Tzitzernavank Monastery

Saint Gevorg (George) Basilica after its restoration

Basic information
Location Tsitsernavank village, Qashatagh Province,
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Geographic coordinates 39°38′38″N 46°24′31″E / 39.644°N 46.408511°E / 39.644; 46.408511Coordinates: 39°38′38″N 46°24′31″E / 39.644°N 46.408511°E / 39.644; 46.408511
Affiliation Armenian Apostolic Church
Architectural description
Architectural type basilica
Architectural style Armenian
Year completed 5th-6th century
NKR locator
Shown within Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

Tzitzernavank (Tsitsernavank or Dzidzernavank) (Armenian: Ծիծեռնավանք) is a fifth-sixth century[1] Armenian church and former monastery in the Qashatagh Province of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. The monastery is within five kilometers of the border of Armenia's province of Syunik.


When constructed, Tzitzernavank lay in Aghahejk, one of the 12 regions of the historical Armenian province and principality of Syunik (Siwnik). By the 15th century Aghahejk had spit into two districts: the northern half was called Khozhoraberd; the southern half, containing Tzitzernavank, was called Kashatagh.[2]

The basilica of Tzitzernavank was believed to contain relics of St. George the Dragon-Slayer. In the past, the monastery belonged to the Tatev diocese and is mentioned as a notable religious center by the 13th century historian Stepanos Orbelian and Bishop Tovma Vanandetsi (1655).

In 1613, the monastery's fortified wall was repaired and its arched gateway was constructed - the building inscription in Armenian recording this act disappeared between 1989 and 1992, when the region was under the control of Azerbaijan.[3] The church and its belltower were renovated in 1779. The building inscription in Armenian recording this renovation disappeared in 1967.[4]

In the 19th century it served as the parish church for the adjoining peasant settlement of Zeyva, and was called St. Stephanos. Zeyva's Armenian inhabitants fled during the 1905 Armenian-Tartar war, never to return. During the Soviet period the village was renamed Gusulu and the church was unused but preserved as an historical monument. [5] The church of St. George (St. Gevorg) was reconsecrated in October 2001 after a heavy restoration in 1999-2000, paid for by Armenian diaspora funds, and is a venue for annual festivals honoring St. George.[6]


The church has no early building inscriptions, but based on its appearance it is believed to have been constructed in three main stages. Its earliest form appears to have been a simple rectangular basilica, without an apse. Based on the style of the doorways in its south wall, this building period has been dated to the 5th or 6th century AD.[7] However, an alternative thesis exists that dates this stage to the 3rd century AD, and suggests that it was a pre-Christian temple.[8] During the second stage of construction, a windowless apse was added (constructed inside the eastern end of the rectangular interior) and the upper parts of the outside walls were built. This may have happened in the 6th century. At this period, the arcades that separated the interior nave from its aisles were probably still constructed of timber. In the third period of construction, stone pillars and arches replaced them. Based on the style of the capitals, this occurred sometime between the end of the 6th century and the beginning of the 10th century.[9]

The monastery is recognized as a native Armenian example of an “oriental” architectural type.[10] Being a three-nave basilica, like most of those in Armenia of V-VI centuries;[11] Tzitzernavank's central nave is only slightly taller than the lateral naves, from which it is separated by two courses of pilasters. The plan is similar to a series of Armenian basilicas like Ererouyk, Eghvard, Dvin, Ashtarak (Tziranavor), Tekor - in that it had an interior composed of three aisles or naves, the central and largest one of which was separated from the others by pillars which also helped support the roof.[12]


There are two differing opinions on the etymology of the name Tzitzernavank. Some authors state that the name originates from the word "tzitzernak" which means the bird "swallow" in Armenian, and point to once abundant swallow nests inside the ruined church of St. George. Others believe that the name derives from the word "tzitzern", which in Armenian means "little finger" - presumably a reference to the relics of St. George that were kept in the church.[13]

See also


  1. Turner, Jane (ed.). The Dictionary of Art. New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 2003, p. 425. ISBN 0-1951-7068-7.
  2. Hewsen, Robert H. (2001). Armenia: A Historical Atlas. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 100–104, 121-123. ISBN 0-226-33228-4. 
  3. Karapetian, Samvel. Armenian Cultural Monuments in the Region of Karabagh. Yerevan: Gitutiun Publishing House, 2001, p. 145.
  4. Hasratyan, Morus. Tsitsernavank. Yerevan: Vneshtorgizdat, 1990, p. 5.
  5. Karapetian. Armenian Cultural Monuments, p. 137.
  6. (Russian) В Цицернаванке праздновали день Святого Георгия Победоносца, Kavkaz.Memo.Ru, 29/9/2003.
  7. Donabedian, Patrick and Jean-Michel Thierry, Armenian Art. 1989, p. 509.
  8. Hasratyan. Tsitsernavank, pp. 5-6.
  9. Donabedian and Thierry. Armenian Art, p. 509.
  10. - Architettura Armena
  11. Orthodox encyclopedia, ed. by the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexius II, article "Armenia"
  12. Kouymjian, Dickran. In Search of the History of the Ererouk Basilica. Armenian Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. Retrieved May 11, 2008.
  13. Tzitzernavank. Documents of Armenian Art/Documenti di Architettura Armena Series. Polytechnique and the Armenian Academy of Sciences. vol. xxi Milan: OEMME Edizioni, 1989


  • (French) P. Cuneo, "La basiliąuede Cicernavank dans le Karabagh." Revues des Etudes Armeniennes NS: IV, 1967.

External links

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