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Armenia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Armenia is a country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage, dating back to ancient times. Armenia has three sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, all of which are monasteries, churches, or related religious sites. These sites reflect the spiritual and artistic achievements of the Armenian people, as well as their interactions with other civilizations.

Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin: 

The Monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin are two remarkable examples of Armenian religious architecture, located in the Lori region of Armenia. They were built between the 10th and 13th centuries, during the period of prosperity and cultural revival known as the Kiurikian dynasty. The monasteries were founded by King Ashot III and his wife, Queen Khosrovanush, known for her patronage of learning and art.




Haghpat Monastery


The monastery of Haghpat consists of several buildings, including a narthex, a refectory, a scriptorium, a chapel-tomb complex, a belfry, and several cross-stones (khachkars). The monastery is surrounded by a towered rampart that was built in the 13th century to protect it from invaders. The monastery overlooks the Debed River and is situated on a hillside that offers scenic views. The monastery is also connected to St Nshan Church by an underground passage.



Sanahin Monastery


The monastery of Sanahin is adjacent to Haghpat and shares some architectural features with it. It has a rectangular plan with an apse at one end and two towers at the other. The monastery contains several chapels dedicated to different saints and martyrs. It also has a school for illuminators and calligraphers that was renowned for its artistic skills.

 



The mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church - Etchmiadzin Cathedral

 

2. Cathedral and Churches of Echmiatsin and the Archaeological Site of Zvartnots: 

The Cathedral of Echmiatsin, also known as Etchmiadzin, is the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church, located in the city of Echmiatsin or Vagharshapat. It was built in the early fourth century by King Trdat III and Saint Gregory the Illuminator, who converted Armenia to Christianity. The cathedral has a cruciform plan with four apses and a central dome, which is considered a masterpiece of Armenian architecture. The cathedral has been rebuilt several times after being damaged by earthquakes, fires, and invasions. The current building dates back to 1868 and incorporates elements from different periods of Armenian art․


The ruins of Zvartnots Temple


The Archaeological Site of Zvartnots is located near Echmiatsin, about 18 km away. Zvartnots Temple, also known as Zvartnots Cathedral, is a medieval Armenian temple near the city of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. Catholicos Nerses III, the leader of the Armenian Church at that time, built it in the 7th century CE. The temple is renowned for its unique circular shape, a rarity in Armenian architecture. Zvartnots stood for 320 years before collapsing in the tenth century. The reason for its collapse is debated, with theories suggesting an earthquake or attacks from repeated Arab raids. Despite being well-engineered, the most accepted explanation is an earthquake collapse.

 

3. Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley:

The Monastery of Geghard and the Upper Azat Valley is a stunning example of Armenian medieval architecture and culture. It is located in the Kotayk Province, at the entrance to the Azat River gorge, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery was founded in the 4th century by St. Gregory the Illuminator, who converted Armenia to Christianity. The name Geghard means "the Monastery of the Spear" and originates from the spear that allegedly wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion. It is said to have been brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, and stored among various other relics. Currently, it is showcased in the Echmiadzin treasury.



Geghard Monastery: Image credts: Diego Delso



The main architectural complex was completed in the 13th century AD and consists of the cathedral, the adjacent narthex, eastern and western rock-cut churches, the family tomb of Proshyan princes, Papak’s and Ruzukan’s tomb-chapel, as well as various cells and numerous rock-cut cross-stones (khachkars). The Kathoghikè (main church) is in the classic Armenian form, an equal-armed cross inscribed in a square in plan and covered with a dome on a square base, linked with the base by vaulting.

The monastery is surrounded by high cliffs that offer a spectacular view of the valley below. The valley is rich in natural beauty and cultural heritage. It contains several ancient sites, such as temples, palaces, fortresses, and monasteries. One of them is pagan Garni Temple.

The Monastery of is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Armenia. It attracts visitors from all over the world who admire its unique architecture and history. It is also a place where visitors can experience the Armenian spirit and faith.

 

These three sites showcase the architectural styles, artistic expressions, religious beliefs, and historical events that shaped Armenia’s identity over centuries. They are also sources of inspiration for future generations to preserve and promote their heritage.

 

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