An Interview with Dr. Christina Maranci
By Lucine Kasbarian
MEDFORD, Mass. — Dr. Christina Maranci, Arthur H. Dadian and Ara T. Oztemel Associate Professor of Armenian Art and Architecture at Tufts University, has issued a call to save the seventh-century Mren Cathedral of Western Armenia, located in the Kars region of present-day Turkey.
Maranci’s areas of expertise include Byzantine art and architecture, and the art and architecture of the Transcaucasus — principally Armenia.
According to Maranci, “the cathedral of Mren is now in danger of collapse. Constructed circa 638 AD, Mren is a masterpiece of world art and a product of the ‘Golden Age’ of Armenian architecture. Bearing an inscription naming the Roman emperor Heraclius, and a unique sculpted relief image of Heraclius returning Christendom’s greatest relic — the True Cross — to Jerusalem, Mren preserves precious material evidence for one of the most dramatic and yet poorly documented moments in history. It is also the largest domed basilica surviving from the region, and a key example of the architectural achievements of the seventh century.”
Maranci stressed that Mren may not be standing much longer. “Photographs from the 1990s to the first decade of the 21st century show the progressive collapse of the south façade. Now the entire south aisle lies in rubble on the ground, severely compromising the domed superstructure of the monument and opening the interior and its wall paintings to the elements,” she said. “The prospect of stabilizing what is left is at present doubtful, however, because of Mren’s position within a military zone in Eastern Turkey (Kars province) next to the closed Armenian-Turkish border. Visiting the site is forbidden.”