closest parallels are the stone quarters of old and new monasteries of Artsakh and Siunik built in the late Middle Ages( Gandzasar, Dadivank, St. Hakobavank, Yeghisheh Arakial (Apostle), Gndevank, Tatev, Amaras, Yeritsmankants, St. Amenaprkich of Gulistan, Yeghnasar monastery of Getashen, etc.)
    The medieval princely castles-palaces of the region which witness the old traditions of erection of fortress-palaces of this type (princely palace of Khokhanaberd, 13th cent.) and existence of central halls with stone domed vaults within them (princely palace of Tzar, 13th cent. palace hall of Dadivank, 1211, princely castle of Hors, 14th cent.) have an important place in the compositional origin of castle-palaces of meliks.
    Defence constructions of castles and methods applied for defence objectives, i. e. the high walls, circular towers, massive gates, use of roofs of one-storied buildings, rearity or absence of embrasures on exterior facades are the main means which have been used in fortress building from ancient times up to now and in the late medieval fortresses and fortified monasteries.
    It is also notable, that there are compositional, constructive and functional very exact communities between the main compartments (glkhatun, hall, arched hall, open hall, enveloped yard) of complexes of stone glkhatuns and compartments of medieval Armenia's royal and princely palaces (cathedral, hall, square, etc.). T. Toromanian has maid remarkable observation on the latter.
    The "imaret"-palaces of Muslim khans settled down in Artsakh-Karabakh are evidence of architectural stable traditions of melikal palaces. Most of the "imaret"-palaces have been built in accordance with the forms of palaces of meliks and by Armenian craftsmen (Shahbulagh, Aghdam).
    F. ARCHITECTURAL RELATIONS with neighboring countries are expressed by noticeable community of certain parts of the melikal palaces and Persian and Georgian palace buildings. In this regard the palace-apartments of Armenian merchants of New Julfa (Isfahan) built by Armenian craftsmen after the great expatriation of Armenians organized by Shah-Abbas the First in the beginning of the 17th cent. are prominent. These palace-apartments are adapted with local conditions and have rich and brick composition peculiarities (K. Karapetian, G. Carswell). The most known compositional resolution is the confrontation of the central domed hall with the halls attached from its two sides, which has been applied much in melikal palaces having glkhatuns. Only certain compartments of melikal palaces (upper floors of two-storeyed halls of palaces of Kashatagh, Khnatzakh, Khndzoresk and Mokhratagh, a reception-hall of Togh, open halls of palaces of Horekavan, Mokhratagh and Shushi) have compositional communities with Persian and Georgian palaces.
    A little changed compositions are used in a series of monuments of Persian palace architecture of the late Middle Ages (khan's palace in Shaki, palaces of Yerevan's Sardar and Panah khans, etc.), as well as in Georgian palaces (Ninotzminda, Dzaghina).
    If these compositions are processed in Persian monuments with another architectural stylistic direction, being not deprived of influence of this style, the Georgian monuments do not have the specific architectural peculiarities of melikal palaces. Thus, in regard to their composition, the palaces of meliks are very peculiar and can be compared with princely apartments of other countries only with their functional destination.