Odzun Monastery

 Armenia Odzun Monastery


Location: Odzun, Lori Province  Map


History of Odzun Monastery


Odzun Monastery in Lori Province of Armenia is a medieval monastery that was built during early Medieval period in a remote plateau on the left bank of Debed river in Lori Province of Armenia. First religious settlement appeared at a site of a current Odzun Monastery around 5th century AD. Although local legends claim that Apostle Thomes visited these lands in the 1st century. The same story claim that he found a small chapel on this site. The main church Odzun Monastery was constructed in the 5th century AD on a site of an older 4th century church and in the 8th century it was further renovated under supervision of Armenian katholikos (head of church) Hovhannes III Odznetsi (717- 28).


Odzun Monastery is constructed almost entirely of local felsites. It is a fairly durable stone that shows little erosion despite centuries of abandonment and neglect. Walls, columns and ceiling is covered by crafted ornamental and relief images. The main church of the Odzun Monastery is a domed basilica, located on the central hill. It has a rectangular layout (31.62 by 20.71 meters). The entrance to the main church is covered by carved motifs of intricate vines.


The main church of Odzun Monastery was dedicated to Saint Mary, Saint Mark, Saint John and later to Khachgund. The later is a priest who lived in the abbey in 1290s and is buried in the monastery churchyard. It is not the only tomb here. In fact several dozens of tombs are located here. Most of them date between 13th and 20th centuries. In 1938 an extensive work was carried out to clear the area from shrubs and vegetation.


In the original data on the date of construction of the church was not preserved. However, based on the general construction of the church, interior decoration, and some architectural subtleties, the Odzunsky monastery is referred to the middle of the VI century. The church was reconstructed and restored several times. So, in the 19th century, two belfries were built in the eastern part of the church. The last restoration with the participation of specialists from the Milan Polytechnic Institute (Italy) was completed in 2014.

The church is a domed basilica, located on the central hill of the village of the same name. Entirely built from felsite, with the exception of part of the interior decoration of basalt. The layout of the church is rectangular, the main dimensions are 31.62 × 20.71 m. In addition to the internal hall, there is also an external church surrounding it from three sides. The hall consists of two galleries from the south and north, abutting on the western facade against a wall with an arched entrance in the center. The dimensions of the inner hall are 20.98 × 11.12 m. With two rows of columns, the hall is divided into three naves. In the west, the central nave ends with a semicircular altar, and the lateral ones with two-story sacristies.

On the northeast side of the church is a tombstone. According to Christian tradition, the tombstone is directed to the west. The monument is installed on a stepped base. It is a two-arch arcade made of polished stone. Under each of the arches is a four-meter rectangular stele, on each side of which images are carved along the entire length. Gospel stories and stories about the spread of Christianity in Armenia were performed on the western and eastern faces, and geometric and floral subjects on the northern and southern faces. Each face is bordered with a unique pattern.

The Church of the Blessed Virgin of the Odzun Monastery was threatened by cracks and roots of plants sprouted on the roof and walls in a humid climate. In many areas, the lime mortar was completely washed out. The delay in restoration threatened the destruction of the temple under external influence, the probability of which is very high in the earthquake-prone region. Restoration work, begun in May 2012, was completed in the fall of 2014. The structure was strengthened by the method of internal strengthening, intervention in the external appearance was limited by cosmetic corrections - cleaning the walls and replacing the mortar that had lost its properties. The best Armenian and Italian engineers and specialists participated in the development of original methods of internal amplification. In the course of the work, durable fiberglass cables and fabrics were used, with the help of which the dome and walls were strengthened. In order to avoid the damaging effects of corrosion, restorers replaced the old iron compounds with high-performance adhesives. During the preparatory work, fragments of ornament and samples of tiles of the VI century, objects of ancient life were discovered. In addition, a wine bottle with a note on the results of repairs carried out in 1889 was preserved under the roof of the dome. The document was submitted to the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts Matenadaran for restoration and study.

The entrepreneur Movses Dzavaryan made a huge contribution to the restoration of the complex.