Sacro di Santa Cristina, Sardinia, Italy

The nuragic sanctuary of Santa Cristina is an ' archaeological site situated in the territory of the municipality of Paulilatino , in the province of Oristano , in Sardinia west-central and southern part of the' plateau of Abbasanta . The area takes its name from the rural church of Santa Cristina is located in its vicinity.

The site is essentially composed of two parts: the first, the best known and studied, consisting of the well temple, a sacred well dating back to the ' nuragic , with it associated structures: the meetings hut, fence and other smaller huts.The second part of the complex is about two hundred meters south-west consists of a single tower nuraghe, offering some stone huts of elongated shape of uncertain date and a nuragic village, yet to be excavated, of which only some elements are visible outcropping Although limited archaeological integrates the complex the area of the church and Christian devotional novena of Santa Cristina understood as the place where we celebrate the novena in honor of the saint.

The sacred well, the construction of which can be placed around all ' XI century BC is enclosed by a Temenos , elliptical fence that separates the sacred from the profane area, which surrounds another form of "lock" , within which it is located the well itself. The structure is similar to that of other holy wells that are located in Sardinia, but differs from them for the excellent condition of the internal parts as well as for the size, very large and well proportioned.

The well is preceded by a vestibule where probably took place of worship ceremonies, after the vestibule follows the scale that opens in a trapezoidal compartment, the stairway is formed by a single ramp of 25 steps, which narrows down (from about 3.50 m at the top to 1.40 m at the base) as it approaches the chamber that contains the actual well; the scale is joined symmetrically to lintels covering, formed by blocks all equal to each other that create an extraordinary effect "inverted scale" of constant width.

The true sacred well and right is formed by a circular cell (diameter about 2.5 m) covered by a tholos (pseudocupola) to ogival vault almost 7 m high, made of basalt blocks manufactured and arranged in rows, whose diameter starting from the lintel of the entrance door, positioned at the end of the tier, decreases up to create a hole of 35 cm approximately at ground level. Such light is still dispute origin if it was originally closed by a circular stone or not. 

The entire structure of the sacred well is made with very accurate techniques; all of medium size basalt blocks (about 60 cm in length for 30 cm thickness) were machined and finished so arranged in horizontal rows taking care that the lower block protruded by about one centimeter relative to the upper block in order to create a profile notched and a very elaborate and effective architectural effect. The excellent state of conservation of structure gives the well a great archaeological and historical importance. Unfortunately, nothing is left of the elevation structure which, if existed, very probably entirely covered the mouth of the well and had a prospectus gabled entirely similar to the one still visible in Su Tempiesu of Orune . 

Even today the water flows into the well through a perennial water table that allows you to fill the circular pool carved into the rock base and reach the first rung of the ladder. The level is maintained constant by an estimated discharge channel. 

Giovanni Lilliu , famous Sardinian archaeologist describes the sacred well " is the princely well of Santa Cristina, which is the apex of the water temples. It is well balanced proportions, sophisticated in terse and precise indoor vestments, studied in the geometric composition of the members, so rational in a word not comprehend, at first glance, it operates closer to the year 1000 BC and that has expressed the Nuragic art, before it affermassero island prestigious historical civilizations .

In the sacred structure and in its vicinity were held cults concerning water, which gathered the entire community, recalling the nuragic people from other parts of Sardinia and perhaps even devotees who came from outside the island: it is shown by the four bronze statuettes , one depicting a seated female figure, discovered along with figurines and other votive objects Nuraghic production.Testifies to the persistence of the cult in the time the discovery of gold jewelery Phoenicians much later age Nuragic. 
According to some theories the sanctuary of Santa Cristina could have been also a place for astronomical observation and analysis; In fact, at a particular time of year, the moon is reflected on the bottom of the well, illuminating; what happens when the Moon is at the zenith of locations. In the well of Santa Cristina but the Moon is not placed perfectly in the vertical of the zenith, but also illuminates the water below, creating a reflection. Some archaeologists have argued in this case stating that the tholos originally was closed (thus not allowing the entry of moonlight). In particular they refer to the absence of the elevation structure, of which the majority of holy wells disposed.These objections have been refuted by the archaeologist Arnold Lebeuf, professor at the University of Krakow, and by Enrico Atzeni, who, in relation to the restoration carried out by him stated that the dome merely call into work one (whatever the original) of two segments that form the occulus.The external structure then, would not have prevented the moonlight to penetrate inside.

