Geghard Monastery – Surp Astvatsatsin, (1215)
Von Birgit Kuch und Nicolas Landru
Geghard monastery is the most important monastery of Kotayk Marz, a region in central Armenia, East of Yerevan. Located at a narrow point of the Azat gorge, it is partly carved out of the mountain. Its main church, Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), is built against the rock, while some chapels are artificial caves. Around the main structure are also tombs which are carved out the rock. Dozens of Khatchkars, traditional Armenian crosses, are also sculpted in the rock or integrated into it.
Natural and artificial caves surround the rock-circus where the monastery is located; they are monastic cells built by monks, which used to live here until Soviet times. There are also several ruins of cave churches.
The monastery is said to have been founded in the 4th century, then called “Cave Monastery”, “Ayrivank”. Geghard means the Holy Lance which pierced the christ at his crucifixion, which is said to have been kept here; this relic is now in the Armenian “Vatican”, Etchmiadzin.
Geghard was burned by the Arabs in 923. Its main structure dates from the 13th century (1215 for Surp Astvatsatsin, until 1225 for the other parts), and was built by the local prince family, the Zakarian.
Nowadays, Geghard is among the numourous monastic structures of Armenia’s middle age which can still be found throughout the country. Fotos: Birgit Kuch und Nicolas Landru

Surp Astvatsatsin, (1215)

Musicians at the monastery’s entrance

Geghard monastery, from a neghbouring cave

Khatchkars (armenian crosses) in a tomb carved in the rock

Pilar in a tomb carved in the rock

Gate of the church, birds and pomegranates

Coat of arms of the Proshian family in a rock-chapel

Inside the Surp Astvatsatsin church

Inside the vestibule

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