Yeranuhi Soghoyan

Yererouk: Endangered Archaeological Site and Basilica in Armenia Call for Preservation

The Yererouk basilica and archaeological site, located on the left bank of Akhouryan river, right next to the Armenia-Turkey border and only five kilometers from the historical Armenian capital of Ani, are not on any of the main tourist routes in Armenia.

They may still appear in UNESCO’s World Heritage List one day, having been in UNESCO’s tentative list since 1995.

The site, made of orange tuff, characteristic of this region, is quite unique.

It’s not possible to find much information about the site in historical documents and there’s no data mentioned on the remains, noting when exactly the basilica was built. However, studies of its structure and surroundings reveal that it’s the second largest three-nave basilica of Armenia’s early Christian age.

The first excavations here took place in 1900s, by Nickolas Marr and architect Toros Toramanian. In the 21st century, two Armenian-French expeditions surveyed the area in 2010-2011 and 2015.

Yererouk complex has many components. For example, archaeologists have discovered spacious underground rooms with exits and holes for lighting, and there is a hypothesis that early Christians in Armenia gathered in this underground rooms, well before the Christianity was adopted and the basilica was officially built.

Trying to describe the site, impressive simplicity is the first observation that comes to mind. The multilevel platform, on which basilica rests, is founded directly on the rock. Ornaments bear the mark of early Christianity.

Yererouk has many puzzles yet to solve and many questions still to be answered, if preserved. Over the centuries, it has suffered a lot from earthquakes and the human factor. Some restoration and strengthening work took place in the Soviet era but were left unfinished.

Yererouk was listed in the 7 Most Endangered heritage sites in Europe in 2016 by Europa Nostra. However, it requires proper care and protection. If accomplished, it will have much to offer to specialists and tourists, interested in early Christian monuments.