Akhtala Monastery is a religious
complex that was constructed in the 10th century
on a steep mountain slope near Debit river. Its name is taken from a town
near by and has Turcic origin that can translated as a
"white glade". It is one of the most fortified monasteries of the Armenian
Apostolic Church. Akhtala Monastery was initially constructed as a
Royal residence on top of older Bronze Age and Iron Age
settlements. In the 13th century it was turned into a
Armenian Apostolic monastery.
Today the monastery is inactive and abandoned.
Despite centuries of abandonment Akhtala
Monastery is one of
the best preserved religious complexes in Armenia. Akhtala Monastery is
particularly famous for its highly artistic murals that cover the interior walls
of the main church. Frescoes depict the faces of saints and religious scenes
from the Bible. Other structures of the abbey include two storey living quarters
with cells for the monks and pilgrims. Additionally Akhtala Monastery contains a
large network of underground tunnels that were probably dug when it was a royal
residence. Military defenses encircle the whole complex. As you walk around
Akhtala Abbey and its vicinity you can notice large boulders with carvings of
crosses that are known as "hachkara" ("hach" means "cross" in Armenian).