In the Armenian medieval architecture, which includes IV-XIV centuries, a thousand-year period of its history, on the general aspect of its development, the portal, the subject of treatment and design, occupied an important place in the outer appearance of monumental buildings.
Being one of the considerable elements of facade designing, very often represented as mirror-like surface of stone wall, the portal has had a logical development as in the general building of, compositional diagram, as well as in the deversity of ornamental decoration.
The typical peculiarity of the Armenian medieval architecture is in its exceptional harmony of volume-spatial composition with the diversity of decorative forms. And if the common traditional forms were kept for centuries in the compositions of monumental constructions, on the other hand one can very rarely find repetitions in the interpretations of separate architectural forms and decorative details. And this refers equally to the portals.
At the same time the compositional diagram of construction of the portal has been changed in full accordance with the general principles prescribed on the basis of development of the Armenian monumental architecture. Remaining true to the principles of volume-spatial content of the building, despite of its significance and compositional laws, in the treatment of the portals it is obvious the infinite creative competitions both for the general diagram of the construction and for the creation of new types of portals, differing from each other by their designs. In view of this fact numerous and various portals have been created with great inspiration and mastery during all the stages of medieval architecture.
We can see numerous and various examples of portals mounting on the architectural monuments remained from earlier ages. Each of the portals can be considered as a perfect work of art tightly connected with the general volume-spatial composition of the whole construction.
Proceeding from the fact that the design had been always inseparably linked with the whole progress of the Armenian monumental architecture, in this work it is discussed from that point of view.
This research includes both civil and religious architectural monuments dating to the period of the IV-XIV centuries. These thousand years are usually divided into three periods from the chronological point of view; IV-VII centuries, IX-XI centuries, XII-XIV centuries. The division into periods adopted in the history of Armenian architecture is conditioned by social, historical and political factors.
Up till now there isn’t any special research on this subject. One can meet only few descriptions of some portals in different works in the history of Armenian architecture. Hence, this work is the first experiment of systematization of the portals devoted to one of the most important elements of architectural design in the Armenian medieval architecture.
In the first part of the research it is given the summary of the development of the stylistic features of the portals during the period of IV-XIV centuries.
The development of compositional diagrams of the constructions and the device of designing portals are considered in close contact with the development of typical features of Armenian monumental architecture and stipulated by historical conditions.
During the first three centuries of the formation of Christian worship architecture, it is observed the expedient simplicity and monumental attractiveness in designing the portals, corresponding to the disposition of the constructions.
The portals of IV-VII centuries are treated as doorway side-view frames, comparatively with rich decorations, isolated from the mirror-like surface of the facade.
During that period the portal represented itself as one of the principal elements for designing the facade; the window platbands and the cornices included.
The initial composition of the classical portal represents itself as a frame of right-angled aperture having on its both sides right-angled juts strongly sticking out of the flatness of the pylons with a horse shoe-shaped arch with pediment roofing thrown on them. From compositional point of view this simple but expressive form of the portal has been applicated everywhere with its numerous versions. Despite of the apparent monotony of the compositions, there took place a constant development of creative reflection, and subsequently numerous versions of portals of this type were created later on.
Beginning with the VI century a new type of a portal is applicated and as to its compositional diagram of construction represents itself as a logical continuation of the initial type. The new type of the portal represents also a right-angled aperature having on its both sides right-angled juts strongly sticking out of the flatness of the pylon or having double 3/4 columns of different versions with an arch thrown on it.
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