Kobayr Monastery (Քոբայր)

Kobayr Monastery


Location: off Hwy 6, village Kober, Lori Province Map

Constructed: 1171


Description of Kobayr Monastery


Kobyar Monastery is located just of the Highway 6 in a Lori Province of Armenia. The name is derived from a village of Kober or Kobyar that is located near by.  Kobyar Monastery of the Armenian Apostolic Church was completed in 1171 by the princes of the Kyurikids that belonged to a junior branch of famous Bagratuni family. The Kobyar Monastery was bought by prominent Armenian family of Zakarid in the middle of the 13th century and it was converted to a Chalcedonian monastery. Although the family was Armenian in origin, this part region of the Caucasian mountains once belonged to the Georgian Kingdom so it was Georgian king who sold these lands as a gratitude for service Zakarid have shown him over years of loyal service.


One of the members of this aristocratic family, prince Shahnashah Zakarian is buried here. His son Zachariah was killed in 1261 during struggle against the invasion of Mongol hordes. Old Shahnashah did not survive the news and collapsed from a heart attack. Furthermore the bell tower that was constructed here in 1279 also serves as a mausoleum of Mkhargryel Zakarian and his wife Vaneni Zakarian. Over time Chalcedonian Armenians abandoned this Christian complex and in the 17th century it was transported back to Armenian Apostolic Church.

Armenian Part of the monastery currently undergo renovation that make it more accessible to tourists. Several inscriptions in Armenian and Georgian became visible along with beautiful frescoes of Jesus Christ and many saints.



During the reign in Georgia of George III and his daughter Tamara, the connection between the Armenians and the Georgian state became even closer. The northern part of Armenia became part of the Georgian kingdom, where it enjoyed full internal self-government by not paying taxes. The rise of the Armenian princes from the Zakharid clan, who for several generations held the most important government posts, being one of the most significant and influential figures of the Georgian kingdom, dates to this period. For their activities, a number of Armenian lands were transferred from the Georgian kings to the Zakharids, including the lands taken by the Builder of the Tashir-Dzoraget kingdom from the Kyurikyans David, as the medieval Georgian chronicler writes about them ... Lord Lori. "

Kobayr Monastery was founded at the end of the XI century by princes from the Armenian family of Kyurikyanov, in whose hands it continued to remain throughout the XII century, probably at the beginning of the XIII. The monks of the monastery took an active part in the life of the Armenian church, so at the end of the XII century there were disputes within the Armenian church about the legality of robes and other church accessories. The monks of Kobayr also took part in the dispute, which Archbishop Tarsa Nerses Lambronatsi informed Levon II in a letter to King of Cilicia Armenia, complaining that monks Ani, Akhtaly and Kobayr criticized him.

By the mid-fifties of the XIII century, the male line of the Kyurikyan clan was interrupted, but, apparently, even before that, Kobayr became the family monastery of the eldest branch of the Zakharids. According to the information that has reached us, in 1261 Zakharia, the eldest son of Shahanshah, was killed by the Mongols, the latter, unable to bear the news of the death of his son, died. Shahanshah was buried in Kobayr. Given that Shahanshah was born in 1197, it is likely that the monastery passed to the Zaharids between 1220 and 1261. Due to the fact that Shahanshah, unlike his father, Amir Spasalar Zakharia, belonged not to the Armenian religion, but to the Chalcedonian monastery, moving from the Kyurikyans to the Zakharids, the monastery was reorganized from Armenian to Armenian-Chalcedonian.

From 1276 to 1282, at the initiative of the local monk Gregory, extensions were built in the monastery, and the altar is decorated with frescoes. In 1279, on the orders of the Zakharids, a bell tower was built, which later became their ancestral tomb. After some time, giving the monastery oblivion, the Armenian Chalcedonites left it. Kobayr, remaining empty for several centuries, returning to the bosom of the Armenian Apostolic Church, reopened its doors in the XVII-XVIII centuries.

In 1971, the frescoes of the monastery were restored by Soviet scientists and restorers.

The main buildings of the Kobayr monastery complex date back to the 12th – 14th centuries. They include the central cathedral in one passage, two chapels, a bell-tomb, a refectory and a cemetery. On the walls of the monastery there are inscriptions made in Armenian, which were made before it was converted into a Chalkedonite monastery. After Kobayr passed to the Chalkedonite Armenians, inscriptions on the monastery are already made in Georgian.

The ruins of the monastery are best known for their unique wall paintings - frescoes created by the traditions of Armenian, Byzantine and Georgian painting. The frescoes on the walls are preserved in large and small churches, which are connected by a common passage. They were painted after the wife of Shahanshah handed over the monastery to the Armenians-Chalkedonites. The upper limit of the church was probably painted in 1282, when the passage of these two churches was painted by order of the monk Gregory. According to research, paintings in a small church appeared after the death of Shahanshah, around 1261. In the main church of the monastery complex, frescoes were created, probably between 1225 and 1250, immediately after the monastery passed into the hands of the Armenian Chalkedonites. The main core of the iconographic program of the church and the narthex of the monastery — Byzantine, Armenian and Georgian themes are not represented. The apse of the monastery depicts the Virgin on the throne and "Communion", in a small church - "Deesis" and "Communion".

The motives for the communion of the apostles are known in Byzantine and Georgian painting. This is a frequent motif in modern Byzantine frescoes, and a rare fresco from Kobayr. Armenian artists of that time were not completely familiar with this form of art, therefore, Georgian artists were attracted to paint their temples. Despite the general approach to the murals of the Georgian and Armenian-Chalcedonian churches, in those days there were differences in the design of the domes of church buildings. So in Georgian churches, images convey the triumphant appearance of heavenly forces. In Armenian-Chalcedonian frescoes, the theme of praise was related to the recollection of the life of the Savior.