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Gandzasar monastery

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Basic information
Location near the village of Vank, Martakert province,
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Geographic coordinates 40°03′25″N 46°31′52″E / 40.0568388989°N 46.5312333433°E / 40.0568388989; 46.5312333433Coordinates: 40°03′25″N 46°31′52″E / 40.0568388989°N 46.5312333433°E / 40.0568388989; 46.5312333433
Affiliation Armenian Apostolic Church
Year consecrated July 20, 1240
Ecclesiastical status Functioning
Architectural description
Architectural type Monastery, Church
Architectural style Armenian
Year completed 1238
NKR locator
Shown within Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

Gandzasar monastery (Armenian: Գանձասարի վանք) is a 13th century Armenian monastery situated in the Mardakert region of Nagorno-Karabakh, near the village of Vank. "Gandzasar" means treasure mountain or hilltop treasure in Armenian.[1] The monastery holds relics believed to belong to St Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. Gandzasar was the residence of an Armenian catholicos from about 1400 to 1816,[2] and is now the seat of the Archbishop of Artsakh.

History and architecture

The construction of Gandzasar began in 1216, under the patronage of the Armenian prince of Khachen, Hasan-Jalal Dawla, and it was completed in 1238 and consecrated on July 22, 1240.

The complex is protected by high walls. Within the complex is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Սուրբ Յովհաննու Մկրտիչ եկեղեցի in Armenian), built between 1216 and 1238.[3] The drum of its dome has exquisite bas-reliefs that depict the Crucifixion, Adam and Eve, and two ministers holding a model of the church above their heads as an offering to God. The bas-reliefs have been compared to the elaborate carvings of Aghtamar,[4] and some art historians consider the monastery to represent one of the masterpieces of Armenian architecture. Anatoly L. Yakobson, a prominent Soviet medieval art historian, described Gandzasar as a "pearl of architectural art....This is a unique monument of medieval architecture and monumental sculpture, which by right ought to be regarded as an encyclopedia of 13th-century Armenian art."[5]

Gandzasar's cathedral church shares many architectural forms with the main churches of two other Armenian monasteries also built in the mid-13th century: Hovhannavank Monastery and Harichavank Monastery. [6][7]


See also


  1. Thus, the name divided into syllables, Գանձ+ա+սար, is translated as գանձ = treasure; սար = mountain or hilltop, with the letter "-ա-" (-a-), forming an agglutinative compound.
  2. Hewsen, Robert H. (2001). Armenia: A Historical Atlas. The University of Chicago Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-226-33228-4. 
  3. Khatcherian, Hrair (1997). Artsakh: A Photographic Journey. Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, p. 13.
  4. See Comneno, Lala M., Cuneo, P, and Manukian, S. Volume 19: Gharabagh. Documents of Armenian Art - Documenti di Architettura Armena Series. Polytechnique and the Armenian Academy of Sciences, Milan, OEMME Edizioni, 1980, Introduction
  5. Hakobyan, Hravard H (1990). The Medieval Art of Artsakh. Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Parberakan. p. 76. ISBN 5-8079-0195-9. 
  6. Thierry, Jean-Michel and Patrick Donabedian. Les Arts Arméniens. Paris, 1987.
  7. Thierry, Jean. Eglises et Couvents du Karabagh. Antelais, Lebanon, 1991, pp. 161-165

Further reading

  • (Russian) Yakobson, Anatoly L. “From the History of Medieval Armenian Architecture: the Monastery of Gandzasar,” in: Studies in the History of Culture of the Peoples in the East. Moscow-Leningrad. 1960.

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