The Geghard Monastery, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000, is an important sight in the country Armenia, which is closely linked to the Christian faith. Anyone who is on study trips through the country should definitely visit the monastery. Geghard Monastery is located 35 kilometers east of the capital Yerevan in the upper Azattal.
The founding of the monastery, which dates back to the fourth century, is said to go back to Gregory the Illuminator. Originally, pagan customs were cultivated at the place and the founder of the Armenian Apostolic Church wanted to end them by building a church, later the Geghard Monastery. In the 9th century, the Arabs ravaged this monastery in Armenia.
The name “Geghard” is based on a legend that emerged in the middle of the 12th century, according to which the apostle and missionary Judas Thaddäus brought the “Geghard” (Armenian), the lance through which Jesus is said to have died, into the country as a relic and hidden in the monastery. Soon there was no longer any talk of “Ajrivank” (“cave monastery”), but of “Geghardavank” (“monastery of the Holy Lance”).
It was rebuilt at the beginning of the 13th century, and around 1240 the noble family Proschjan came into possession of the monastery. An earthquake caused great damage in 1679, and restoration work began shortly before the turn of the millennium. Today, many Armenians go on trips to see the monastery and the Church of Our Lady.
The specialty of the monastery complex is that individual rooms are carved directly into the rock. What was built here sometimes gives the impression that it has “grown together” with nature. Central is the Mother of God Church, which is a splendidly decorated cross-domed church inside and out.
Typical of Armenian architecture is the vestibule that was later added to the church, the so-called “gavit”. In 1283 another rock church and an associated gavit were built, which served as burial places for the Proschjan family. Around the sacred buildings are, among other things, the former cells of the monks.
Khor Virap Monastery
The Khor Virap Monastery is located at the foot of the mighty Mount Ararat in Armenia, about 40 kilometers north of the capital Yerevan. The venerable monastery is of high religious but also national importance, as it is in the immediate vicinity of the Turkish border. When the weather is clear, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the legendary Mount Ararat, which towers 5137 meters into the sky.
The history of the region goes back to pre-Christian times. King Artaxias I founded here in 180 BC The old Armenian capital Artaxata. According to legend, King Trdat III will later. held Saint Gregory (called “the illuminator”) captive for over 13 years. The tyrant tried to persuade him to renounce the Christian faith through torture, but all his efforts were unsuccessful. Impressed by his stubbornness, the king finally gave in and even made Christianity the state religion in 301.
Originally there was only a small chapel on the hill, the St. George Chapel, consecrated in 642. Even today one can get through two narrow entrances, starting from the inside, into two holes in the ground in which the saint – according to the legend – was imprisoned. It was not until around a millennium later that the Church of Our Lady was built here in 1661, which was gradually expanded into a small monastery over the course of the following centuries.
On weekends, the monastery is a popular destination for the locals, and weddings or performances are often held here, which are very popular with the Armenians. Traditionally, white pigeons are also sold here to be released. For every pigeon released, a wish should come true, but certainly the wish of the seller. If you want to visit the facility in summer, it is best to do so in the morning hours, as it can get very hot here during the day.
Chor Virap Monastery – Church – Altar
Monastery complex in the seclusion of the Armenian rainforest
The Haghartsin monastery complex is a good 18 kilometers from Dilijan. Surrounded by dense forest, on a gorge, above the Aghstafa river, the complex appears very peaceful. The founding of the monastery dates back to the 10th century and so it is worth visiting the complex during a study tour through Armenia to immerse yourself in the church history of the country.
Churches of the Haghartsin Monastery
Anyone who undertakes the trip to Haghartsin Monastery will be surprised, because there is not only one monastery church here. The Surb Grigor Church is one of the oldest buildings in the monastery. The cross-domed church was built in the 10th century and has a side chapel on all four corners. Not visible from the outside, the interior of the church has a cruciform floor plan and an impressive dome with an octagonal drum. The remains of a burial chamber can also be found in the church. Two kings of the Kiurikid dynasty were buried here. Another church is St. Stepanos Church, which looks like a smaller copy of the Surb Grigor Church. It dates from 1244 and is eye-catching because it was created from sky-blue basalt stone. The Surb Astvatsatisin Church, the largest church in the complex, is also located on the site. Originally built in the 11th century, the church was later destroyed, so it was rebuilt between 1281 and 1287. Here, too, is a cross-domed church, which was decorated relatively ornately from the outside.
Insights into the life of the monks
A fine example of the country’s medieval architecture is the dining room from 1248. It is considered one of the most important preserved architectural treasures of its time. The columns that divide the building into square halves are clearly visible here. The large archway also tells of the importance of the monastery, because it was a passage for the many pilgrims who found their place on the stone benches in the hall. In the outer area of the monastery there are some khachkars, richly decorated memorial stones. In addition, some other small chapels can be discovered, but most of them have been destroyed today.