AŁT'AMAR - HOLY CROSS Xth century
church dedicated to the Holy Cross (Surb Nshan) was built between 915
and 921 by the architect Manuel as a palatine chapel for King Gagik I
Artsruni on a small island off the southern shore of Lake Van.
Subsequently it was also the seat of a number of Katholikoi. The ground
plan of the church is that of a tetraconch with cylindrical niches at
the corners two of which lead to chapels flanking the eastern apse. This
type which is usually considered to be derived from the church of St.
Hripsime at Vałarshapat (Vllth century) was also used for the
little church of Soradir likewise located in the district of Vaspurakan.
The interior is decorated with frescoes of the New Testament on the
walls and apses and the cycle of Genesis in the dome. The exterior is
covered by a very large number of reliefs which have made the building
famous. They depict various scenes from the Old Testament, the life of
Christ, saints and evangelists; these are accompanied by horizontal
frescoes of animals, plants, hunting scenes, vintage scenes, etc. A
series of various XIVth-XIXth century buildings encircled the church.
Among them was the residence of the Katholikos which is now totally