Gandzasar monastery
Gandzasar monastery is a 10-13th century Armenian
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 situated in the Mardakert region of Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, lying between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur and covering the southeastern range of the Lesser Caucasus mountains...

, near the village of Vank. "Gandzasar" means treasure mountain or hilltop treasure in Armenian. The monastery holds relics believed to belong to St. John the Baptist and St Zechariah
Zechariah (priest)
In the Bible, Zechariah , is the father of John the Baptist, a priest of the sons of Aaron, a prophet in , and the husband of Elisabeth who is the cousin of Mary the mother of Jesus.In the Qur'an, Zechariah plays a similar role as the father of John the Baptist and ranks him as a prophet alongside...

, father of John the Baptist. Gandzasar was the residence of the catholicoi
Catholicos, plural Catholicoi, is a title used for the head of certain churches in some Eastern Christian traditions. The title implies autocephaly and in some cases is borne by the designated head of an autonomous church, in which case the holder might have other titles such as Patriarch...

 of the Catholicosate of Aghvank of the Armenian Apostolic Church
Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest National Church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy, and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in 301 AD, in establishing this church...

 from about 1400 until 1816, and is now the seat of the Archbishop of Artsakh
Artsakh was the tenth province of the Kingdom of Armenia from 189 BC until 387 AD and afterwards a region of Caucasian Albania from 387 to the 7th century. From the 7th to 9th centuries, it fell under Arab control...


History and architecture

The monastery at Gandzasar is known since the 10th century. The construction of Gandzasar's Cathedral of St. John the Baptist began in 1216, under the patronage of the Armenian prince of Khachen, Hasan-Jalal Dawla, and it was completed in 1238 and consecrated on July 22, 1240.

The complex is protected by high walls. Within the complex is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 (Սուրբ Յովհաննու Մկրտիչ եկեղեցի in Armenian
Armenian language
The Armenian language is an Indo-European language spoken by the Armenian people. It is the official language of the Republic of Armenia as well as in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The language is also widely spoken by Armenian communities in the Armenian diaspora...

), built between 1216 and 1238. The drum of its dome has exquisite bas-reliefs that depict the Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

, Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

, and two ministers holding a model of the church above their heads as an offering to God. The bas-reliefs have been compared to the elaborate carvings of Aghtamar, and some art historians consider the monastery to represent one of the masterpieces of Armenian architecture
Armenian architecture
Armenian architecture is an architectural style developed over the last 4,500 years of human habitation in the Armenian Highland and used principally by the Armenian people.- Common characteristics of Armenian architecture:...

. Anatoly L. Yakobson, a prominent Soviet medieval art historian, described Gandzasar as a "pearl of architectural art....This is a unique monument of medieval architecture and monumental sculpture, which by right ought to be regarded as an encyclopedia of 13th-century Armenian art."

Gandzasar's cathedral church shares many architectural forms with the main churches of two other Armenian monasteries also built in the mid-13th century: Hovhannavank Monastery
Hovhannavank Monastery
Hovhannavank is an Armenian Apostolic Church monastery located in the village of Ohanavan in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia. It is situated atop a steep gorge carved by the Kasagh river...

 and Harichavank Monastery.

See also

  • Hovhannavank Monastery
    Hovhannavank Monastery
    Hovhannavank is an Armenian Apostolic Church monastery located in the village of Ohanavan in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia. It is situated atop a steep gorge carved by the Kasagh river...

  • Harichavank Monastery
  • Culture of Nagorno-Karabakh
    Culture of Nagorno-Karabakh
    Culture of Nagorno-Karabakh includes artifacts of tangible and intangible culture that has been historically associated with Nagorno Karabakh and Artsakh—a historical province in the Southern Caucasus most of which is controlled by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic...

Further reading

Yakobson, Anatoly L. “From the History of Medieval Armenian Architecture: the Monastery of Gandzasar,” in: Studies in the History of Culture of the Peoples in the East. Moscow-Leningrad. 1960.

External links

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