October 2017

Obviously, the breadth of the artistic production of medieval Armenia could not be covered by a single visit. And so, after a year of waiting, we set up a new target for our next field trip in the region - the part of the medieval Armenian kingdom which has become known as East and Southeast Anatolia in the contemporary geographical lore; in other words, regions lying within the current Turkish territory.

As with our previous trips, we chose Georgia as the transit country through which we made our approach towards the target teritorry; and yet, while visiting the medieval Georgian cave monastery of Vardzia along the way, we were strongly reminded that this Caucasian country would definitely be worth another expedition as well. Then, after coming to the Turkish soil, we set up our base in the city of Kars, from which we started off with our numerous trips into the surrounding regions during the next several days.

In its currect state of existence, the medieval Armenian capital of Ani is but a shadow of its former splendour of the 10th century; nonetheless, we could not hide our excitement about the site. The level of architectural craftmenship, which the Armenians had produced throughout the Middle Ages, could hardly compared to anything across all of Europe, as we were to find out exploring the remains of the temple of Gagikashen, the cathedral of Ani, and the citadel area. Similarly, a mere glimpse at the frescos preserved in the church of Tigran Honents was nearing a miraculous experience.

The shadow of Ani is, however, not caused by the passing of time alone. Unfortunately, it is also the Turking government who, after the events of the Armenian genocide of 1915-1918, has quite purposefully been leaving all historical Armenian footprints within their teritorry to slowly turn to dust. And so, while the old Armenian monuments have been subject to systematical neglect, it is the human side of the events that remains the cause for an open grudge, a token of which has been the numerous military encampments situated along the Turkish-Armenian border. In this particular context, the visit to the delapidated monastery of Horomos turned out not only to be an arthistorian exploration, but also an experience which reminded us that the saying "homo homini lupus" still has, sadly, its place in our contemporary society...

During our trip, however, it was not only the Turkish herdsmen that we led our dialogue with, but fortunately also the landscape itself. Among such dialogues which we found most intensive, were definitely the river crossing on the way to the solitary cathedral of Mren as well as the march along the cliff towering above the Khtzkonk monastery. In the end, all of our outdoor activities always came to a fruitful and successful end; still, after a week on the way, it again became clear to us that travelling is a much beautiful thing, if you have a home and a place to come back to.

Leoš Mátl & Sára Hudcovicová