The Structure and Ideology of Khachkar Composition
The Garden and vineyard
The khachkar composition retained and widely used the iconography and ideology of the cross as a grape vine and wine press designed, in the early Middle Ages. In both cases the grape also served as a symbol of holy fruit and of blood. The evidence for this are various birds, which symbolize the believers, and are depicted enjoying the fruits, the comparison of the grape rod with the wine jug, or the exchange of grape rods with wine jugs. The same could be said also about pomegranate icons, which acquired wide usage beginning in the 12th century. Such wide usage of the pomegranate in khachkar composition, aside from the perceptions of wine, stimulated also the Christian allegory of pomegranate fruits: under sour rind there are sweet seeds. The grape vine and rods, pomegranate trees and fruits, besides being just Christ allegories, are good evidence for the Armenian perception of the world as a garden, which formed at least as early as the Urartian period and, evidently, developed steadily throughout the whole Middle Ages.
If we take into consideration the fact that the heavenly garden at the end of time typically is similar to the garden that was lost due to Adam’s sin, then we can assert that the upper part of the khachkar’s niche and cornice, with their grape-pomegranate iconography and with various birds enjoying the garden, represent the heavenly paradise, where the souls of just believers would appear. Thus, it could be affirmed, that khachkar composition presents one of the most famous complexes of Armenian identity - the garden-vineyard, giving the semantics of the grape rod and wine press to the cross, and the semantics of paradise to top part and cornice of the khachkar.