Trans Eurasia travel

Mastara village

Mastara is yet another village now bypassed by the main road but the church here definitely warrants the short detour necessary to see it. Constructed of red tuff, most of the present structure dates from rebuilding carried out in the 7th century: it has never suffered significant earthquake damage. A surprisingly large construction, it has a massive octagonal tambour supporting a 12-panel cupola invisible externally because of its covering of grass. The tambour in turn is supported by eight large arches, or squinches, and eight smaller ones. This unusual design is found in other 7th-century churches which are referred to as being of the Mastara-type. Inside the church there is a great feeling of height - it is 21m from lloor to cupola: the rather incongruous balcony on the west side dates from the building's use as a grain store for the local collective farm from 1935 until 1993. Unfortunately no. money has yet been forthcoming for repairs to this important church. Over at the edge of the village the graveyard has a few gravestones in the form of sheep together with what is claimed to be the largest khachkar in Armenia. The caretaker's young son accompanied us on one visit. I asked him why the cemetery had street lights. So, he said, people could visit the graves at night. Armenians normally consider it unlucky to visit a cemetery at night so I'm not convinced that his explanation is correct.


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