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D i s c l a i m e r
The main components of the khachkar composition
The Secular Figurative Reliefs
If we exclude the single expressions of secular images in other territories (Imirzek, Urts, Qanaqer, Koghes, Mamas, etc.) then secular figurative reliefs were first realized in the 12-13th century khachkars in Artsakh revealing several domains of folk beliefs. In the 15-17th centuries, secular figurative reliefs can be found also in Jugha, Gegharquniq and Vayots Dzor.
The images carved on the khachkars in Artsakh depict soldiers, nobility, artisans, women and children. It is possible to separate themes of warring and feasting, mourning, "family portrait", etc. The "warring and feasting" theme includes presentations of "military power", hunting, serving of wine, ritual drinking and the illustrations of the feast itself. The examination of these carvings, as well as comparison with historical and ethnographical information makes possible to restore two main complexes of folk beliefs on how to triumph over death: "the eternal feast" and "eternal war".
In the case of the "family portrait", the role of the deceased belongs to the youngsters of the family. One of the examples of a family "group carving" is the khachkar erected by Petevan in 1265 in Qanaqer, where the carved images represent Petevan himself and his three sons - a unique group carving that will be presented at the end of time to the Last Judgment. Some khachkar relief compositions, which can be categorized under the theme of "weeping mourning", depicts the deceased with his/her mother. A separate group consists of images of prayers, usually standing, but frequently kneeled, with hands toward the cross or holy image. Usually the deceased or sometimes the khachkar erectors are presented in this role.
The images involved, with the exception of the last group, are expressing ideas that are not connected to official Christianity, although the figures are placed near the cross. But for the contemporary viewers this was not disharmonious: one’s fate in the Last Judgment did not exclude the triumphing over death by feasting or fighting. This is what permitted the rending of folk perceptions on khachkars.

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Endangered Khachkars

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