Prophet Jonah scene
It is written on the medallion that the first medallion on top of the stage is Saint Martin Stephanos, the second is Sophanias and the fourth is Osoria.
There are three naked male figures in a U-shaped ship with a sail that looks like a curtain. These three figures are trying to cast Prophet Jonah towards the fish.The head of the fantastic fish figure resembles predatory land animals. The fish opened its mouth, preparing itself to swallow Prophet Jonah. Unlike the round-faced figures on the ship, Prophet Jonah has long face, big eyes and a beard.The face of Prophet Jonah is shown from the front. Saint Martin Stephanos, prophets Sophonias, Osaria and another unidentified saint figure are located on the ship in medallions.
The scene regarding the casting of Prophet Jonah into the sea is from the Torah. As explained in the Torah (Jonah 1: 1-4), Jonah received a revelation from theLord to go to Nineveh and to preach them. However, Jonah tried to flee to Tarshish and boarded a ship for this purpose. However, due to the storms cast by the lord, the ship did not move and was about to sink.
Prophet Jonah his not cast down to the sea but directly towards the mouth of the fish. The prophet has no objection against this incident. There is only a hint of surprise on his face and in his eyes. The figure on the left of the ship indicates with his index finger that Prophet Jonah committed a crime and he would be punished for it.
Pantocrator Christ and Mother Mary
The figure of Jesus sitting on a throne engraved with rich geometric shapes is depicted from the front. To the right of the window, there is an angel figure depicted with a halo and wings. On the medallion above this figure, there is a saint figure with a halo over his head. Both figures point to the direction of Jesus (Fig.49).
There are cavities around the halo of the saint figure and the diamond shapes on the shoes of the angel figure, indicating that they used to be adorned with inlaid colourful stones when they were first made.
Jesus is sitting stupendously on a flamboyant throne, crowned with a niche (an arch) on the top. There’s a halo over the Prophet’s head. His hair is parted down from the middle and he has long and big eyes. His bare feet under his abundantly loose dress are remarkable (Figs50, 51). Jesus is holding a Bible with a crucifix on its cover on his left knee and making a blessing gesture with his right hand.
Jesus, sitting stupendously on a flamboyant throne with a crucifix and halo over his head, with his hair parted from the middle, bearded face and straight serious gaze, is characterised as an exact Pantocrator.
A stern expression can be sensed on the face of Jesus, making a Greek-style blessing gesture with his right hand. Jesus is depicted inside a niche as if he is hanging on the surface of the wall. Niche is a symbol of divinity. It is seen in the fire altars in Iran, in the arches bordering the index plates of Christian Bibles and in Muslim mihrabs as well in Anatolia in the10th century, especially in the furnishings of Othodox churches. In Aghtamar, the semi-circulararch is seen over the windows that enable the interior of this place of worship to be filled with sunlight and triangular alcoves, and over the figure of Jesus on the throne. Thus, it visualizes and emphasizes his luminous nature.
Here, Jesus is sitting on his throne in the celestial dome as the light, the life-giver ,the “true sun” that is the sun of righteousness.
Vaspurakan Prince Hamazasp and his brother Sahak
On the right side of the bell tower is the niche walls that cut each other with 120degrees and on the left, there are the figures of Saint Hamazasp and his brother Saint Sahak.
Saint Sahak, has a robe which is crossed over the chest with on skirt curved outwards. Saint Sahak’s dress is decorated with round shapes engraved between two double lines and a heavy belt with three pendants attached to it.
Aziz Hamazasp is dressed in a garment decorated with diamond figures. The slit unfolding above the knee creates a plain, unadorned lining, while the trouser legs are visible under the dress. On the left hand of the figure there is a small cross.
The feet of both figures that are depicted from the front are pointing slightly to the sides. The edges of the halos over their heads are perforated, which give a beady impression. The large pupils of the figures are turned upwards. There are similarities between the two figures' hairstyles and facial features.
There is a saint figure on a medallion at the head level of Saint Sahak and Saint Hamazasp figures. This saint figure is portrayed as a young person and has a halo over his head.
The right index fingers of Saint Sahak, Saint Hamazasp and the saint figure in the middle are raised up, pointing to the subject on the other side.
There are also saint figures on the animal figures that surround this scene. The edges of the medallions and the halos over their heads are perforated in the form of beads. The saint on the right, points to the incident on the other side with his index finger, like the previous figures.
Hamazasp and his brother Sahak are religious martyrs who are killed by Arabs in 786 (DerNerssesian 1965: 14; Grousset 1947: 487).
