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Church of St.Gregory. Exterior with the library building in the foreground



However this is not sufficient to explain the lack of even a refectory at Sanahin (there is such a building at Haghbat), particularly if one takes into account the vitality of the monastery and the variety of tasks and occupations that were centred on it. The problem of this dichotomy between monuments and life, which frequently appears in Armenian architecture, where churches may be found in complete isolation still today, is worthy of investigation but outside the scope of these notes. The study of this dichotomy could be a starting point for a more complete critical evaluation of Armenian artistic civilization, which up to now has not been fully examined; there has only been a simple typological and chronological analysis of monumental buildings. However to resolve the objective difficulties connected with the near impossibility of a link-up with minor architectural expression we must look to the only possible point of reference, the natural setting which, for anyone with a minimum of experience (and not only bibliographical) in Armenian architecture, must appear determining evidence.Human intervention at its highest level, as in the case of religious architecture, seems almost always involved in a richly symbolic dialogue with nature so much so as to render superfluous any ulterior relationship with the surrounding process of humanization. This exchange with dual values of expressiveness is one of the characteristic principles of Armenian architecture. To the symbolic cosmic call of the earth as mother, the origin of all things, there is then added, in the case of Armenia, the identification of the idea of the fatherland with one’s own land. So right from the very first centuries of Christianity the native religion was identified with the land. The silent but eloquent dialogue between the mountains of the highlands and the stones erected by man, taken from the womb of the same mother from whom man himself originates, and of whom all people are part, acquires a predominating value which should certainly be analyzed before making any typographical or stylistic comment.

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Sanahin