There are a number of symbols that represent Armenia’s rich culture and one of them, called khachkar, is absolutely unique. Khachkar means cross-stone if translated literally – khach means cross and kar means stone.
So, how did it evolve and what is so special about khachkars anyway?
HOW DID KHACHKAR EVOLVE IN HISTORY?
Initially, khachkars were carved in memory of someone and worshipped for religious purposes. The first khachkars appeared in the 4th century since Armenia had just adopted Christianity as an official religion. Initially, the crosses were carved on wood in order to mark the spots that monasteries and churches were going to be built, instead of pagan altars. But since wood was not at all durable, in the following centuries they were replaced by stones.
The first real khachkars are believed to have been created in the 9th century. Each of these khachkars was either marking new church to be built, or were a symbol of worship to God, or to mark a victory of some sort.
Later, khachkars also became used for purposes of grief – commemorating someone’s memory in case of their loss. To this day, it is very common to see khachkars in Armenia’s graveyards. On the contrary, many people even build khachkars and have it put in public. These khachkars celebrate the person’s life.
WHAT DOES KHACHKAR LOOK LIKE?
On the first glance, khachkars may look very similar, to a foreign eye, even the same. In reality, no two khachkars are the same. Each of their carvings is one of a kind. Khachkars are usually 1.5 meters tall and the carvings can have thousands of different patterns. Many khachkars include symbols of eternity, the sun or saints. Some khachkars are carved with Jesus in the centre and some are done as a lacework.
The material for khachkars usually includes stone, chisel, sharp hammers and other carving tools. Watching the process of carving the khachkar is truly mesmerizing.