In the 4th century, the Geghard monastery was founded on the site of a sacred spring originating in a cave. Therefore, initially, it was called Ayrivank (Armenian – Այրիվանք), which means “cave monastery”. According to a legend, the founder of the monastery was St. Gregory the Illuminator.
Geghard is known for the relics that were kept in it. The most important of them was the Spear of Destiny that the centurion Longinus pierced the body of Jesus with during the crucifixion. It is believed to have been brought by the Apostle Thaddeus. Hence the name of the monastery (Armenian geghard means spear).
At the end of the spear’s handle, there is a diamond-shaped plate, on which a Greek cross with widening ends is cut. In 1687, for the spear, which is now stored in the treasury of Etchmiadzin, a special silver casing was made. It is gilded, which is a typical feature of handmade Armenian items of the 17th century.
The legend of the sacred spear – Tamerlane (Timur) and Geghard
This monastery is also called the “Monastery of the Spear” due to the spear that had wounded Jesus at the Crucifixion.
Once upon a time, there was a Muslim military leader and a ruler named Tamerlane, who conquered the half of the world with his army. Later, his sight fell on Armenia. With his powerful army, he drove into the country of the mountains.
Upon reaching the Garni Canyon, Tamerlane ordered to set a camp and arrange a patrol around it. In the morning, one of his soldiers reported on a nearby carved Christian church.
In that temple, the spear of a Roman legionary Longinus was stored. “The Spear was brought by the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, the founders of the Armenian Church,” the soldier said, “This is the relic of Christians. They believe that the Spear can do wonders. ”
Tamerlane did not believe him and led his troops towards the temple of Geghard. On their way, clouds started to gather above. Soon, they were accompanied by thunder, lightning, and the trembling of the ground underfoot. When the soldiers broke through the gate to the temple, a heavy rain began.
Seeing the Spear, the soldiers immediately stopped. Soldiers from the rear rows, trying to see what was in front, pushed ahead and froze as well upon seeing the Spear. Many soldiers were injured, some were blinded.
Tamerlane came in and saw what had happened, and the scene frightened him. The ruler of Asia, the emir of the East, and the supreme leader of the vast kingdom suddenly forgot who he and what his mission were, fell to his knees, took off his helmet, and began to say prayers.
The next day, Tamerlane ordered to send a number of stolen precious gifts to the temple of Geghard and leave them there. And then, he gathered his soldiers and left this place.