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Geghard Monastery (Գեղարդի վանք)
Geghard Monastery originally found in the 4th
century AD is one of the oldest Christian monasteries. It is
situated in Goght, Kotayk
Province of Armenia. Geghard Monastery was carved from a side of a mountain and
today it is added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Geghard Monastery is a famous monastery in Armenia
located in the North- East part of the country, 7 km from the
village of Garni. It is perched on the mountain above the gorge of
the river Azat. The main landmark on the road to the monastery is
the figure of a lioness on a pedestal near the sharp bend of the
road. From here a vire of Geghard Monastery suddenly opens up.
to local legend the site of Geghard Monastery was chosen by Gregory the Illuminator
on a site of an ancient pagan sacred spring that was
located in a cave. Thus it is often called by its second name of Ayrivank that literally means "monastery of the cave". Its
official name of Geghard means "spear" in Armenian. According to
local legends this monastery housed an spear of a Roman soldier
who used it during crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is commonly
known as a Spear of Longinus. In a New
Testament spear was used to check if crucified were still alive
by cutting or puncturing their bodies. According to Armenian
Apostolic Church apostle Jude (aka apostle Thaddeus) brought it
here during his missionary work. Today the spear was moved to
the church of Echmiadzin.
During World War II Adolf Hitler tried to reach
Armenia and steal the legendary treasure. His secret and highly
specialized unit Ahnanerbe (inheritance from the ancestors) tried
and failed to capture the spear due to defeat of the German army.
Geghard Monastery was not spared in its long and turbulent
history. In the 9th century it was sacked by the Arab forces who
completely demolished Geghard Monastery. All monks were killed
and riches plundered. It was subsequently destroyed and most of
buildings that you see today date back to the 12th- 13th
century. The oldest building in Geghard Monastery is a chapel of
Saint Gregory the Illuminator that is situated highe above the
road, about 100 meters from the main entrance to the religious
complex. Small chapel is notable for stone ornaments along with
small preserved fragments of frescoes.
The main church on the grounds of
the Geghard Monastery, Church of Katoghike, was constructed in 1215 on the ruins of the older
structures. Church is directly linked to the sacristy attached
to the rock- Gavit, built in the first half of the 13th century.
Gavit was used for education, meetings, and hosting of the
pilgrims. Geghard Monastery was more than a spiritual place. It was an
important concentration of artists, writers, philosophers and
historians including famous Armenian historian Mkhitar
Ayrivanetsi who lived in one of the cells here.