Armenia

Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley

© Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

 

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 monuments included in the property are dated from the 4th to the 13th century.

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.

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.

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.

The site is located in Kotayk' Region, near the village of Goght and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000.

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