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Title Various Aspects of the Image of a Dragon-serpent in Armenian and South-Caucasian Sculpture of the 7th–14th Centuries
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About author Mikayelyan, Lilit Shavarsh — researcher. Yerevan State University, Alex Manoogian St. 1, Yerevan 0025, Armenia. ORCID: 0000-0001-8766-2872
In the section Byzantine and Eastern Christian Art DOI10.18688/aa2111-02-19
Year 2021 Volume 11 Pages 232243
Type of article RAR Index UDK 7.033 Index BBK 85.13

In the Christian iconography, the image of dragon-snake is а well-known symbol of the devil and underworld. Its earliest images in the medieval sculpture of Armenia and South Caucasus are found on the 6th–7th-centuries reliefs with holy warriors slaying a dragon. In the High Middle Ages, the snake was also depicted in the canonical scenes of the Fall, the Baptism of Christ, the Descent into Hell. However, since the 10th century, other compositions appear on the church decoration reflecting the archaic notions of this creature — its benevolent functions. For instance for many peoples, the celestial serpent was thought to encircle the firmament, to delimitate it from the earth. It was also associated with the sun and moon cycles, the luminaries being periodically swallowed and erupted by the dragon. In this respect, the latter was fairly close to the sea monsters, in particular to the image of the whale of the prophet Jonah that determined their similar iconography. Heraldic compositions of the 10th century with dragons flanking the human face reflect the astral symbolism of the monster. As a liminal creature, the dragon-serpent had the apotropaic functions. Therefore paired dragons were represented in a number of reliefs of the 12th–14th centuries on towers, church doorways and windows. They were usually rendered with wide-open jaws and intertwined bodies. This iconography has obvious parallels with the simultaneous Islamic examples of dragons having the same astral-apotropaic meaning.

The research was done within the framework of a grant for the project: “Sculpture Decoration of Ruined and Less Studied Church Complexes of the 12th14th centuries in Armenia” (21T-6E291), provided by the Science Committee of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports RA.

Reference Mikayelyan, Lilit Sh. Various Aspects of the Image of a Dragon-serpent in Armenian and South-Caucasian Sculpture of the 7th–14th Centuries. Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art: Collection of articles. Vol. 11. Eds A. V. Zakharova, S. V. Maltseva, E. Iu. Staniukovich-Denisova. — St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg Univ. Press, 2021, pp. 232–243. ISSN 2312-2129.
Publication Article language english
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