Historical monuments of Artsakh testify to the presence of early Christians in this region of Armenia. Those are the remains of monastic buildings in the now deserted forest areas. One of them is the forest monastery of Karmiravan (Կարմիրավան) located near the town of Vaghuhas (Վաղուհաս) in the Martakert Region (Մարտակերտի շրջան). It was founded in the early 13th century.
Now, the ruins of the ancient temple have some preserved sections of the walls, many plates with inscriptions, and crosses from the monastery buildings. A country road from the village of Vaghuhas leads to the monastery through the amazing beauty of a truly fabulous forest.
The approach to this temple prepares the soul of the traveler for a miracle. And a miracle happens. The buildings themselves appear before the traveler suddenly, as if growing out of the earth.
In the book “Historical and Architectural Monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh”, Shahen Mkrtchyan wrote:
“The Karmiravan Monastery is located in a forest surrounded by deep ravines and steep slopes three kilometers from the village of Vaghuhas.
The complex consists of a church, a porch, a chapel, collapsed cells, and other structures. All buildings are made of local split stone. Hewn plates are only used in the casing of niches, doors, and window openings.
Hard rock of pink color was used for the khachkars of the monastery. They have some similarities with the above-described steles of the Tartar Valley. All khachkars are distinguished by developed cutting technique and have some common stylistic features.”
The monastery still seems pink in color, especially in the rays of the setting sun. For us, this impression was subjectively much stronger than the impression from the pink flamingos seen in Malaysia. Unfortunately, photos do not convey this subtle pink tinge.
The monastery on the slope got sprouted with mountain trees, like the Cambodian city-temple of Angkor. The size of Karmiravan, of course, is much smaller, but it leaves a surprisingly warm feeling of an “own”, “native” temple. Well, and it is much more abandoned than the popular Angkor. Karmiravan leaves a feeling of “realness”, authenticity.
When you wander in the rays of the setting sun for a long time among the slightly pink stones of the forest monastery of Karmiravan, it begins to seem that these stones speak, regardless of whether something is written on them or not.
The monastery of Karmiravan was also known as a major center of manuscript art. In his 1621 manuscript, one of the scribes of the monastery named Vardan tells us about the difficult conditions the creators of Armenian manuscripts had to work in.
“When writing a single page, they were forced to get up ten times. Do not blame me for the book and the mistakes in it. I take a pen in my hand, and I have to fiddle with the stone and firewood. As soon as I write a little, I have to again go to take care of the garden and the hives…”. Apparently, scribe Vardan was also entrusted with the management of the monastery’s household.
Unfortunately, this monument of the human spirit is now being destroyed. If nothing changes in the near future, soon, there will be only stones, which will be covered with earth and roots, which once were able to speak. How sad…