A detail of a 12th-century khachkar in Handaberd, a fortress in the Karvachar region, Artsakh

The 12th-century khachkar, or cross-stone, located in the Handaberd fortress in the Karvachar region of Artsakh, is a significant example of Armenian religious and artistic heritage. These carefully carved stones, unique to Armenian culture, often display intricate patterns and elaborate detailing, standing as silent yet profound testimonials to Armenia’s history and devotion to the Christian faith.

Handaberd’s khachkar provides a fascinating glimpse into the symbolism and artistry that Armenian stonemasons have been famous for over the centuries. Khachkars are typically ornamented with a cross standing on a symbol that could be interpreted as a representation of the sacred tree of life, the base of the Universe in Armenian pagan beliefs. This connects the pre-Christian and Christian periods in Armenian culture. Each khachkar tells a story, both in its detailed carvings and in the circumstances and motivations of its creation.

This specific 12th-century khachkar is notable for its detail and the precision of its carvings. Despite the centuries, the craftsmanship displayed in the symmetrical cross and intricate motifs surrounding it remain visible, offering a testament to the skill of its creator. The khachkar’s design typically includes a mix of sacred and earthly themes, ranging from celestial bodies, such as stars and suns, to floral motifs and earthly creatures.

Positioned within the Handaberd fortress, this khachkar holds an added layer of historical significance. Handaberd is one of the most well-preserved medieval fortresses in the region, believed to have been in use from the 9th to the 17th century. The fortress itself offers a sweeping view of the region, standing as a silent guardian of the Karvachar area’s history.

Ultimately, the 12th-century khachkar in Handaberd isn’t just a relic of the past. It represents a living tradition that continues to shape Armenian cultural and religious expression to this day. Today, khachkars are still created and used in Armenian communities worldwide as memorials, celebrations, and markers of significant events, weaving the past and the present together in stone.

Vigen Avetisyan

Thumbnail Source: Gayane Ayvazyan Հայաստան Armenia Армения

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