As we climbed the wind-swept hill which towered over the aquamarine waters of Lake Sevan, we spotted them in the distance, sentinels just below the crest of the hill. Their shadows stretched like black ink along the hill's slope, by now a burnished amber from the setting sun's rays, their red tuf edges glowing like halos against a slowly darkening sky. Almost a hundred of them were gathered like jewels in a crown, and as we came closer, their intricate patterns glowed like filigree lanterns.

"They're just like lace!" my companion exclaimed as we came closer. "Stone lace!" The wind swept across the field of wildflowers around us like waves a patchwork of yellow, lavender and red undulated across the hill. As we reached the stone crosses, all of Sevan stretched out before us, but these magnificent monuments framed her like a beautiful painting. How many shades of blue does Lake Sevan have? We were never able to count them all, as a newer more crystalline shade emerged in the evening light. But we do know how many designs these stone monuments have as many as there are, as different as they follow a unified pattern. Sometimes they are lonely sentinels standing in fields of undulating grass and wildflowers, clinging to massive roots that tilt them in the air. Sometimes they are preserved in churchyards and museums, or lying on their sides, in Pieces, fragments of elegance lying against churches, set into walls. And sometimes they rise majestically in their thousands, armies of faith on windswept hills overlooking aquamarine waters that reflect their own translucent beauty.

In total they cannot be counted, but we know more than 100,000 were carved, each one a unique work of art, Armenia's "Stone Lace". They are her Khachkars, her crosses of stone. But their history and roots are deeper than the 4th and 5th century AD forms which first started dotting the Christian landscape, combining both pagan and Christian symbols into a stunning form that endures to this day.  

postcards from armenia

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