Marmashen Monastery – Shirak Province, Armenia

Marmashen Monastery – Shirak Province, ArmeniaMarmashen Monastery is lying on the right bank of Akhuryan River 2km southwest of the village of Vahramaberd in Shirak Province, Armenia. Marmashen is a striking example of medieval Armenian architectonics, in particular, architectonics of the 10th century. The design of Marmashen shares some of its features with the Ani Cathedral.

Marmashen Monastery consists of three churches and a vestibule. The main church of the complex, the Katoghike Church, was built in 988 – 1029 by Prince Vahram Pahlavuni, as evidenced by an inscription on the church’s southern wall. The designer of the church supposedly was the renowned Armenian architect Trdat. The church built from red tuff belongs to the cross-in-square architectural style.

The Katoghike Church features a remarkable 12-edge tholobate crowned with an umbrella dome. Apart from that, the church’s façade is framed with arched niches, which create chiaroscuro.

To the north of the main church stands the second, smaller church. In terms of its layout and detail, it is a smaller copy of the Katoghike Church, meaning that they might have been built simultaneously. The church located to the south of Katoghike is a little bit different: while it is built in the same cross-in-square style, it features chapels in each of its four corners.

During archaeological excavations carried out in 1954 – 56, the fourth church of the complex was unearthed, which is a round, four-apse church with four chapels. Only the base and lower two rows of its walls’ masonry reached us more or less undamaged.

The western end of the complex also houses the ruins of a four-pillar vestibule, which at the time served as the family tomb of the Pahlavunis. Prince Vahram Pahlavuni was buried here after being killed in a battle near Dvin in 1045. Marmashen Monastery also has a separate cemetery, as well as fragments of other ancient structures and khachkars (cross-stones).

The monastery was conquered and plundered in the 11th century during the invasion of the Seljuks: its main church was converted into a fortress, while its surroundings were turned into a village. An inscription on the northern wall of the monastery testifies that the Zakaryan princely family managed to liberate the monastery and return it to the Pahlavunis in 1225. The monastery would be renovated thanks to the efforts of the grandchildren of Vahram Pahlavuni, as well as archbishop Grigor and his brother Prince Gharib.

Marmashen Monastery was once again plundered in the 13th century during the Tatar-Mongolian invasion. After the Russo-Turkish War in the 1830s, a group of Armenians from Kars arrived in the monastery. Shortly thereafter, the main church of the monastery was converted into a parish. In 1870, one Mkrtich Jalalyan renovated the monastery and founded a school at it.

The monastery was damaged in an 1833 earthquake, the northern church being subjected to the most harm. Restoration works would be carried out in 1900 under Catholicos of Armenia Mkrtich A Vanetsi. The monastery ceased to perform its function in the Soviet years. And in 1988, Marmashen Monastery was damaged quite severely due to the Spitak Earthquake.

The article was prepared by Natalia Ghukasyan Photo:

Монастырь Мармашен | Մարմաշեն (Gyumri TV 2018)

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