The creative character of the Armenian nation is expressed in no other field of art with such profundity as in architecture. The spectrum of Armenian architecture encompasses monuments of all ages, from the urban culture of Shengavit (IY millennium B.C.) up to the citadels of the Urartian period (9-6th c. B.C.) and the Hellenistic architectural complex of Garni (3rd century B.C. - I century A.D.). Monasteries and churches have been dominant since the adoption of Christianity. The first types of churches were basilicas with a single apse, a vaulted nave, with or without side aisles, and thick supporting walls with a few small openings. A great number of basilicas of the 4-5th centuries is extant (Tanahat, Ohanavank, Eghvard, Dvin, Kasagh, Tekor, Ereruyk, Tsitsernavank, etc). The 5-7th centuries are characterized by the appearance of domed churches in a variety of architectural types – the marvelous cross-shaped centrally domed cathedrals of Hripsime (618) and Zvartnots (641-652), the churches of Peteghni (6-7th centuries), Arutch (661-666), Odzun (6th c.), Meren (613-640), the Cathedral of Thalin (7th c.), etc. Domed hall and centrally domed churches (Argina, Kecharis, Bejni, Marmashen, Aghtamar, Gndevank, etc) enjoyed popularity throughout the Renaissance (9-12th c.). A name closely tied to this architectural revival is Trdat – the restorer of the dome of S. Sofia in Byzantium – whose masterpiece was the Mother Temple of Ani (989-1001).
The art of rock painting in Armenia dates back to the YIII-II millennia B.C. The medieval Armenian painting is documented mainly by the miniatures, though there is no lack of evidence of the existence of frescoes (the churches of Kasagh, Tekor, Lembatavank, etc) and works in mosaic (the cathedrals of St. Etchmiadzin, Dvin, Zvartnots). The oldest miniatures (6-7th centuries) are those attached to Etchmiadzin Gospel (10th c.). Wholly illustrated manuscripts as the Gospel of Queen Mlkey have reached us from the 9th century. Masterpieces marked with extreme subtlety of color and greatest stylistic perfection were created by Stepanos, Momik, Avag, Thoros Rosslin, Sargis Pitsak and others at the Armenian miniature schools of Ani, Gladzor, Metsop, Tatev, Crimea, Cilicia, etc. The 19-20th centuries gave birth to such world-famous Armenian painters as Hovhannes Aivazovsky and Martiros Sarian. A thriving scene of modern art centered in Yerevan produces works as avant-garde as those exhibited in New York, London or Paris.
The Urartian metal work in bronze and gold (bronze and gilded silver items with ‘bud garland’ decoration, bronze cauldrons and helmets with long-necked lion heads, gold shields with bosses shaped like the heads of dogs, statues of kings and gods, etc) developed from a more detailed and elaborate style, which relied on foreign prototypes, to a summary and simple statement reflecting local, indigenous artistic schools. Christian Armenian sculpture had an almost exclusively decorative function. It lacked any three-dimensional work and was confined to the creation of decorative elements, usually in the form of finely worked bands, executed directly into the stone dressing of the walls. An excellent example of carved band ornamentation adorns the walls of the church at Aghtamar (10th century). Khachkar (cross-stone) - a type of commemorative stele with an intricately decorated cross as central motif carved out of stone or marble – first appeared in the 9th century and became the most widespread monument of the Armenian art. There are over 4,000 khatchkars in Armenia.
The Armenian musical culture has ancient roots. A horn dating back to the beginning of the 1st millennium B.C. was found in the region of Lake Sevan. The character and spirit of the art of the antique troubadours can be guessed at from the fragments collected by Movses Khorenatsi (5th century A.D.). They sang of the pagan God Vahagn’s birth, extolled the prowess of the Armenian kings Artashes, Tigran, Trdat and other historical or legendary heroes. The spread of Christianity later gave rise to magnificent religious hymns - sharakans. The Armenians created their own system of notes – khazes - as early as the 5th century. In the recent history of the Armenian music an exceptional position is held by Aram Khatchaturian whose ballets, symphonies and concertos are performed all over the world.
Theater in Armenia has a more than 2,000-year-old tradition. There were ancient theatres in Artaxata and Tigranakert. The Armenian king Artavazd (55-34 B.C.) was a playwright who wrote tragedies in Greek. Theatre still survives in Armenia. At anytime of the year there is a choice of plays staged in a number of Yerevan theatres.
The Armenian cinema dates back to 1924. It has won acclaim abroad for the films created by Henrik Malian, Sergey Parajanov, Artavazd Peleshian and others.