The similarity of the faces of these two figures that are depicted in eastern clothing, attempt to express that they are brothers. The pupils of the figures are upright and expressionless. There is no relevance with the saints' busts in the upper parts.
In the first-generation decorations, where religious depictions are intensive, it can be seen that Armenian (Vaspurakan) king sand princes were depicted. Armenians' devotion to their religions and the sense of exalting their kings who did not turn away from their religions in spite of all the pressure and were even martyred for this reason, underlie in these depictions.
The same diligent work on these figures as the subjects from the Bible, is the proof of this value.
The struggle of David and Goliath
The names of the figures are written next to their heads. From left to right, there are the names of the Eli the seer, King Saul of Israel, Prophet Samuel, ProphetDavid, Goliath.
The bearded figure depicted without a halo and a medallion on the ornate window on the side of the passage to the eastern cross arm belongs to Eli the seer. Eli the seer is pointing at the struggle of David and Goliath on his side with his index finger, his big pupils are also turned to that direction. David is shown with his short robe, strong legs and his sling in his right hand that he prepares to throw. Goliath is depicted around 2.00m tall, very large compared to the figure of David. The figure, holding a shield in his left hand, raised his sword in the air with his right hand. Heads and bodies of the figures are depicted from the front and the feet from the side. The fold lines of the garments are emphasised with waves and twisted lines to reveal the body positions of the figures. The arm our on Goliath is emphasised with the geometric scanning technique. There are cavities on the arms of Goliath's armoured outfit and the shield in his hand, indicating that they used to be beaded when it was first made.
Behind the Prophet David, to his left, Saul the king of Israel is depicted in garments that pertain to Eastern rulers. Saul’s head is turbaned, and he has a drooping sliced belt. King Saul, who is depicted smaller than the figures of David andGoliath, is pointing to the struggle of David and Goliath.
In then upper part of the medallion is the prophet Samuel. The head of the figure has a halo.
A crouched cattle figure is placed between David and Goliath. There are two rosettes over this animal figure (Fig. 58).
ICONOGRAPHY:The people in this group are from the book of Samuel I in the Torah. The relations and the events between the people are fabulously depicted in the embossments.
The child Samuel serves the very old Eli, whose eyes are weak. This age difference is also seen in the embossment. Eli is looking at Samuel and it seems like he is giving him a warning with his index finger:
“... and Eli said: “What was it the Lord said to you?” “May God deal with you, be it ever so severely, if you hide from me anything that he told you.” (I. Samuel 3:17). In the Torah; Samuel commissions Saul to fulfil some of God’s wishes. Saulis described as follows:
“And he had a young and handsome son named Saul, and there was no man in Israel more handsome; his height up from shoulder was taller than anyone else in the tribe”(I.Samuel 9: 2).
However, Saulis much smaller than Prophet David next to him. The greatness of David stems from his symbolic exaggeration with Goliath.
Saul's robe which is decorated with geometric shapes has an arch similar to Sahak's. Next to his head it is written, Saul, the king of Israel. The depiction of David next to Saul after his struggle against Goliath is also relevant to the events in the Torah:
“... And David came to Saul, and stood before him: he loved David very much, and he became Saul's weapons ... and it came to him, when the evil spirit came to Saul from God, David took up his lyre and played with his hand; and Saul would rest and get better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (I. Samuel 16: 21-23).
The story of David and Goliath, which is the symbol of the victory over the powerful, fills the far-right part of the southern façade. Next to Goliath, it writes “Goliath the alien”:
“... And he had a bronze cap on his head, and he was dressed in a scaly armor” (Samuel 17:5).
In the embossment, Goliath is wearing shoes on his feet and a tunic that is extends to his knees:
“... And David said to the Palestinian: you come upon me with a sword, and a spear and a pike” (I. Samuel 17:45).
David’s feet are bare, and his name is written over his head.
“... He was red, his eyes were beautiful, and his gaze was pleasant” (I. Samuel 16: 12).
This should be the reason why he is depicted as if he is smiling in the embossment, instead of the expression that should be on the face of a person who is fighting.
“And he took his wand and put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag, and he had his sling in his hand and he approached the Palestinian” (I. Samuel 17: 40).
The prophet David does not have the staff that he is supposed to have in his hand.
The drooping sliced belt on King Saul’s waist, who is depicted in eastern costumes, resembles those that are fashionable in Abbasid palaces and troops influenced by Central Asia (Oney 1990: 24). The figures of David and Goliath are depicted with extremely sharp lines. The fillings are flat and as if they are pressed.Thus, the shape is limited to a schematic repetition of the drawings. The figures still gained depth because of the reflection of the sun light on the surface of the wall, and because even the slightest embossment is noticed in the opposition of dark and light. The image of the cattle between the figures of David and Goliath can be considered to symbolize how strong and comfortableDavid is against Goliath. In this embossment, a primitive regional art can be seen, it almost seems as if the border illustrations in early Christian - Syrian manuscripts are practiced on stone on a giant scale.
