KISH VILLAGE, SHAKI DISTRICT, REPUBLIC OF AZERBAIJAN   2

    The Architectural Peculiarities of the Church. The historiographical and lapidary records providing only scanty information on the date of the foundation of Kish's St. Yeghishe Church, the architectural study of this monument is of great importance as it will reveal additional data respecting it.
    Composition. Without denying the existence of an older church in the site of the present-day one, we should point out that the latter has reached us in an excellent state of preservation, which reveals its original composition and the evident marks of repairs: thus, we may state that St. Yeghishe was initially designed as a single-nave domed building.
    Plan Peculiarities. The most striking feature of Kish's church (it has a rectangular plan) is its semi-circular eastern apse, which is accentuated outwardly. Such apses (especially hedral ones) can also be found amidst early medieval Armenian monuments, but in case of Kish, we deal with location peculiarities rather than classic standards (Zayzit's domed cruciform church (12th to 13th centuries), located within 10 kms of Kish, has a protruded and even hedral apse, and another church (13th to 14th centuries), situated in the centre of Jalet Village, has a similar semi-circular apse).
    The Entrance. The only entrance to the church, which opens from its western facade, bears the obvious traces of the reconstruction carried out in the 19th century: all its cornerstones are finely-finished, but devoid of any ornaments.
    The Windows. The church has eleven narrow oblong windows widening inward (similar windows can also be found in the other religious buildings of the region such as Zayzit's cruciform church, Jalet's Sourb Astvatzatzin (1411), etc). Six of them open from the tambour and the rest from the four facades: two from the southern facade, and each of the other three from the northern, eastern and western ones. The windows of the church and their exterior frames are in a good state of preservation. They place it among the architectural monuments of the period between the 12th and 13th centuries; therefore, it cannot be considered a structure of an earlier period.
    The Dome. All the vaulted arches supporting the dome are sagittate (double-centered), a composition the earliest manifestations of which trace back to the 11th century (Ani Cathedral). The underdome square is not connected with the concha via squinches like those of the early medieval buildings, but through a pendentive characteristic of a later period. The drum, ending in a pointed broach, is circular, a feature that cannot be found in any monument erected earlier than the period between the 11th and 12th centuries: it was only then that the use of a circular drum became wide-spread in the construction of religious buildings. Zayzit's cruciform church, which shares all the characteristic features of Kish's sanctuary, has a circular dome, too.
    Decoration. St. Yeghishe is distinguished for its plain interior and exterior decoration with the exception of the identical window frames on its four facades. The cornices of the drum and pediments have similar features. The decomposition of the plaster has revealed a plain cornice-shaped frame surrounding the tambour (in the middle of the cornice and windows) merely for a decorative purpose.
    Building Material. The church is thoroughly built of mortar and finely-cut porous pumice partly arranged in irregular rows. Some small rough stones can be seen in the sections bearing marks of renovation. The plaster covering both the exterior and interior of the church is mostly preserved.
    All these architectural and compositional peculiarities suggest that the church was founded in the 13th century, perhaps a little later or earlier, but not earlier than the mid-12th century and not later than the first half of the 14th century. _*24
    Priors. In 1865 Archimandrite Gevorg Aramiants is mentioned as Prior of the monastery. _*25
    In 1890 Father Superior Ohan the Archimandrite yielded up his spirit to God: "...The poor Prior of that monastery, Archimandrite Ohan, died in September 1890, after which the spiritual authorities did not condescend to appoint a religious leader there..." _*26
    The late Archimandrite had worked in Kish Monastery since about 1863: in 1883 he had been holding that post for already 20 years _*27: having served as the religious leader of Jalet Monastery for 34 years before moving to Kish, Archimandrite Ohan was between 120 and 130 years old in 1886. _*28
    "...on 20 August" 1903, "Archimandrite Hovelia Kharazian assumed the spiritual leadership of the monastery..." _*29
    Monastic Estates. In about 1890 St. Yeghishe owned several rooms, a mulberry wood and 2,273 sazhens of farming land, which was generally rented out. _*30 In 1899 it expanded its possessions on account of a khalvar of arable land donated by the Buniatiants:
