Geghard Monastery, Armenia

Geghard is a medieval monastery in the Kotayk province of Armenia, partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, and surrounded by cliffs. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While the main chapel was built in 1215, the monastery complex was founded in the 4th century by Gregory the Illuminator at the site of a sacred spring inside a cave.

The oldest part of the Geghard Monastery is carved out of rock inside a cave at the site of a sacred spring. The monastery was founded on a pre-existing sacred Pagan site.

Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank, meaning “the Monastery of the Spear”, originates from the spear which had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion, allegedly brought to Armenia by Apostle Jude, called here Thaddeus, and stored amongst many other relics. Now it is displayed in the Echmiadzin treasury.

Some of the churches within the monastery complex are entirely dug out of the cliff rocks, others are little more than caves, while others are elaborate structures, with both architecturally complex walled sections and rooms deep inside the cliff.

There are inscriptions dating to the 1160s. The rock faces over the whole area bear elaborate crosses (khatchkars) carved in relief.

The oldest part of the Geghard Monastery is carved out of rock inside a cave at the site of a sacred spring. The monastery was founded on a pre-existing sacred Pagan site.

by Merike Joosep

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