Armenian cross-stones art. Symbolism and craftsmanship of Khachkars
Inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
- Armenian cross-stones art. Symbolism and craftsmanship of Khachkars
Khachkars are outdoor steles carved from stone by craftspeople in Armenia and communities in the Armenian diaspora. They act as a focal point for worship, as memorial stones and as relics facilitating communication between the secular and divine. Khachkars reach 1.5 metres in height, and have an ornamentally carved cross in the middle, resting on the symbol of a sun or wheel of eternity, accompanied by vegetative-geometric motifs, carvings of saints and animals. Khachkars are created usually using local stone and carved using chisel, die, sharp pens and hammers. The carvings are then ground using fine sand. Small breaks and rough surfaces are eliminated by plaster of clay or lime, and then painted. Once finished, the Khachkar is erected during a small religious ceremony. After being blessed and anointed, the Khachkar is believed to possess holy powers and can provide help, protection, victory, long life, remembrance and mediation towards salvation of the soul. Among more than 50,000 Khachkars in Armenia, each has its own pattern, and no two are alike. Khachkar craftsmanship is transmitted through families or from master to apprentice, teaching the traditional methods and patterns, while encouraging regional distinctiveness and individual improvisation.
Decision 5.COM 6.1
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List, as follows:
- R1: The symbolism and craftmanship of Khachkars, Armenian cross-stones, are transmitted from generation to generation and continuously recreated to satisfy the artist’s creativity, constituting a distinctive symbol of the identity of Armenian communities at home and abroad;
- R2: Inscription of the element on the Representative List could raise awareness of intangible cultural heritage and encourage dialogue with other communities with similar crafts and practices;
- R3: Safeguarding measures are proposed focusing particularly on strengthening transmission, encouraging research and documentation, and providing public recognition, with the participation and support of Khachkar makers, institutions and authorities;
- R4: Master craftspeople of the Khachkar tradition participated in elaborating the nomination and provided their free, prior and informed consent for possible inscription, which also enjoys wide support of Armenian communities worldwide;
- R5: The symbolism and craftmanship of Khachkars are inscribed in the State inventory of intangible cultural heritage established by the Ministry of Culture.