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gem icon Gandzasar Monastery [Suggest Edits]

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Gandzasar, or Treasure Mountain, is a 13th century monastery considered the crown jewel of monuments in Artsakh, a masterpiece of medieval Christian architecture and symbol of enduring Artsakh culture and independence. The monastery was built by the royal Hasan-Jalalyan family who ruled the Khachen region for many centuries. The site was damaged during the Karabagh War but has been repaired and is today a working Armenian Apostolic church and seat of the Archbishop of Artsakh. It is one of the most popular visitor destinations in Artsakh. The complex consists of a walled area containing the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, living quarters of the clergy and a souvenir shop. Outside of the walled area is another building housing a manuscript library (matenadaran).

Inside the walled area, the cathedral comprises two rectangular buildings: the gavit with the bell tower and the domed basilica with fine carvings. The 16-pointed "umbrella" dome is a unique feature of Armenian churches developed in the 10th century. Beneath the dome, the drum has notable relief sculptures that are often compared to those in Akhtamar (a similar site in Van, Western Armenia). The dual lion emblem found above the northern entrance is a symbol of the Hasan-Jalalyan family.

The gavit is another unique feature of medieval Armenian monasteries and served as a reception area for pilgrims and lecture hall. Inside, there is a unique stalactite ceiling in the dome. Inscriptions on the western wall tell of the commissioning of the gavit by Hasan Jalal's wife, Mamkan, in 1261-1266. The floor is inlaid with tombstones of the royal family and prominent bishops. Hasan-Jalal's tombstone is carved of white marble with three stylized circles. The swirling circle is an ancient Indo-Aryan symbol of eternity. The 16-pointed star is another symbol of eternity. A third circle is a pagan Sun symbol adopted to Christian tradition.

Short Walk: Gandzasar is open to the public and accessible by paved road or foot trail. Access to the walled monastery grounds is free (entrance to manuscript museum is 250 ADM). There is a large parking area for buses and cars at the monastery. Visitors will also find public toilets, spring water, and snack vendors. Camping is possible on the grounds of the monastery (with permission of the staff) or in the surrounding forest.

Gem Type: Historic Site

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Janapar Trail

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Shared by Janapar Trail on Sep 3, 2019. All Page Views: 2. Last Month: 2.