Gandzasar

Gandzasar Monastery hanging over Khachenadzor, stands proudly on a hill of mount Gandzasar on the left bank of the river Khachen.

Gandzasar Monastery hanging over Khachenadzor, stands proudly on a hill of mount Gandzasar on the left bank of the river Khachen. It is called Gandzasar (“Gemstone Mountain”), because under the monastery there is a silver mine deep in the bowels of the rock. Over the centuries it embodies the Christian traditions and national wisdom for the people of Artsakh. People used to call Gandzasar Monastery "the greatest miracle of Armenian architecture", "church with a celestial dome", "perfect creation", but human language is unable to describe this truly amazing masterpiece.

The construction of the monastery started in 1216 and was completed in 1238. On the day of the great feast Vardavar (Sunday, July 22), in the presence of a large number of people, including about 700 representatives of the church, the ceremony of consecration of the church was held.

Charles Diehl, famous Byzantinologist of the beginning of the last century, a professor at the Sorbonne of Paris placed Gandzasar in a group of five most important examples of Armenian monumental art which belong to the world’s architectural treasures.

Gandzasar’s most important structure is the imposing Cathedral of St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (Armenian: Սբ. ՀովհաննեսՄկրտիչ, meaning “Saint John the Baptist”) was built by Hassan-Jalal Dola, the Prince of Princes of Artsakh, the ruler of Lower Khachen on the site of an old monastery, as evidenced by khachkars in the courtyard. It is known throughout the Christian world according to the legend, on the initiative of the prince, the head of John the Baptist was buried under the altar of it. Gandzasar holds the jaw of Gregory the Illuminator, the relics of his grandson Grigoris and other saints.

Besides the Cathedral, the monastery includes Gavit, several monastic dormitories, a hermitage with eight solitary cells, a refectory, and several utility structures. The complex includes offices of the Katholicosate of Aghvank and the Reception Hall built in the eighteenth century. As Gandzasar was a diocese there was a rich school of manuscript. Valuable manuscripts were created here, clergy trained to contribute to the cultural development of the area.

The monastery had been a residence of Aghvan Katholicosate until the 19-th century then the residence moved to Shushi. In 1992, Azerbaijanis destroyed the buildings on the eastern side of the monastery and they were under restoration till 1998. A member of the Hermitage’s council of scientists, Anatoly Jacobson, studying the Gandzasar cathedral, called it “the pearl of Armenian architecture”.

All of Gandzasar’s buildings are surrounded by high vine-covered stone walls, with two arched entrances. The main entrance looks toward the Castle of Hohanaberd and the cemetery.

The rear entrance leads to the town of Vank that lies at the foothills of Mount Gandzasar. Comfortable resort areas are located in the village of Vank and in the valley of the river Khachen. These places are great for vacations in the lap of pure nature.