The west tymphanum of the church. Jesus crucifield:detail
The value of the niches is both constructive and artistic: they embellish the shape of the building and reinforce the expressiveness of the facade while lightening the mass of the perimeter walls. The frontages of the church, which stand on a stepped base, are decorated ornate arches resting on pairs of half-columns. The central arches, about double the width of the side ones, are taller and also incorporporate windows. The facade is decorated with a series of blind arcades, a characteristic feature of medieval Armenian architecture, dating back to 7th century monuments. This artistic expedient was further developed in the 19th-11th centuries at Ani, capital of the Bagratuni kingdom, and continued to be used even later, in the 12th-l4th centuries.
The most important and meaningful architectural feature of the Gandzasar church is the dome - with its decoration, it occupies an exceptional position in the history of Armenian art. In its proportions too, with its polyhedral drum and umbrella roofing, it dominates the whole volume of the church. The drum has sixteen faces, each ending in a small tympanum and each heightened by groups of half-columns with bases and capitals. On the sides oriented in the cardinal direction, long, narrow windows open, while on the north-east, south-east and south-west faces, the windows are round and inscribed in a square frame with decorative reliefs. The other faces of the drum bear triangular niches with half-columns in the middle and different sculptured figures.