Avetaranots Fortress – Artsakh

Avetaranots fortress – Ավետարանոց – the remains of the fortress are located in the village of the same name (in Soviet times it was called Chanakhchi) fifteen kilometers south of Stepanakert.

Avetaranots is one of the oldest villages in Artsakh, its name is associated with the spread of Christianity in this region. Here are the ruins of the former Melik residence of Varanda and the fortified settlement of Avetaranots.

The settlement was surrounded by powerful walls, the remains of these defensive structures are still visible in the vicinity of the village.

In the XIX century. Sargis Jalalyants, a researcher of Armenian antiquity, wrote down a legend in Avetaranots, according to which King Vache II (Vc.) of Aluank, who renounced secular life, became a hermit here.

“Devoting himself to the Gospel of Christ, he came here and retired to a strict hermit life, which is why the area began to be called Avetaranots (Avetaran – the Gospel in Armenian).

Perhaps it was here that the pious king received a letter of blessing from the blessed Catholicos of the Armenians Gyut.”

We are talking about two famous letters of Catholicos Gyut sent by Vache II, which are preserved in the history of Movses Kalankatuatsi, as well as in the oldest manuscripts.

On the rocky hill of the village is the Kusanats Anapat Monastery (Maiden Hermitage). From the inscription above the entrance of the church, it is clear that it was built in 1616.

In ancient times, there was a cultural and religious center here, as evidenced by both written sources and traces of the structures of the ancient monastery preserved on the site (the foundations of the basilica of the 5th-7th centuries with capitals characteristic of this period, column bases and ornamented slabs).

In the place of these ruins, in the initial period of melikdom of Varanda, deserts were founded with the ancestral tomb of the Melik-Shahnazaryans, known as the Gayane Monastery.

According to S. Jalalyants, the church was built by sisters Gayane and Hripsime with the assistance of ter Arakela. The church was built from local chipped stone.

The structure, cruciform in plan, is 11 m long, 9 m wide and 7 m high. Pretty beautiful pylons standing in the hall carry a vaulted ceiling through girth arches. There is a doorway on the west side.

Two small windows are located in the south wall, and three in the east. Fragments of architectural details of buildings of an earlier period were used in the masonry of the walls.

Widely using the stones of the destroyed buildings, the builders seemed to want to emphasize by this that the complex was founded on the site of a previously known cult hearth. The vestibule of the church served as the ancestral tomb of the Melik-Shahnazaryans.

Here are the graves of vardapet Manvel, meliks Mirza, Hussein, Hovsep, and their spouses.

In the history of the centuries-old struggle against foreign invaders, the family of melik Varanda Hussein became especially famous for their courage and patriotism.

One folk legend is interesting about a memorable event that took place in 1733, during the uprising of Armenians against the Ottomans who seized the lands of Artsakh (Karabakh), and about the heroic deeds of Anna Khatun and Gayane.

It happened in the citadel of the melikdom of Varanda, in the village of Avetaranots. One of the Ottoman commanders with his detachment is located here. His name was Suleiman-bek. Having heard about the beauty of the daughter of melik Hussein Gayane, he decided to take possession of her.

But, not daring to use force, he announced that he wanted to marry her. The father and mother promised to give their daughter to a wicked Muslim, but dragged it out in every possible way, explaining that, by the Armenian religion and national customs, various rituals must first be performed. So they won day after day until the appointed night of the uprising arrived.

Melik Hussain was not at home that night, he had to act elsewhere. The performance in Avetaranots was led by his brave wife Anna-Khatun (who was the sister of the ruler of the Dizak Gavar melik Avan (Yeghan), who organized the general uprising).

At that moment, when he was fighting the Ottomans with weapons in her hands on the streets of the village, the self-proclaimed son-in-law tried to find salvation in the house of Meliq Hussein. On the threshold, he was met by Gayane, also armed.

Seeing the hated groom entering the house, the girl plunged a dagger into his heart. After these events, Gayane became a monk and entered Kusanats Anapat. Leo’s novel “Melik’s Daughter,” tells about the exploits of Gayane.

Kusanats Anapat from the west was fortified with a massive fence, from which only separate sections of dilapidated towers remained.

From the northeast corner tower, a dilapidated fortress wall begins, which stretches up the slope. Only separate sections of dilapidated towers remained from it.

To the east of the monastery, in the center of the village, stands the church of St. Astvatsatsin. The tall, spacious three-aisled basilica measuring 27.4×15.3m was built in 1651. from rough and hewn stones.

Four beautiful pylons, lodges on both sides of the altar above the aisles, and other interesting architectural details greatly emphasize the expressiveness of the building’s internal composition.

In the past, manuscripts, Gospels written on parchment, crosses and other precious relics dated 1617, 1661, 1650, 1659 were kept in the church. It is noteworthy that some handwritten Gospels were created here, in the scriptorium of Avetaranots.

Bishop Makar Barkhudaryants in his book “Artsakh” described this church in the following way:

“The church has the following books: the gospel is handwritten, parchment, small format, beautiful, with elegant portraits of the four evangelists, painted, with initials in the form of patterns, flowers, and birds.”

From the memorandum:

“Completed … the Gospel by the hand of a sinful priest named Grigor in Armenian 1158th (1709), March in … and decorated with multi-color paints and gilding. And the holy Gospel was completed in the region of Ganja, in the village called Karaat, in the monastery of Surb Astvatsatsin during the time of Shah Abbas the younger and during the reign of the Catholicos of the Armenian Aghvank, the purest and holy patriarch and new enlightener Petros, who by the grace of God … illuminated those immersed in the darkness of the House of Aghvan and appropriately arranged the churches… as well as the bishopric of the wise, most worthy lord of our Anton, guardian of the holy throne of the cathedral…”.

At the beginning of the Gospel there is an inscription written in a different handwriting:

“The Holy Gospel is written and gilded as a memory and a gift of Abram’s paronter, which was given into the hands of the daughters-nuns of Melik Nagi Hripsime, and Dovlat, and Shaandukht for spiritual delight … and written by the hand of Father Egiazar on the 25th day of March 1186 (1737)” .


  1. A particle of the Life-Giving Cross in an equal-ended silver cross.
  2. Particles of the relics of the first enlighteners of Armenia, the Apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew.
  3. A particle of the relics of the holy healer Pandalion”

Between Kusanats Anapat and the Church of Surb Astvatsatsin, there was a complex of three melik palaces built at different times. Until our time, only the latest of them has been partially preserved – it is located on a small hill to the east of the gates of the fortress wall.

Materials used in the article: Bishop Makar Barkhudaryants – “Artsakh”, Raffi – “Melikstva Khamsa”, Artak Ghulyan – “Palaces of the Meliks of Artsakh and Syunik”, Karen Rusinyan – article “Monuments of the village of Avetaranots”, Albert Voskanyan – author of part of the photo

Material provided by: Alexander Bakulin

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