The monastery of Aparank or Apranits’ name comes from the Armenian word aparank (ապարանք), which means “palace”.
The origins of the monastery are unknown. But in the 19th century, it was the episcopal center of the Terkan region (which included 34 Armenian villages). Most of the local buildings preserved today belong to that period.
The monastery is mainly surrounded by6 high walls. These walls were built not for protection but for giving the monastic complex a feeling of completeness, integrity. The walls itself do not have towers and inaccessible high parapets.
In the northern wall, there is a gate, the entrance to the monastery. Perhaps, there was another entrance in the middle of the western wall, but almost nothing survived there (the stones were simply stolen).
In front of the western wall, mulberry trees are planted on the terrace. A little lower, in the northern part of this terrace, are the remains of the structure with a large pointed arch, which probably was a fountain.
In the middle of the southern part of the monastic complex was a 17th-century church of Surb Hovhannes (St. John), once the main temple of the Aparank monastery. Surb Hovhannes is one of the few preserved churches that has not been rebuilt into a mosque.
The church was built in the shape of a cross – four columns support a dome with a low drum. This type of architecture had come from Greece and was very popular in Armenia in the 17th century.
The church was built of rough stone. Originally, its walls had been covered with plaster, which wore off with time.
The floor was also paved with carefully cut stone. On the southern side of the church, there is an annex, a traditional element of Armenian churches of that time. Its purpose is still unknown.
The monastic complex includes the chapel of St. David, which has a rectangular shape with one nave in a form of a vault. The building was constructed of previously used stones – you can see fragments of old reliefs as well as inscriptions on them.
The inscription above the entrance to the chapel reads that here is the burial place of David, in honor of which the chapel was named.
Not far from the chapel are two unique khachkars. They are unique in their height of more than six meters. They are dated at 1191 and 1194. Until the 1970s, there was another, smaller khachkar next to the other two. Now, it just lies on the ground. Inside the chapel and around it, many fragments of ancient khachkars are scattered.
The ruins of the monastery are located 15 km south-west of the city of Terkan in the province of Erzincan, which once was an Armenian province of Yerznka (Երզնկա) before being conquered by the Turks.
Ruy González de Clavijo, a Spanish diplomat and traveler, who visited the court of Tamerlane in Transoxiana, wrote about the city of Yerznka at the beginning of the 15th century:
“This city was built by Armenians. You can see crosses on the stone walls of the city. The buildings in the city all have terraces, which people walk on like on the streets.
The city is very populated. It has many beautiful streets and lanes with benches on the sides. This rich place is extremely active in trade.”
The city was significant in antiquity and the earliest stages of the history of Armenia. Before Armenia adopted Christianity as a state religion, one of the most famous statues of the Armenian pagan goddess Anahit was located here.
Before the Armenian Genocide at the beginning of the 20th century, most of the population of this city and surrounding villages were Armenians.
The neighboring cities of Erzurum (Karin), Sivas (Sebastia), Tunceli (Dersim), Bingöl (Byurakn), Elazığ (Kharberd), Malatya, Bayburt (Bajberd) were Armenian (they remain such for Armenians).
Monastery of Aparank – a 6-meter khachkars.