    "...with strong Christian devotion, they purchased a khalvar of farming land, extending near St. Yeghishe the Apostle's Monastery, from the Persians and donated it to the sanctuary for eternal ownership..." _*31
    In 1905 St. Yeghishe had 3 mulberry woods, a vegetable garden and some stone buildings. _*32
    The Feast Day of the Monastery. In the 19th century, St. Yeghishe was a famous place of pilgrimage for the Armenians throughout Transcaucasia: they annually gathered there to celebrate Vardavar. _*33
    Kish Monastery and the Problem of Shaki (Nukhi) Primate's Residence. Taking into consideration the constant influx of large multitudes of pilgrims to St. Yeghishe the Apostle's Monastery and the advantages it enjoyed ("...there are rooms for the Vicar and Government officials as well"), on 27 February 1875, the Leader of Shaki Diocese, Archbishop Sargis, suggested that Echmiatzin Synod move the Primate's seat from Shaki (Nukhi) to Kish, but his proposal was not approved._*34
    Relations. To preserve an Armenian monastery in a Muslim village, particularly when there is a constant influx of pilgrims visiting it, is something very problematic that inevitably gives rise to disputes over national issues. The eloquent proof of this is a fight that broke out on 1 August 1885 causing the murder of a converted Kish inhabitant. In retaliation for that, a certain Khan-Mahmed-Ahmed-oghli killed an innocent Armenian named Arshak Ghelichiants: moreover, some inhabitants of Kish even broke the windows of St. Yeghishe Church. _*35
    A press publication of 1909 contains another evident manifestation of intolerance towards the existence of an Armenian monastery in a Turkish village: its dome cross became a target of firing for some Turks. Facing the protest raised by the Armenians, they promised to repair the leaning cross lest the secular powers should be informed of it. _*36
    Mosque. In 1874 Kish had 2 mosques, _*37 one of which had a functioning school in 1893. _*38
    Kish Monastery and the Georgians. It is generally accepted in Georgian historiography that in the 10th century, the population of Kish converted to the Georgian Orthodox faith. It is also alleged that between the 10th and 11th centuries, those very people built Sourb Astvatzatzin Church, which later turned into the residence of the Georgian bishop, functioning until the 17th century. According to Georgian historians, the Armenian newcomers took possession of the sanctuary only between the 1850s and '60s. _*39
    Kish Monastery and the Azerbaijani Scholars. The Azerbaijani historians and architects did not ever make the slightest reference to Kish's church until after the 1960s, this being due to certain political considerations: their viewpoints resting mainly on the works of some Armenian topographers of the 19th century, they identified Kish and Gis, thus ascribing the history of Gis, located on the right bank of the Kur, to Kish, which lies on the left bank of the river. They declared Kish's church an Albanian monument, while it is but nonsense to speak about the existence of Christian Albanians after the 10th century. In a desperate attempt to attribute its foundation to the Azeri people, they allege that the monument traces back to the early Middle Ages, namely the period between the 4th and 7th centuries.
    Kish Monastery and the Norwegians. Since 2000 some Norwegian researchers have been carrying out investigation and excavations in the church of Kish. They have already announced the preliminary results of their research, which consist in the following: taking into account the "scientific" materials provided by the Azerbaijani scholars, they actually repeat Baku's false allegations about the identity of Azerbaijani and Albanian cultures, a thesis which is devoid of any scientific basis and actually pursues political goals.
    The material published by J. Bjornar Storfjell, an archaeologist of Norwegian-American origin, reveals the aforementioned confusion between the toponyms of 'Kish' and 'Gis.' The title of the work by Movses Kaghankatvatsi, which sounds as 'Aghvanits Patmutiun' in Armenian, should actually be understood as 'History of Aghvank' (there exist other similar medieval works such as 'History of Syunik,' 'History of Taron,' etc.): the Armenian word of 'Aghvanits' should be regarded as a geographical name rather than an ethnonym, while in fact, the book title has been interpreted as 'History of Caucasian Albanians.' In other words, the Norwegian researcher, who evidently lacks comprehensive knowledge of the matter, took the "scientific" theories put forward by the Azerbaijani "specialists" for granted, thus involuntarily depreciating his work. In fact, the Azerbaijani "scholars" trapped him to impart greater seriousness to their concoctions.

by Samvel Karapetian, Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA) NGO

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