Armenian Legends: The Legend of the Beautiful Anahit and the City of a Thousand and One Churches

The more ancient the tale, the more compelling it is. One legend claims that the daughter of Aramazd, the supreme god of Armenian mythology, was called Anahit, which means “golden-haired” or “golden-handed.” But for some reason, every person who looked at her would exclaim: “Ani!” So that became the most common name for her (it means “the most beautiful”). One of Armenia’s capitals – the city of Ani – was also one of the most beautiful cities in the Middle Ages. It represented the earthly imprint of the divine face of the goddess Anahit.

That city was also known as the “city of a thousand and one churches”. The unbending streets, the majestic domes of its cathedrals, the rings of flowery gardens, even the skilfully tiled underground utility lines – all of it had a touch of majestic, unearthly beauty. The city was designed and constructed by the genius of the ancient art of building, the great architect Trdat. And while he worked, the name Ani was always on his lips like a song drifting into the skies with the clear ringing of the city bells.

Every morning the residents of the city awoke to a new day with a feeling that the dream of an earthly paradise was about to be realised. But it was not to be. A terrible earthquake levelled that miracle of music, architecture, and light. The imprint of the goddess Anahit disappeared from the face of the earth. Yet the beauty of Ani remained in the memory of Armenian people and in the cracks of the stones of the long since abandoned ruins.



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