VANK' / Xllth -XIXth centuries
large monastery called Kara Kilise («the Black Church») in Turkish is
now located on Iranian territory some 20 kilometers from Maku. According
to tradition it was founded by St. Thaddeus on the site of a pagan
temple. It was destroyed by earthquake in 1319, reconstructed in 1329,
restored and enlarged repeatedly until the XIXth century.
The church with its two conical cupolas visible from afar forms the main
part of the monastery. It stands in the center of a large square
precinct fortified with cylindrical towers at the corners and containing
all the rooms with secular functions.
The church consists of an ancient part of domed hall type with an apse
inscribed in a rectangle. This portion is for the most part built of
dark grey basalt almost devoid of decorative motifs except for the drum
which is laid in alternating circular courses of black and white stones.
In front of it and in the same axis was added a much larger later
portion whose square plan was undoubtedly influenced by Ejmiatsin. It
contains four free-standing pillars, two projecting lateral apses with
polygonal exteriors and a smaller apse on the western side which serves
as entrance. This recent part built of yellow stone completely recovers
the earlier building. Its exterior surfaces are richly decorated with
bas-reliefs (prophets and saints); they are articulated below by small
blind arcades and in the upper part by a motif of twin half-columns
separated by a continuous frieze of zoomorphic arabesques. Finally, a
small unfinished porch supported by four pillars is adjacent to this
portion. The internal and external surfaces of this porch are also
covered with blind arcading and figurative or geometric bas-reliefs.