The one fact that I never forgot about Sanahin is that the complex was constructed by Queen Khosrovanush in dedication to her sons. I have contemplated calling my daughter Khosrovanush, assuming I have one someday, in honor of my father Khosroff, not ignoring of course that it is a fantastic name.
Odzun dates as far back as the fourth century but the structure collapsed after an earthquake hit the region not very long after completion. The church was rebuilt nearly in its entirety in the sixth century on the same foundation as its predecessor. Several salvageable relief stones from the first church were used in the reconstruction according to what the priest, who is a dynamic, passionate young man, explained to me. He also told me that an important religious figure (I am terrible with names) was believed to be buried in a crypt below the altar of the church, along with a segment of the shroud of Jesus. Apparently the government is going to sponsor an excavation of the site, which does not seem very appealing to me personally as I have noticed first hand in my travels that municipal workers can be fairly sloppy when undertaking such projects.
At Odzun there were notable differences in the upkeep since my attendance last year. For one thing the grounds surrounding the church were mowed—something I noticed for the first time having visited the place five previous occasions. I remember seeing a cow or two wandering around the premises the first time I visited there three years ago. Also, a staircase leading to an area above the entrance to the church, which served as a balcony but for what specific purpose remains unclear to me, was just reconstructed from wood according to what is thought to be a very close replica of the original design. The wood was simply stained to maintain authenticity, no paint applied. It is a fully operational church now, the priest having been appointed there in 2006.
This time of year is asparagus season in Armenia, most of which can be found growing wild in Lori. It only lasts for a couple of weeks. Residents of villages climb up to the lofty, rocky points where they live to access the asparagus, which they snip at the base of the stem, leaving the roots intact so that the plants sprout again the following year. I love asparagus, and I was lucky enough to find some people selling it alongside the main road on the way to Alaverdi. They sold me a huge bunch for 2000 dram, or about $7.00—the moment was proudly captured by Julie in the photo above. I must have purchased close to 2 kilograms worth and I have already eaten most of it, in Julie’s company of course. Incidentally, she moves onwards on Tuesday, and her project documenting genocide memorial sites around the world continues.