Fortress of Bjni, The “Unapproachable Abode of Gods”

Fortress of Bjni, The “Unapproachable Abode of Gods”Chroniclers named the fortress of Bjni the “unapproachable abode of gods”. For the first time the village of Bjni was mentioned in History of Armenia of Armenian historian and chronicler Ghazar Parpetsi in 5th century, while the fortress itself has been spoken of since 10th century, when it began to gain political significance.

In 11th century, the ruler of the town Vasak Pahlavuni renovated it and surrounded it with walls. After that, the city-fortress under his command was able to withstand assaults of nomadic tribes.

The complete impregnability of the Bjni fortress isn’t so surprising as the hilly environment alone made it quite difficult to even reach its outskirts. Imagine how much training enemy soldiers would have needed to undergo to be able to run up the hill and still have the ability to fight. After the construction of Bjni’s walls, the necessity of climbing over them accompanied the complexity of the landscape.

Nevertheless, the defenses of the city weren’t quite enough when Seljuk troops captured and damaged it in 1072. In 1201, Armenians reclaimed the fortress, and it became the residence of Avag Zakarian of Zakarian-Mkhargrdzeli dynasty. In 1386, Bjni was attacked by the forces of Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur (historically known as Amir Timur and Tamerlane).

The “unapproachable abode of gods” has been repeatedly attacked, but has risen from the ashes like a phoenix. Besides moral of the defenders, there has been another factor contributing to their victories. The fortress has been connected with neighboring settlements via three underground tunnels dug in the rock.

They have been used to transport resources from the outside world. One of the belowground passages has led directly to the Surb Astvatsatsin church, surrounded by thick walls, where the defenders of Bjni have received spiritual support.

The impenetrable fortress of Bjni has truly been one of the strongholds, keepers and spiritual supporters of Armenians. Only the western and northern walls, and fragments of the secret passageways of that symbol of protection have survived until today.

Bjni has been mentioned in works of famous travelers and artists. French jeweler and traveler Jean Chardin visited Bjni during his trip from Constantinople to Isfahan in 1673.

He later wrote that he was astonished by the majesty of the fortress and its harsh environment, though the former had been partially ruined. In 1700, French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort mentioned the fortress and its environment in his works.

In 1929, several tombs of Late Iron Age were unearthed near the fortress. Since then, all discovered artifacts have been kept in the History Museum of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia.


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