The modern yet classical facade of St. Sarkis Armenian Church

St. Sarkis Armenian Church Consecrated in Dallas

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By Marla Sarokhanian and Mihran Aroian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

DALLAS, Tex. — Armenians from across the state of Texas converged at the consecration of Saint Sarkis Armenian Church in Carrollton, near Dallas, this past weekend. The newly constructed church was inspired by the seventh-century St. Hripsime Church in Echmiadzin, with a modern façade etched with 1.5 million unique pixels representing the Holy Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.

The consecration events began on Friday evening, April 22, followed by the consecration led by Bishop Daniel Findikyan on Saturday. St. Sarkis hosted a sold-out banquet Saturday evening in the newly constructed banquet hall with a fabulous dinner and live Armenian entertainment. Present for the consecration was our Primate, Bishop Daniel Findikyan, Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Archbishop Haigazoun Najarian, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian along with Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ajamian, pastor of St. Sarkis. It was a very moving and spiritual experience for all who attended.

From left, Archbishop Haigazoun Najarian, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Bishop Daniel Findikyan and Rev. Ghevond Ajamian, with deacons

On a beautiful 4.5 acre setting, we are creating a space for worship and celebration of our ancient heritage inspired by our Christian faith, historical experience, and cultural traditions. The architecture is one that embraces the traditional but interprets it in a modern way. The church structure is meant to be both a sanctuary where we practice our Christian faith, and a monument, reminding us of our ancestors who sacrificed for the very faith we practice today.

Hundreds packed the sold-out reception

This new church is iconic, unmistakably Armenian, and unlike any other in the world.  The creation of the three-building church and community center complex was lead by entrepreneur Elie Akilian, whose vision, commitment, attention to detail, and resources were the driving force behind every aspect of the project.  Akilian worked with architect Stepan Terzyan on the planning of the complex, and they then invited Terzyan’s long-time collaborator, New York-based architect David Hotson, to work with them on the detailed design development and implementation. Akilian and Terzyan orchestrated the project from beginning to end, coordinating design, engineering, permitting and bidding, and working through the pandemic to oversee every stage of construction.

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The church employs state-of-the-art materials and digitally driven design and fabrication processes to extend the cultural legacy of Armenia into the present day. Contemporary materials and technologies include double-curved, glass-fiber-reinforced concrete light coves that illuminate the interior, digitally modeled and fabricated glass-fiber-reinforced gypsum vaults that shape the interior space, and the intricate digitally printed porcelain facade that surrounds the church entrance.

Modern use of ancient forms (photo Dror Baldinger)

The façade of the Church, designed in Hotson’s office in collaboration with Yerevan-trained designer Ani Sahakyan, extends this use of emerging technologies further by employing a unique process, developed by Italian manufacturer Fiandre, of printing at high resolution on the UV-resistant exterior-grade porcelain panels which are cover the entire entry facade. The architects developed a computer script to generate 1.5 million individual icons, each only 3/8” in diameter and each based on the circular rosettes that occur throughout the Armenian artistic tradition. These individualized icons spread out to cover the entire facade.

When seen from a distance, the tiny icons merge to form interwoven geometrical and botanical ornaments, and these ornamental patterns in turn merge to form the distinctive figure of the Armenian cross that stretches across the facade. The 1.5 million individual icons covering the facade and merging to form the Armenian cross create a powerful memorial to the one-and-a-half million individual martyrs who perished in the Armenian Genocide.

When we enter the sanctuary, there are designated areas for lighting candles and for solitary prayers to be said.

Church of St. Hripsime, 618 AD (photo Dror Baldinger)

In the Church of Saint Sarkis, the masonry architecture of St. Hripsime, which is made of solid stone, has been reinterpreted as a system of indirect lighting coves which admit natural light to illuminate the interior sanctuary. The strong Texas sunlight is reflected through openings sculpted into the exterior which allow only indirect light to reach the interior. Both the curvilinear light coves on the exterior and the curvilinear plaster vaults on the interior were created using contemporary, digitally designed, glass-fiber-reinforced concrete, and gypsum materials. The light fills these vaults above the congregation, bringing illumination to the congregational seating area. Natural light is brought down to ground level at the baptismal font, the secondary altars, and the votive altars at the corners of the sanctuary where candles are lit, and prayers are offered. Indirect natural light is focused most intensely on the main altar which is raised six steps above the main sanctuary floor in accordance with Armenian tradition. There is no visible overhead lighting.

A window on the facade (photo Dror Baldinger)

The church has a state-of-the-art heating and cooling system, and the vents are placed out of view under the pews. The sanctuary is kept at the same temperature throughout. There is a loft where the organ is located and where the choir will lift their voices, singing the traditional sharagans (hymns).

Facade and window (photo Dror Baldinger)

We are hoping that the architecture of this beautiful building will attract many visitors from around the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well as people from every state and country. For more on the architecture, go here. To learn more about St. Sarkis, please visit www.stsarkis.org.

People assembling outside the church

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