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Title: Gagik Arcruni (908-943/44), un roi théologien
Subtitle: Le Christ selon sa «Lettre concernant la foi» et Adam dans le programme iconographique de l'église de la Sainte-Croix à Ałt'amar
Journal: Journal of Eastern Christian Studies
Volume: 68    Issue: 3-4   Date: 2016   
Pages: 315-348
DOI: 10.2143/JECS.68.3.3191690

Abstract :
This chapter analyses the letter that King Gagik Acruni, the builder of the palatine church on the island of Ałt‘amar in Lake Van, addressed to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Gagik’s letter reflects a new phase of rapprochement – religious, political and military – between the Armenians and the Byzantines, inaugurated during the reign of Romanos Lakapenos. It reveals Gagik’s remarkable theological perspicacity; the king was, certainly, directly involved in the elaboration of the complex iconographic programme of the church of Ałt‘amar, which makes recourse to various artistic and religious traditions. Gagik’s ideas and his patristic references help us to contextualise this iconographic programme and, in particular, to elucidate the enigmatic representation of Adam at the centre of the eastern façade of the church. Adam is represented as a bearded elder, i.e. a witness to the beginnings of the universe, reigning over the animals to whom he has given names. Built in proximity to the Syriac world, this monument bears traces of early Syro-Palestinian art. The bond between the history of the first human being and the advent of the eschatological Saviour, as expressed in the programme of this church, can be interpreted, in particular, with recourse to the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch and the Cave of Treasures. The image of Adam was addressed to different categories of external observers. The ideas about Adam and his association with an eschatological Prophet also played an important role in Islam. Adam is depicted with the features recognisable by Muslims in the light of the Koran and numerous aḥadīth, which trace parallels between Adam and Jesus, characterising Adam as the first monotheist. The authors of this relief intended to arouse empathy in the Muslims, now subjects of an Armenian king. Whilst the Koran reproaches the Christians for the distortion of pure monotheism, which had been taught by God to humanity since Adam, the image of Adam had to present the church to external observers as a sanctuary of unique God.

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