By Alin K. Gregorian
WATERTOWN — A new film by history buff Arsen Hakobyan of Armenia intends to put into perspective Armenia’s influence on Europe, both in terms of export- ing Christianity, as well as exporting its church architecture and numerous saints.
The film, shot on location in Armenia as well as in Georgia and several European countries, gives as examples churches in Europe that were built heavily influenced by the Armenian church structure — most perfectly and earliest executed in Echmiazdin and Bagaran. Among those churches is San Satiro in Milan, the origi- nal structure of which was based on the seventh-century Bagaran church.
The DVD can be watched in Armenian, English, Russian or French.
The film also spends time on the report- ed travels by Renaissance genius Leonardo DaVinci in Cilicia, specifically around the Taurus Mountains. According to his Codex Atlanticus, housed in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, he spent some time in Cilicia in the 1480s, where he witnessed an earthquake in Erzinga. He had reportedly gone there at the behest of the Sacred Sultan of Egypt. He sketched many faces, as well as the topog- raphy of the region.
The filmmaker, Hakobyan, said that the film would be “for all the people who don’t know Armenia and Armenian history.” In particular, he said, Armenians sent many proselytizers to Europe to preach Christianity, some even long before the formal adoption of Christianity as the state religion in 301 AD.
For example, St. Minas or San Miniato in Italian, preached the new religion in Tuscany and was beheaded in Florence on October 25, 250 AD. As a result, a church was named for him, honoring him as the first Christian martyr of the city. The late saint is depicted in the fresco in the dome of the church, and referred to as “the king of Armenians.”
St. Minas was not alone; about 20 Armenians are counted among the saints in Italy.
The Ararat Mountains are referred to the home of Noah, and as such, its pres- ence on Armenian soil gave the country a certain religious cache, “an altar of Christianity,” according to the film.
The traditional structure of the Armenian Church, four equidistant wings with a square on top and a dome on top of the square, is visible in several European churches.
Another Armenian-style church is Germigny-des-Prés, built by Oton Matsaetsi, an Armenian architect in 806- 811, in Orleans, France.
There are plenty of Armenian saints venerated by Catholics in the rest of Europe. For example, St. Servatius, or San Servato, who according to two books from the Middle Ages was born in Armenia, is recognized in the Netherlands and Belgium. There is a church in his name in Brussels and in fact he is considered the patron saint of the city of Maastricht.
The film also refers to a couple of European peoples, including the Basques and Bavarians, as having Armenian roots. Currently, Hakobyan is working on a sequel, focusing further on the Armenian roots of some European nationalities.
“From Ararat to Europe” will be shown on Sunday, June 3, at 4 p.m. at the Ararat-Eskijian Museum in Mission Hills, Calif.
To purchase a copy of the film, write to Hakobyan at firstname.lastname@example.org