Near the sacred well there are remains of several buildings attributable to the Nuraghic civilization. In particular they are worthy of note are those of a large circular hut diameter of about 10 meters originally covered (which now has a high of about 1.70 m) with a floor constituted by pebbles, inside which is located a seat (tall about 30 cm deep and 50) that runs along the entire wall, and that probably served to unite a part of the community. 

Photos by Maurizio Cossu



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Geghard Monastery,Armenia.

The monastery of Geghard contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the rock, which illustrate the very peak of Armenian medieval architecture. The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, surrounded by towering cliffs at the entrance to the Azat Valley.

The monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley contains a number of churches and tombs, most of them cut into the living rock, which illustrate Armenian medieval architecture at its highest point. The complex of medieval buildings is set into a landscape of great natural beauty, at the entrance to the Azat Valley. High cliffs from the northern side surround the complex while the defensive wall encircles the rest.

The monuments included in the property are dated from the 4th to the 13th century. At the early period, the Monastery was called Ayrivank (Monastery in the Cave) because of its rock-cut construction. The monastery was founded, according to tradition by St. Gregory the Illuminator, and was built following the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia (beginning of the 4th century AD). The main architectural complex was completed in the 13th century AD and consists of the cathedral, the adjacent narthex, eastern and western rock-cut churches, the family tomb of Proshyan princes, Papak’s and Ruzukan’s tomb-chapel, as well as various cells and numerous rock-cut cross-stones (khachkars). The Kathoghikè (main church) is in the classic Armenian form, an equal-armed cross inscribed in a square in plan and covered with a dome on a square base, linked with the base by vaulting. The east arm of the cross terminates in an apse, the remainder being square. In the corners are small barrel-vaulted two-storey chapels. On the internal walls there are many inscriptions recording donations. The masonry of the external walls is particularly finely finished and fitted. A gavit (entrance hall) links it with the first rock-cut church.

The first rock-cut church was built before 1250, entirely dug into the rock and on an equal-armed cruciform plan. To the east, a roughly square chamber cut into the rock was one of the princely tombs (zhamatoun) of the Proshyan Dynasty. This gives access to the second rock-cut church built in 1283. The second zhamatoun, reached by an external staircase, contains the tombs of the princes Merik and Grigor. A defensive wall encircled the monastery complex in the 12th to 13th centuries. Most of the monks lived in cells excavated into the rock-face outside the main defensive wall, which have been preserved, along with some simple oratories.

St. Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) chapel is the most ancient preserved monument outside the ramparts and is located on the western side. It is partially hewed in the rock. There are engraved inscriptions on the walls, the earliest of which date back to 1177 and 1181 AD. Residential and economic constructions were built later, in the 17th century.

The monastery of Geghard is a renowned ecclesiastical and cultural centre of medieval Armenia, where a school, scriptorium, library and many rock-cut dwelling cells for clergymen could be found in addition to the religious constructions. Historians Mkhitar Ayrivanetsi, Simeon Ayrivanetsi, who lived and worked there in the 13th century, contributed to the development of the Armenian manuscript art. It was also renowned for the relics housed there. The most celebrated of these was the spear, which had wounded Christ on the Cross and was allegedly brought there by the Apostle Thaddeus, from which comes its present name, Geghardavank (the Monastery of the Spear). The spear was kept in the Monastery for 500 years. Relics of the Apostles Andrew and John were donated in the 12th century and pious visitors made numerous grants of land, money, and manuscripts over the succeeding centuries. 

The Monastery of Geghard, with its remarkable rock-cut churches and tombs, is an exceptionally well preserved and complete example of medieval Armenian monastic architecture and decorative art, with many innovatory features which had a profound influence on subsequent developments in the region.

The Geghard complex is an exceptionally complete and well preserved example of a medieval monastic foundation in a remote area of great natural beauty. There have been no changes on the components of the inscribed property since the time of inscription. In addition, the property is surrounded by a substantial buffer zone, established in 1986, within which there are strict controls over any form of development and change.
However, its location in an active seismic zone, the pollution of the surrounding environment, the risk of rockslides, as well as the active tourism route are the main threats to the integrity of the site. 

Strange rock formations outside of monastery complex