Renovations to the 6th century Odzoun Church appear to have failed due to disagreements amongst those responsible.
Father Vrtanes Baghalyan told Hetq that the Armenian government had allocated 20 million AMD ($50,000) for renovations in 2010 based on a request filed by Catholicos Karekin II.
The Hovhan Odznetsi Imastaser Catholicos Fund assumed responsibility for the renovations. Fund Director Vanoush Shermazanyan told Hetq that Movses Tzavaryan, an Alaverdi native now residing in Moscow, has donated 320 million AMD for the renovation work.
Renovations to the church began last July and are scheduled for completion in October, 2014.
Father Vrtanes is thankful that the church’s dome has been reinforced but is fearful that the dome will not be fit with paving stones in 2013 as scheduled and that this year’s rains will do great damage to the bracing arches.
During my visit to the church on April 10, there were only four stonemasons from the company “LevGoug” working at the site.
One of the masons, Andranik Knyazyan, said they were working on the steeple but that there were issues with the church’s cornices that needed to be addressed by the project architect.
“We stopped working on the cornices and are now replacing the worn stones in the walls,” said Knyazyan.
Father Vrtanes said that Misha Hakobyan, the supervising architect, hasn’t visited the church in the past three months.
“I have no idea why he hasn’t shown up. He’s a great person and an experienced architect. His absence is holding up the work,” Father Vrtanes said.
We phoned Misha Hakobyan and asked why he hadn’t visited the work site for so long. He claimed that the Hovhan Odznetsi Imastaser Catholicos Fund still owes him 460,000 AMD for last year’s work.
“I had been travelling to Odzoun several times a month from Yerevan. They never paid for my gas or lodgings. I was obliged to stay at the house of Father Vrtanes. If I was to find out that the fund doesn’t have the resources to pay me I’d donate my time freely, but I know they have the resources. They just seem to prefer not to pay me,” said Hakobyan.
Fund Director Vanoush Shermazanyan told Hetq that the architect hasn’t been paid because he never submitted a work progress report for 2012.
Shermazanyan also claimed that the architect had been given an advance payment of 230,000 AMD on April 9.
The Fund director added that according to the work contract, Hakobyan must visit the worksite at least three times per month until the job is completed, and he hasn’t done so.
Hakobyan also told Hetq that according to an 1848 photo of Odzoun it turns out that the church cornices had been covered with tiles in the 10th century. The architect says he wants to restore the old look and is preparing to submit a proposal to the Ministry of Culture.
Shermazanyan says that the ministry will not agree to such a proposal since in that case the cornices of Holy Etchmiadzin would also have to be covered in tiles. The Fund director says that any discussion on the matter could delay work on the church for at least a year.
In the meantime, Father Vrtanes believes that the much needed work on Odzoun, a church of international significance, is suffering as a result since those responsible lack the tolerance and unity of purpose to work in harmony.