Four-columned cult architecture. Salimova Aytan

         The article deals with the review of scientific conceptions and mythological origin of four-columned architecture. Researchers share two points of view. The first considers the formation of cross-domical architecture as an evolutionary process that took place in Byzantine on the basis of “domical basilica”. The second maintains that cross-domical temples arose as a result of the reconstruction of centric structures of “free” and “inserted” cross type.

       According to the theory of Indo-Europeism, I.Strzhigovskiy is prone to deduce everything from Iran as noting that the starting line is a Syrian structure of  Roman epoch, the so called “inserted cross” type — Musmiye (II century), and further, the system of mutually perpendicular vaults across palace erections (hall of al-Mundir in Rusafa, VI century) and then via the Armenian architecture it penetrated into the West 1, which is groundless. B.Marshak notes that “on the vast area of Parthian and Sassanid Empires there not a reliable intermediate link to unite the typology of Western and Oriental designs of “inserted” cross. 2 Temples of “free” and “inserted” cross are compositional variants of the formation of cross-domical temple. On the territory of Caucasian Albania, there were discovered temples of the two mentioned types — a mausoleum in Pipany and a chapel in the village Kabizdara (Zakatala region); a church of “Pir-Javanshir” complex, Kedabek region; a church Ortazeizit (Sheki region); a palace hall and a cathedral church Arzu-khatun from Khotavank cloister. It should also be noted that no four-columned had yet been applied in the Byzantine basilica — separate pylons sprang up in Kalb Luz, Syria in the 5-6 centuries.3 This notwithstanding, many researchers believe that “the development of cross-domical system is Byzantine’s major contribution to the history of world architecture”. 4  It was numerous attempts to deduce temples of “inserted cross” from Byzantine architecture that refute a chronological analysis — it came up on the Byzantine grounds in the second half of the 6 century (praetorium of al- Mundir in Rusafa); a church of the VI-VII centuries in al-Anderin (Syria), etc. Architecture of Caucasian Albania being indicative of evolutionary line of development, both in tetraconkh and cross-domical types notwithstanding, commencing from the architecture of Mamrukh temple (III-IV centuries), there is clearly traced the four-columned sub-domical space. Also, in Lekit temple (V century) the internal space has a cross-shaped design, and in the architecture of a temple from “Yeddi Kilse” cloister we are faced with an Albanian pattern of cross-domical church. Pertaining to the first patterns of cross-domical type is a temple from “Yeddi Kilse” cloister (Kakh region) dated by the VI-VII centuries. Note also should be taken to the architecture of Lekit tetraconkh temple of the 5 century (Kakh region) as the oldest structure on the basis of cross-shaped design. Proceeding from the Armenian (Bagavan and Mren, VI-VII centuries) and Georgian (Aten Sion and Tsromi) architectures, Hubert Phaenzen tends to believe that in Byzantine “the church type with a cross-shaped foundation and central dome was actually adopted by the Caucasian structure”.5  In doing so, he side-steps the architecture of Caucasian Albania, while the so called four-columned architecture was devised in Caucasian Albania proper.

          The analysis of the said conceptions clearly demonstrated ungrounded character of the genesis of four-columnedness. D.A.Akhundov sees sources of four-columnedness in the architecture of ancient dwelling and circular temple cells of Early Bronze epoch. In examining the genesis of dwelling houses, on the one hand, and the genesis of “square under dome” system, on the other, a researcher is in position to prove semantic relation between them.

           The research into mythology makes it possible to assert that it was no mere coincidence that architects applied to the four-columnedness. The point is that peoples worldwide converted their views on the Universe in the design of quadrangular abode with marked sacral center: four sides of the world correspond to the four sacred trees that prop up the heaven. Note that cosmogonical myths and views related to these coordinates as principles of everything in space and time, spatial-temporal continuum of the ancient human being. When tracing back the genesis of such structures, a researcher relies on the continuity of pre-Christian traditions in Azerbaijanian culture that later had its effect on the Muslim architecture. Owing to this, four-columned, rectangular and circular structures were widely spread on the territory of Azerbaijan. It is compositional features of four-columned temples of Caucasian Albania, as well as the lack of structures with pronounced four-columnedness having been erected from the II to V centuries that reaffirm their dominating role and influence on the emergence of four-columned temples not only in Transcaucasia but in other countries of the Orient as well. The analysis of cult architecture and mythological aspects of the monuments of Caucasian Albania once more confirm their attribution to the Azerbaijanian culture. The Albanian monuments are illustrative of the highest level of artistic development of Azerbaijan to directly link it to the historical past of Karabakh.


1. Komech A.I. Khram na chetyrekh kolonnakh i yego znacheniye v istorii Vizantiyskoy arkhitektury. V kn.”Vizantiya. Yuzhniye slavyane i Drevnyaya Rus. Zapadnaya Evropa”. M., 1973, s.67.

2. Marshak B. Vostochniye analogii zdaniyam tipa vpisannogo kresta. Dokl. Na II mezhdun. Simpoziume po armyanskomu iskusstvu. Yerevan, 1978, s.6-7.

3. Mnatsakyanyan S.Kh.Krestovo-kupolniye kompozitsii Armenii i Vizantii v V-VII vv. Yerevan, 1989, s.141.

4. Gulyanitskiy N.F. Istoriya arkhitektury. M., 1984, s.54.

5. Faenzen Kh.K. K voprosu o zarozhdenii tserkvey s krestovoobraznym osnovaniyem i tsentralnym kupolom. II mezhdun. Simposium po armyanskomu iskusstvu. Yerevan,  1978, s. 14.

 Salimova Aytan candidate of architecture,   Azerbaijan Architectural University