Elijah the Prophet, Saint Thomas and the Widowat Zarephath
On the outer edge of the eastern cross arm, there are the figures of the prophet Elijah and Saint Thomas on his right. There is a female figure kneeling before the prophet Elijah. Saint Thomas, who is depicted smaller in size is dressed in a curved garment. He holds a book in his left hand, his right hand is up, and he is looking at the prophet Elijah.
The prophet Elijah, who was depicted from the front, has a long face, he is bearded and has a halo over his head. He is holding a glass! (plate) on his left hand, he raised his right arm. The woman is kneeling on the floor and she spreads her hands towards the prophetElijah. Above these figures, there are two saint figures with halos, one in a medallion and the other as a bust. The young saint in the medallion raised his right hand up. The bust figure is bearded and older.
The female figure on her knees is probably Sarepta, the widow of Zarephath, whose son was healed by the prophet Elijah (Kings I 17). The figure on the right side of the prophet Elijah, is characterised as Saint Thomas because of his relevance with the region. According to the quotes of Saint Thomas from the Bible, when his bones were brought to Armenia, they were highly honoured by the prince of Artzurini and a church was built at the location where the bones were buried.
Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit
Adam and Eve are standing naked on both sides of the tree of life (Fig. 69). As Adam is trying to pick the apple, Eve is eating the apple. Eve's hand is on Adam's hand trying to pick the apple. The faces of the figures are depicted from the front; the bodies are shown slightly from the side. The two figures with long hair both have bloated bellies. The two figures next to the tree with thin leaves have around the same height.
On the other side of the window on the northern cross arm, Eve kneeled on her right knee against the serpent. The serpent is wrapped around the tree, on four short legs. The height of the tree is the same as the one in Adam and Eve’s scene eating the apple, but the way it is depicted is different. The upper and lower parts of this tree do not match.
In this scene, Eve’s being deceived by the serpent to eat from the fruit of the tree that was forbidden by God and their eating the forbidden fruit with Adam depicted. The subject is mentioned in the Torah as follows:
“… And the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, and she took from its fruit and ate it and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her” (Genesis 3:6).
And after this, the serpent, Adam and Eve were punished. As the snake was condemned to crawl, Adam and Eve were expelled from heaven.
In the scene where Eve is deceived by the serpent, the serpent is depicted with feet. It is possible that the serpent here has not yet been condemned to crawl, was emphasized here.
Whereas in the other scene, Eve's hand is depicted on Adam's hand, as if to emphasize Eve's provocativeness. The depiction of the figures with bloated bellies intend to express their eating the forbidden fruit. The naked figures cannot not yet see the truth. It is to depict the quote from the Torah:
“… then both their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (Genesis 3: 7).
The incompatibility between the top and bottom of the tree which the snake is wrapped, can be due to renovation. The Eve relief in this scene is quite damaged.
Scene of three young Jewish men being cast intothe furnace and Daniel in the lion’s lair
The three young men with halos over their heads are Hanania, Mishael and Azariah, respectively. The figures, who are dressed in short tunics are praying.
The story in the Torah is as follows: Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, orders his subordinates to bring those young men who have no flaws, who are beautiful in their appearances, insightful in every wisdom, knowledgeable and who understand science, to the palace. The King talks to everyone but chooses Daniel, Hanania, Mishael and Azariah among them. Nebuchadnezzar orders a statue to be built and enacts a decree:
“... And when you hear the sound of any kind of instruments, you will worship the golden statue, and whoever does not prostrate and does not recognize it, he will immediately be thrown into the flaming furnace” (Daniel 3: 5-6).
When Hanania, Mishael and Azariah do not worship the statue that he erected, the king gets very angry and casts them into the flaming furnace. However, by the help of an angel of God, nothing happens to them (Daniel 3: 23-26).
In the embossment where the three figures are depicted in the same clothes, it is seen that they are wearing clothes that are not suited to the following description:
“... Then these men were tied up with their baggy trousers, turbans and garments, and thrown into the fiery flame” (Daniel 3: 21).
Traces of the chain used to tie them can be seen on their feet. However, the praying figures and the expression of relief on their faces, emphasize the great trust in the power of God. The three young men are depicted as those who sacrifice themselves for the sake of faith and as the symbol of the unshakable trust in God.