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Zvartnots Temple

One of the most outstanding monuments of Armenian architecture is the ancient temple of Zvartnots, or as it is also commonly called the temple of the Vigilant Forces or Heavenly Angels. It is located near Yerevan and is famous for its fancy ornaments framing the cornices. The walls of the temple are decorated with grapevines, pomegranate branches, the finest geometric patterns, wickerwork, and decorative elements - palmettes and acanthuses. The columns are decorated with carved capitals, and the columns installed next to the pylons, the main supports of the temple, were crowned with images of huge stone eagles - these birds symbolized the ascension of the temple upward.

The magnificent decoration of Zvartnots is also evidenced by the remains of frescoes, pieces of smalt for mosaics, slate and carved stones discovered during excavations of the altar. Mosaics decorated the walls of the temple; in particular, researchers were able to trace the presence of a large mosaic painting on the altar wall. Zvartnots stood for more than three hundred years and was destroyed by an earthquake around 930. As the researchers found out, the architect who built the temple was unable to completely transfer the weight of the upper tiers to the four powerful pylons that served as the main supports, and as a result, part of the load fell on the arches and vaults of the temple. This turned out to be the weak point of the temple and a strong earthquake tore it apart. In 2000, the ruins of the temple and the archaeological area around it were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.